This is not a drill!
We have an incredibly busy month when it comes to fantastic fiction ahead of us, and to help you decide what stock to order in or what to pick up from your local bookstore (it can be overwhelming, we know) we have whittled down the list for you! Have a look at what fiction titles to keep your eyes out for in the month of May.
Fowl Eulogies by Lucie Rico, Translated by Daria Chernysheva
World Editions, 9781912987429, PB, £13.99, 4/5/2023
The all-consuming desire to preserve.
Upon her mother’s death, Paule Rojas, a vegetarian city-dweller, returns to the chicken farm where she grew up. Pressured to fulfil her mother’s last request, Paule rediscovers pleasure and meaning in running the old family business. Yet, eager to bring something of herself to a family tradition, Paule embarks on increasingly intricate ways of helping the chickens to self-actualize before their deaths. She records the chickens’ life stories, adding them to the labels that decorate the vacuum-packed meat sent off to market – an individual biography for every chicken. But not all runs smooth in her childhood village; Paule finds she has few friends and many enemies. She is forced to spread her wings, relocate her livestock, and oversee the construction of an urban farm of never-before-seen practices and proportions.
Venom by Saneh Sangsuk, translated by Mui Poopoksakul
Peirene Press, 9781908670793, PB, £10, 8/5/2023
A riveting Thai novella by award-winning contemporary author Saneh Sangsuk, Venom is a short, gripping existential parable packed with lush, raw and lyrical storytelling.
The village of Praeknamdang, nestled in the Thai jungle, has fallen under the spell of Song Waad, the self-proclaimed medium of The Sacred Mother. Living in fear of his connection to the Patron goddess, the villagers offer up land and wealth to the religious leader, who grows more corrupt by the day. Only one family dares to resist his growing power: a couple and their talented ten-year-old son. Devoted to his family and his oxen, the boy has ambitions to become a master puppeteer, and dreams of a life beyond the village — despite his disability of a permanently damaged arm, after falling from a tree. But this life and this future is threatened when the boy is suddenly attacked by a cobra. He becomes locked in a life-and-death struggle in which the border between the human and the animal disintegrates. Did the boy simply stray too near to a burrow, or is The Sacred Mother punishing his rebellion against Song Waad’s authority?
A short, gripping existential parable, Venom introduces the UK reader to the world of Saneh Sangsuk.
Pearl by Siân Hughes
The Indigo Press, 9781911648529, PB, £11.99, 11/5/2023
Touching debut fiction from UK award-winning poet Siân Hughes is a contemporary pastoral novel about a young girl trying to understand the disappearance of her beloved mother.
Marianne is eight years old when her mother goes missing. Left behind with her baby brother and grieving father in a ramshackle house on the edge of a small village, she clings to the fragmented memories of her mother’s love; the smell of fresh herbs, the games they played, and the songs and stories of her childhood. As time passes and those around her seem to move on, Marianne struggles to adjust, fixated on her mother’s disappearance and the secrets she’s sure her father is keeping from her. Discovering a medieval poem called Pearl and trusting in its promise of consolation, Marianne sets out to make a visual illustration of it, a task that she returns to over and over but somehow never manages to complete. Tormented by an unmarked gravestone in an abandoned chapel and the tidal pull of a river in rainfall, her childhood home begins to crumble as the past leads her down a path of self-destruction. But can art heal Marianne? And will her own future as a mother help her find peace?
Hughes’ beautiful prose moves the reader through the story like a river, her art masterfully expressed in words.
Second Star and other reasons for lingering by Philippe Delerm & Jody Gladding
Archipelago Books, 9781953861542, PB, £14.99, 16/5/2023
A bestseller in France, selling over a million copies, Second Star is an inspiring series of lyrical meditations on life’s smallest moments, from peeling a clementine, drinking a cold mojito, to washing your windows.
A still life in motion, Second Star ‘consumes the present’ with a patient curiosity, asking us to ‘put off tomorrow’ and join Philippe Delerm in tasting, touching, listening, and noticing. Whether biting into a bitter turnip or savouring a summer evening in June, Philip Delerm’s literary snapshots transport us to simple, often overlooked sensations and pleasures, and, pausing, expand a moment or emotion outwards in concentric circles. Vividly translated by Jody Gladding, these evocative vignettes invite us to linger, to ‘savour the few moments of silence’ — as if each bite of a ripe watermelon, each exhaled breath on a bitterly cold day, each cloudy evening on the beach, were our last.
The perfect antidote to two years of a pandemic and our current global horrors; this is a delightfuly joyful read.
Human Sacrifices by Maria Fernanda Ampuer, translated by Frances Riddle
Influx Press, 9781914391224, PB, £9.99, 18/5/2023
Do you like strange Latin American fiction that makes you go ‘eek’, in the vein of Mariana Enriquez, Carmen Maria Machado, and Yuri Herrera? Well, we’ve got quite the treat for you.
A groundbreaking voice in contemporary Latin American literature, Maria Fernanda Ampuero confronts machismo, inequity, and violence in her latest short story collection. An undocumented woman answers a job posting only to find herself held hostage, a group of outcasts obsess over popular boys drowned while surfing, and two girls suspect sinister behavior from the missionaries lodging in their home. Simultaneously terrifying and exquisite, Human Sacrifices is ‘tropical gothic’ at its finest. Ampuero considers the decay and oppression beneath the surface of our humid and hostile world, where those on the margins must pay the price for the comfort and safety of the elite. These twelve stories contemplate the nature of exploitation and abuse, illuminating the realities of those society consumes and leaves behind.
A powerful follow up to celebrated debut collection, Cockfight.
