Globe-spanning stories to carry you away
Whether you’re traveling the world or staying put, these summer selections will transport you — from war-torn Bosnia to the rolling Irish countryside, from Darfur to the Philippines. Told through a photographer’s lens, a veteran novelist’s discerning prism, and a few new literary voices, each narrative calls on us to consider what it means to be at home both with yourself and the world at large.
- It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario (Penguin Press). When asked why she chooses a life of danger, trekking through the mud waters of Central Africa and dead bodies in Darfur, MacArthur Fellow Addario replies, “I do it because I believe in it. I do it because I think our policy makers need to have a first hand view of what’s happening on the ground to make informed decisions.” It’s What I Do spans the arc of a career layered with far-reaching ambitions, access, personal complications, and gamble.
- Girl at War by Sara Nović (Random House). Despite comparisons to Anthony Marra and compatriot Aleksandar Hemon, debut novelist Nović stands on her own in this gripping depiction of the war in Bosnia. Ana Juric is a 10-year-old tomboy living in Zagreb, a city soon to be depleted by militant raids and ethnic-fueled sanctions. Nović creates a portrait of war’s absurdity through the logic of a child’s perspective — no one understanding why they’re being persecuted simply because of their name, their lot, or their skin color. The anguish and salvation of memory and what it means to be “home” are central themes of Nović’s gripping homage to a country and its people.
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday). This hulking novel chronicles four classmates’ move from a New England college to New York, broke and wandering, to embark on their adult paths. With disparate personalities — one is creative, one intellectual, one dramatic, one tortured — they navigate their futures. It’s dark, long, and has been called transcendent. Descriptive without being heavy-handed, Yanagihara crafts whole lives in the context of the big questions: How many people does one life touch? And what is a life worth?
- The Love Object: Selected Stories by Edna O’Brien (Little, Brown). Veteran Irish writer O’Brien stirs up a lifetime of love and loss in her most recent story compilation, with mothers, lovers, sons, daughters, and her ever-present “country girls” caught between longing and circumstance. In the title story, a woman encounters a man with another life and another version of devotion. His emotional and physical infidelities become her undoing as she navigates jealousy, heartbreak, and desperation. No one does a lady scorned quite like O’Brien.
- I Saw a Man by Owen Sheers (Doubleday). Poet and playwright Sheers turns his energy toward a chronicle of redemption in this story of Michael Turner, a young British widower. After his journalist wife, Caroline, is killed in a drone strike in Pakistan, Michael returns to London. There, he befriends a set of perfect neighbors, the nuclear welcome-wagon. But there’s more to that story. Michael becomes more and more entrenched in their lives as he tries to move away from his own. When tragedy occurs, his path toward reconciliation is fraught with complication, fear, and memories of what he’s lost. Sheers carefully develops the moral dilemmas of accidental death, survivor’s guilt, and the hard-sought forgiveness of those we care for.
- In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar (Knopf). Alvar's new story collection is an exquisite debut full of Filipino voices, both expatriated and returned to their homeland. Spanning Bahrain, Manila, and the United States, the characters undergo the twists and philosophical shifts that occur throughout the human experiences of courtship, friendship, and marriage. In the title story, a young nurse fights for equal pay and fair treatment amid a sea of corruption. The New York Review of Books calls Alvar’s characters “wanderers both blessed and cursed with mobility.” Indeed, they discover the hardships of life can be just as painful in lands more abundant than their own, and that there’s no magic way to escape one’s place of birth.