First-rate literary fiction of 2019

My top pick of the year is “On Earth We are Briefly Gorgeous” (Penguin, 6/19).  The writing is stunning.  The book is written as a letter from a young Vietnamese-American son to his illiterate mother.  At times shattering,  his language is poetic and beautiful.

The rest of the books are, in no specific order…

Disappearing Earth” (Knopf, 5/19)  is an interesting story as it begins with the horrific disappearance of two little girls in a remote Russian town. Instead of following up with that story, the book turns to how the disappearance affects the townspeople. Very engaging story.

Feast Your Eyes” (Scribner, 4/19) is written as catalog notes from a photography show at the MOMA.  It is narrated by the daughter of the show’s principal photographer.  A very original story about a female photographer dealing with single motherhood and artistic ambition.

This next title “Nothing to See Here” (Ecco, 10/19) is a bizarre story about the boundaries of friendship.  I found it hilarious at times, yet moving about a woman with nothing in her life who begins to care for two children with disturbing attributes.  It generates her newfound feelings of emotion and love.

Akin” (Little Brown, 9/19) is about a retired chemistry professor and widower who plans on celebrating his 80th birthday in the south of France where he was born.  As he is leaving from New York, he finds that his eleven-year old nephew has been left homeless.  He’s never met him.  But he needs someone to look after him.  Reluctantly, the professor decides to bring the young boy on his trip.  It’s a story is about two people, who are born two generations apart, and how they develop a special relationship.

Kate Atkinson, one of my top favorite authors has brought back an old lovable character — Jackson Brodie.  In “Big Sky,” (Little Brown 6/29), we have a new detective story revolving around Brodie, which introduces new characters along with some old favorites.  If you’re an Atkinson fan, you’ll love it!

Girl” (Farrar, Straus, 10/19) is a major change for Edna O’Brien whose many novels generally take place in Ireland.  This spare, haunting, and difficult book takes place in terror-ridden Nigeria.  With harrowing detail, we learn about a girl who tries everything to survive her violent and horrifying life.  The language is amazing in this very brief treatment.

The Nobel Prize winner, “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead,” (Riverhead, 8/19), is a murder mystery.  Janina, the elderly main character is considered a recluse.  She tells her neighbors and anyone who will listen, that the dead bodies in the village are attributed to animal attacks.  It’s written with humor and imagination and turns out to be a great read.

A crime thriller based in Los Angeles, “Your House Will Pay” (Ecco, 10/19), is based on a real-life incident.  Two families, one Korean-American and one African-American, collide in a tale of violence and racism.  It’s a story on how two cultures struggle and face injustice and loss.












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