The Marigold by Andrew F. Sullivan
ECW Press, 9781770416642, PB, £18.99, 18/5/2023
For fans of dystopian tales like Station Eleven, The Power, or fans of Parasite and Snowpiercer, The Marigold shows ecofiction meeting body horror in this story of a crumbling condo tower, its foundation plagued by a grotesque infection.
The Marigold, a gleaming Toronto condo tower, sits a half-empty promise: a stack of scuffed rental suites and undelivered amenities that crumbles around its residents as a mysterious sludge spreads slowly through it. Public health inspector Cathy Jin investigates this toxic mold as it infests the city’s infrastructure, rotting it from within, while Sam ‘Soda’ Dalipagic stumbles on a dangerous cache of data while cruising the streets in his Camry, waiting for his next rideshare alert. On the outskirts of downtown, 13-year-old Henrietta Brakes chases a friend deep underground after he’s snatched into a sinkhole by a creature from below. All the while, construction of the city’s newest luxury tower, Marigold II, has stalled. Stanley Marigold, the struggling son of the legendary developer behind this project, decides he must tap into a hidden reserve of old power to make his dream a reality — one with a human cost.
Weaving together disparate storylines and tapping into the realms of body horror, urban dystopia, and ecofiction, The Marigold explores the precarity of community and the fragile designs that bind us together.
A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett
Arsenal Pulp Press, 9781551529134, PB, £17.99, 18/5/2023
First published in 2014, this new edition of the acclaimed debut story collection by two-time Lambda Literary Award winner Casey Plett includes an insightful new afterword by the author, shedding light on her experience writing the book.
By the author of Little Fish and A Dream of a Woman, A Safe Girl to Love collects eleven unique short stories featuring young trans women stumbling through loss, sex, harassment, and love in settings ranging from a rural Mennonite town to a hipster gay bar in Brooklyn. These stories, shiny with whiskey and prairie sunsets, rattling subways and neglected cats, show that growing up as a trans girl can be charming, funny, frustrating, or sad, but will never be predictable. A Safe Girl to Love, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for transgender fiction is now back in print after a long absence.
Sidle Creek by Jolene Mcllwain
Melville House Publishing, 9781685890414, PB, £14.99, 18/5/2023
Set in the bruised, mined, and timbered hills of Appalachia in western Pennsylvania, Sidle Creek is a tender, truthful exploration of a small town and the people who live there, told by a brilliant new voice in fiction.
In Sidle Creek, McIlwain skilfully interrogates the myths and stereotypes of the mining, mill, and farming towns where she grew up. With stories that take place in diners and dive bars, town halls and bait shops, McIlwain’s writing explores themes of class, work, health, and trauma, and the unexpected human connections of small, close-knit communities. All the while, the wild beauty of the natural world weaves its way in, a source of the town’s livelihood — and vulnerable to natural resource exploitation. With an alchemic blend of taut prose, gorgeous imagery, and deep sensitivity for all of the living beings within its pages, Sidle Creek will sit snugly on bookshelves between Annie Proulx, Joy Williams, and Louise Erdrich.
A collection of stories of connection and clashes, exploring struggles of class, sexuality, and grief.
Seeking Fortune Elsewhere: Stories by Sindya Bhanoo
Catapult, 9781646221738, PB, £15.99, 30/5/2023
These intimate stories of South Indian immigrants and the families they left behind centre women’s lives and ask how women both claim and surrender power — a stunning debut collection from an O. Henry Prize winner.
Traveling from Pittsburgh to Eastern Washington to Tamil Nadu, these stories about dislocation and dissonance see immigrants and their families confront the costs of leaving and staying, identifying sublime symmetries in lives growing apart. In ‘Malliga Homes,’ selected by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for an O. Henry Prize, a widow in a retirement community glimpses her future while waiting for her daughter to visit from America. In ‘No. 16 Model House Road,’ a woman long subordinate to her husband makes a choice of her own after she inherits a house. In ‘Nature Exchange,’ a mother grieving in the wake of a school shooting finds an unusual obsession. In ‘A Life in America,’ a professor finds himself accused of having exploited his graduate students. Sindya Bhanoo’s haunting stories show us how immigrants’ paths, and the paths of those they leave behind, are never simple. Bhanoo takes us along on their complicated journeys where regret, hope, and triumph appear in disguise.
This book is attentive to the effects of immigration on those who stayed, as well as those who left.
The Enlightenment of Katzuo Nakamatsu by Augusto Higa Oshiro & Jennifer Shyue
Archipelago Books, 9781953861528, PB, £14.99, 5/30/2023
Reminiscent of Kurasawa’s film Ikiru, Enlightenment is a highly uniquely written novel exploring the interior mindscape of a Japanese-Peruvian man and his luminous unravelling.
Katzuo Nakamatsu is having a recurring dream. He’s strolling down the glinting avenues of Lima, branches crowning overhead, when he hears someone snickering from the shadows. He wanders away in concentric circles, as if along a spider web, and wakes in a sweaty torment. Nakamatsu sleepwalks his way toward sublime disintegration. Katzuo is at sea after being forced out of his job as a literature professor without warning. He retreats into flanerie, musing with imaginary interlocuters, roaming the streets, and reciting the poems of Martin Adan. Slowly, to the ‘steady beat of his reptilian feet,’ Nakamatsu begins to arrange his muted ceremony of farewell. He conjures his smiling wife Keiko and wonders how he lost his Japanese community with her death. With a certain electric lunacy, he spruces himself up with a pinstripe tie, tortoiseshell glasses, and wooden cane, taking on the costume of a man he knew as a child, hoping to grasp that man’s tenacious Japanese identity. Like a logic puzzle, Enlightenment calibrates Augusto Higa Oshiro’s own entangled identity. From this dark and deadly estrangement, a piercing question emerges: ‘Why did our hides, our Japanese eyes, our bodily humours, provoke suspicion and rejection?’