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Find more Top 10 First Novels
The first novelists listed below, whose works were selected as the best first novels reviewed in Booklist over the past year, will undoubtedly become second novelists. In other words, these novels show talent above and beyond the usual first time out.
And Sometimes Why. By Rebecca Johnson. Putnam, $24.95 (9780399154522).
Johnson’s debut tells the story of one family’s tragedy and its ripple effect; this unflinching, heartbreaking tale will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.
The Answer Is Always Yes. By Monica Ferrell. Dial, $24 (9780385339292).
Like many other sad outsiders, New Jersey teenager Matthew Acciaccatura is desperate to become one of the cool kids; a triumph not only of setting but also of voice, tone, and attitude.
Atmospheric Disturbances. By Rivka Galchen. Farrar, $23 (9780374903121).
Witty, tender, and conceptually dazzling, Galchen’s metaphysical tale of longing, grief, love, and the volatility of the self gracefully charts the tempestuous weather of the human psyche.
Enlightenment for Idiots. By Anne Cushman. Crown/Shaye Areheart, $24 (9780307381644).
Cushman’s sensitive novel follows Amanda, a 29-year-old yoga teacher in northern California, on a tumultuous journey to India and back again as she researches a guidebook on finding inner peace.
Evening Is the Whole Day. By Preeta Samarasan. Houghton, $24 (9780618874477).
In a surpassingly wise and beautiful debut novel, the author provocatively links the sorrows of one distraught family to Malaysia’s bloody conflicts.
The Future of Love. By Shirley Abbott. Algonquin, $23.95 (1-56512-567-3).
Renowned memoirist Abbott debuts as a novelist with a shrewd, polished comedy of manners, reaching deep psychological strata as she parallels the shocking assault of 9/11 with the ravages of time and disease on the body.
The Gargoyle. By Andrew Davidson. Doubleday, $25.95 (9780385524940).
There’s pure magic in this classic redemption story with a hero so cynical, so damaged that it seems unlikely he’ll ever reach for or even believe in salvation; a completely engrossing, wholly unforgettable, and utterly transcendent yarn.
Happy Family. By Wendy Lee. Grove/Black Cat, paper, $14 (0-8021-7046-3).
Lee’s accomplished debut limns Chinese immigrant Hua Wu’s experiences in New York City; rich and multilayered, the story explores what it means to be a part of something, whether it’s a family or a culture.
Mudbound. By Hillary Jordan. Algonquin, $21.95 (9781565125698).
In a sophisticated, complex first novel, the author takes as her setting the rural Mississippi Delta in the immediate post–World War II period; the novel charts the evolution of a wifely role when Laura marries at a relatively late age.
Three Girls and Their Brother. By Theresa Rebeck. Crown/Shaye Areheart, $23.95 (0-307-39414-X).
In this fast-paced, wickedly funny satire on celebrity culture, the author lands one roundhouse punch after another in a supremely gratifying takedown of show-biz politics.
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