Editor’s picks: Novels

ACB

Conversations with Friends: A Novel by Sally Rooney, Hogarth, US $26.00, Pp 320, July 2017, ISBN 978-0451499059

   The Salt House: A Novel by Lisa Duffy, Touchstone, US $16.00, Pp 304, June 2017,    ISBN 978-1501156557

     Refuge: A Novel by Dina Nayeri, Riverhead Books, US $27.00, Pp 336, July 2017,      ISBN 978-1594487057

Young Frances is pursuing a career in writing as well as studying in Dublin. Bobbi is her best friend. She is beautiful and self-possessed. Frances and Bobbi were in love with each other at some point in the past but had grown to be best friends. They were inseparable both as lovers and later as friends. They spent first years of their twenties going to classes and performing Frances’s poems at spoken-word events around Dublin. One day, at a local poetry performance, Frances and Bobbi meet Melissa who is a well-known photographer. Both Frances and Bobbi are drawn to Melissa. Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman’s sophisticated home and tall, and handsome husband, Nick. Frances and Nick start coming closer and their flirtation gives way to a strange intimacy as Frances’s friendship with Bobbi begins to breakdown. Although Frances makes every effort to keep her life in check, her relationships with Nick and Bobbi increasingly resist her control. As Frances desperately tries to reconcile her inner life to the desires and vulnerabilities of her body, her intellectual certainties begin to yield to a painful and disorienting way of living from moment to moment. Conversations with Friends explores bisexuality, love, friendship, and adulthood. It explores human relationships against 21st-century morality. It is a modern, arresting and beautiful story that will enchant you. Sally Rooney is a powerful and deeply emphatic new voice in fiction.

Sally Rooney was born in the west of Iceland in 1991. She studied English at Trinity College, Dublin, and her writing has been featured in The Dublin Review, The Stinging Fly, and Granta.

 *****

The Salt House is set in the coastal town of Alden in Maine where Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down after their marriage. This beautiful family has a growing lobster business and the Salt House – the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they are renovating into their dream house. It is already summer when, one afternoon, their young daughter wakes up from her afternoon nap and suddenly passes away without making a sound. Each member of the family grieves privately. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes. Jack busies himself to avoid the reality of his breaking family. Their daughters are unable to accept the reality of their younger sister’s death as they watch their parents drifting away from each other. All of a sudden Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory. This changes everything for the family. The Salt House is a portrait of a family in distress. Lisa Duffy explores marriage, family and friendship and the psychology of grief. Impeccably written, The Salt House is a heart-stopping story. Full of emotions, it will grip all your attention.

Lisa Duffy received her MFA in creative writing from The University of Massachusetts Boston. Her short fiction was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and can be found in The Drum Literary MagazineSo To Speak, The Breakwater Review, Let the Bucket Down and elsewhere. Lisa is the founding editor of ROAR Magazine, a literary magazine supporting women in the arts. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children.

*****

Niloo was a child when she had to leave Iran and take refuge in Europe. Her father had to stay behind in Iran. She grows to be a sophisticated European citizen while her father remains an Iranian in his tastes. She marries and settles down in Amsterdam. Although their lives diverge, they feel they need each other’s wisdom and rescue. As the refugees flow into Europe, she decides to help them. This ignites in her the sense of lost home and everything she has missed and not known. Will her work with refugees let her save her father? Refuge explores the relationship between father and daughter who live apart in two different worlds: father in the East and daughter in the West. Every time they meet, they feel they are drifting away from each other but still need each other’s wisdom. Can the father-daughter bond continue to grow when they live worlds apart? Written beautifully, Refuge is evocative, gripping and elegantly weaved. Most importantly, Refuge is about immigrants’ place in the West. You will not be able to remove your eyes from its pages before you finish it.

Dina Nayeri is the author of A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, which was translated into fourteen foreign languages. A graduate of Princeton, Harvard, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the O. Henry Prize, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Bogliasco Foundation, and several other artist residencies.