The BEA is just around the corner, and although I won’t be there in person, my email box has been filling up with book buzz centered around this extraordinary event. I love debut fiction and two books which will be featured prominently at the BEA have caught my attention.
People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday, August 2013) promises to appeal to readers who have loved Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. It took Yanagihara ten years to complete this novel which is an “anthropological adventure story that combines the visceral allure of a thriller with a profound and tragic vision of what happens when cultures collide.” Set in 1950, the book centers around a young doctor called Norton Perina who signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu’ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. When they discover the tribe, they also find a group of forest dwellers they dub “The Dreamers,” who turn out to be fantastically long-lived but progressively more senile. Perina suspects the source of their longevity is a hard-to-find turtle; unable to resist the possibility of eternal life, he kills one and smuggles some meat back to the States. He scientifically proves his thesis, earning worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize, but he soon discovers that its miraculous property comes at a terrible price. As things quickly spiral out of his control, his own demons take hold, with devastating personal consequences.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (Little, Brown and Company, September 2013) looks like fascinating historical fiction inspired by a true story of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829. When Agnes is charged with the brutal murder of her former master, she is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. At first the family who is tasked with housing her, avoids Agnes. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard. Described as “riveting and rich with lyricism,” Burial Rites promises to “evoke a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and ask the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?” This debut novel is getting glowing early reviews which describe it as gripping, original, and haunting.
Have you heard anything about these books? Do they appeal to you? Are there debut novels YOU’RE looking forward to this year?