The 10 Best Books of 2019


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In the first chapter of this assured debut novel, two young girls vanish, sending shock waves through a town perched on the edge of the remote, brooding Kamchatka Peninsula. What follows is a novel of overlapping short stories about the various women who have been affected by their disappearance. Each richly textured tale pushes the narrative forward another month and exposes the ways in which the women of Kamchatka have been shattered — personally, culturally and emotionally — by the crime.

Fiction | Alfred A. Knopf. $26.95. | Read the review | Listen: Julia Phillips on the podcast

Lerner’s exhilarating third novel, after “Leaving the Atocha Station” and “10:04,” rocks an emphatically American amplitude, ranging freely from parenthood to childhood, from toxic masculinity to the niceties of cunnilingus, from Freud’s Oedipus complex to Tupac’s “All Eyez on Me.” Adam Gordon returns as the protagonist, but this time as a high school debate star, and mostly in the third person. Equal portions of the book are given over to the voices of his psychologist parents, and to a former classmate whose cognitive deficits are the inverse of Adam’s gifts. The earlier novels’ questions about art and authenticity persist; but Adam’s faithlessness is now stretched into a symptom of a national crisis of belief. Lerner’s own arsenal has always included a composer’s feel for orchestration, a ventriloquist’s vocal range and a fine ethnographic attunement. Never before, though, has the latter been so joyously indulged, or the bubblicious texture of late Clintonism been so lovingly evoked.

Fiction | Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $27. | Read the review



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