Tiandi Grocery StoreJames McBride (Riverhead). This scheming, hilarious novel opens with the discovery of a skeleton in a well in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in 1972, but it largely unfolds three decades earlier, with the events leading up to its existence. Despite conflicting views of America, the black, Jewish and new immigrant residents of Pottstown’s run-down neighborhood in Chicken Hill unite to protect a deaf black boy from the state’s grip. The novel’s austere pace belies its complex narrative lines, and McBride comically exploits the fear of newcomers in white characters such as the town doctor and Ku Klux Klan members. The Jewish woman who runs the local grocer sees it differently, telling Chicken Hill: “America is here.”
My husbandby Maud Ventura, translated from French by Emma Ramadan (HarperVia). “My husband marked the beginning of a life worth archiving,” admits the narrator of this modern-day dark comedy of marriage. Ventura’s protagonist, a forty-year-old English teacher and mother of two whose husband works in finance, is a hilariously over-the-top cliché whose only concern is maintaining his interest: Lied to him about hair color and pretended to be asleep so he could not see her without makeup. But, as the story progresses, her obsession contrasts sharply with his profound aloofness, and her bland exterior belies desperate anxieties about class, gender, and power.
Read our reviews of this year’s notable new fiction and non-fiction novels.