Reading Norah Labiner’s latest novel, Let the Dark Flower Blossom, reminded me of watching “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”: the multiple-episode BBC series released in 1979 (not the greatly condensed remake that hit theaters in 2011). A certain amount of disorientation is built into the experience: mysteries are wrapped in mysteries, and the paths to resolutions (to the extent resolutions exist) are rarely clear or trustworthy. Yet with both the TV series and the novel I was driven forward by the mysteries’ peculiar unravelings and, in the latter case, by the haunting beauty of Labiner’s writing.
Favorite New Fiction
from Small and Micro Publishers
Unraveling a mystery
Like every person, every family contains contradictions, oppositions. Think of the generally quiet, sober couple who produce a jokester or chatterbox. Or the child who in church looks past her brothers’ and sisters’ bowed heads, searching for fellow doubters. Such contradictions may develop into deep conflicts or become a source of wonder, even pride. Either way, they can be a powerful force; that’s just one truth examined in Nan Cuba’s sweeping, carefully observed début novel, Body and Bread.
At the heart of the novel is the relationship between Sarah Pelton and her brother Sam, whose suicide, in his mid-twenties, changes the course of Sarah’s life. Through flashbacks, we see Sarah and Sam coming of age in the fictional town of Nugent, Texas, in the late fifties to early seventies. Unlike the other Peltons, they seem driven to make a break from family expectations and traditions. The family patriarch, Owen, is a man who, in Sam’s words, has a “rulebook in his head. …
In its most potent forms, guilt can have a lasting and powerful hold on us, sometimes altering the course of our lives. Apology, Jon Pineda’s début novel, offers a heartfelt study of these effects, and of what is gained and lost when painful truths are kept secret.
At the beginning of the novel, nine-year-old Teagan Serafino suffers a brain injury when her brother’s friend Mario Guzman dares her to jump over a pit at a construction site. As Teagan makes the jump, Mario throws a football at her, causing her to fall into the pit. Mario runs from the scene of the accident, leaving his Uncle Exequiel, nicknamed Shoe, to discover Teagan when he shows up for work at the site. When Shoe finds the football, labeled with Mario’s name, by Teagan, he removes it and makes an anonymous call about the incident to the construction company.