New international fiction for adult readers features contemporary mysteries, science fiction, and literary romance.
“Honor,” by Elif Shafak.
From the time Jamila and Pembe were born, their disappointed mother taught them that a Turkish girl’s duty in life was to avoid shaming the family. Many years later, Jamila, always dutiful, is a respected midwife with a broken heart and Pembe, who never understood why she shouldn’t enjoy life, is a married woman living in London with her family. When her husband leaves her for another woman, Pembe falls into an affair with another man. And when her oldest son finds out, it’s his responsibility as the head of the family to save his family’s honor. How can you love someone so much, but still be ready to hurt them? It is something Iskander has wondered ever since his mother lied to him on the day of his circumcision ceremony. Now, he has his answer. Told from alternating points of view, this examines the double-sided coin of shame and honor and shows readers the thread of betrayal running through generations of family. Shafak is the most widely-read female author in Turkey, and will be one of the speakers featured in this month’s TEDtalks event on storytelling.
“The Ice Bridge,” by D.R. MacDonald.
Set in Cape Breton, this is the story of Anna Starling, who has fled California and a failed marriage to immerse herself in a new landscape to draw and paint. Her closest neighbor on the coast, meanwhile, is drowning himself in alcohol, trying to blot out the reality of a lost love. The two meet when Anna tries to rescue a dog that is stuck in a trap one night, but falls through pond ice instead. It’s the beginning of a tentative friendship and eventually, an even more tentative romance. Woven through the story are various other characters: Breagh, a single mom and hopeful dressmaker/entrepreneur; Willard, jack-of-all-trades repairman and snowplower; and the amorphous group of hooligans who bring modern-day troubles to a community steeped in sameness and tradition.
“The Walking,” by Laleh Khadivi.
While Saladin Khourdi has somehow always known that he would leave Iran someday – he fantasizes about living in Hollywood, swimming in blue pools with movie stars. But when the Ayatollah Khomeini takes over the country, he begins to force the population towards Sharia law. Teenage Saladin and his brother Ali, horrified when they understand what is asked of them in the name of the new ruler, flee on foot to Turkey. They take nothing with them, just run, leaving their father and his shame in their actions behind. Now Saladin is alone in Los Angeles, still running, without papers or a job or a home, feeling the absence of his brother like a missing tooth. Where is Ali? Readers are tugged back and forth through time as the bitter story unfolds.
“The Missing File,” by D.A. Mishani.
The dour detective of this Israeli novel announces to the mother of a missing teen that there is no mystery to solve because Israelis don’t have deviant crimes. After she’s gone, he wonders if he’s right, and when the boy hasn’t returned home by the following day, he decides that he isn’t. And so detective Avi Avraham gets to work solving the case. He gets nowhere with Ofer’s parents, who say he left for school as usual in the morning, and he meets a neighbor who might be a suspect – or who might be a red herring. And Avi struggles as much with insecurity as others on the force begin their own investigations as he does with the clues in the case. This is not the smoothest translation I’ve come across, but the appeal of the setting (Tel Aviv) is undeniable.
“The Healer,” by Antti Tuomainen.
In a desperate world, a desperate man seeks his missing wife. She’s a journalist who has been researching a story about a serial killer called The Healer, and now Tapani Lehtinen is afraid she’s found her subject. The world of Tapani’s time is in the midst of brutal climate changes that have all but done away with social mores, and there are no police left in Helsinki for him to turn to. His one consolation is that The Healer has only been targeting those he believes have contributed to their rotting, drowning, burning world, and Tapani cannot believe his wife will really be killed. But he does believe she’s in danger, and risks his life tracking her down, discovering in the process some of Johanna’s most deeply-held secrets. Smoothly translated, this is an intimate glimpse of a possible future.
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