8 Fall Debuts Filled with Fresh Perspectives

November 1 2021
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After almost a year of reading, it can feel like you’ve seen it all: the same old plots, the same old protagonists, the same old voices. If you are looking for something fresh and surprising, check out one (or two, or three . . .) of these novels by debut authors this fall! Whether they are revisiting classic tales from a new perspective or exploring the incredible perspectives of stories often left untold, these eight books are all one-of-a-kind, carrying the same brilliance as an established writer. Catch these authors just as their careers are taking off by picking up one of these books, hot off the shelf.

Learwife
by J. R. Thorp

Based on Shakespeare’s King Lear, LEARWIFE tells the story of the mysteriously absent wife of the infamous King Lear. Banished to a nunnery years ago, the queen now receives word that her estranged husband is dead after being driven mad and betrayed by their daughters. All three daughters, too, have been defeated in battle. Now, the queen must uncover why she was sent away, find out what has happened to her oldest friend, Kent, and make a final terrible choice that will decide her fate.

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Learwife
J. R. Thorp

Inspired by Shakespeare's King Lear, this breathtaking debut novel tells the story of the most famous woman ever written out of literary history.

"I am the queen of two crowns, banished fifteen years, the famed and gilded woman, bad-luck baleful girl, mother of three small animals, now gone. I am fifty-five years old. I am Lear's wife. I am here."

Word has come. Care-bent King Lear is dead, driven mad and betrayed. His three daughters too, broken in battle. But someone has survived: Lear's queen. Exiled to a nunnery years ago, written out of history, her name forgotten. Now she can tell her story.

Though her grief and rage may threaten to crack the earth open, she knows she must seek answers. Why was she sent away in shame and disgrace? What has happened to Kent, her oldest friend and ally? And what will become of her now, in this place of women? To find peace she must reckon with her past and make a terrible choice - one upon which her destiny, and that of the entire abbey, rests.

Giving unforgettable voice to a woman whose absence has been a tantalising mystery, Learwife is a breathtaking novel of loss, renewal and how history bleeds into the present.

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The Charm Offensive
by Alison Cochrun

A clever rom-com perfect for fans of RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE, THE CHARM OFFENSIVE follows Dev, the successful producer of the famous reality dating show Ever After. But his new contestant, disgraced tech prodigy Charlie Winshaw is only doing the show to save his image and seems to have no interest in any of the female contestants. As the show goes on, however, Dev begins to realize that perhaps he will need to become a contestant himself if Charlie is going to get the happily ever after he wants.

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The Charm Offensive
Alison Cochrun

In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.

Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

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The Book of Mother
by Violaine Huisman

Violaine’s enigmatic, charming, and unpredictable mother, Catherine, aka “Maman,” leads a volatile and extravagant life in Paris. Violaine and her sister love their chaotic childhood with their mother until Maman ends up in the hospital after her third divorce and a breakdown. Even when Maman returns, her violent mood swings begin to reveal her own traumatic childhood and adolescence. THE BOOK OF MOTHER is a stunningly intimate portrait of one transgressive and devastating woman by the person who had the most complicated of relationships with her.

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The Book of Mother
Violaine Huisman

A gorgeous, critically acclaimed debut novel about a young woman coming of age with a dazzling yet damaged mother who lived and loved in extremes.

A prizewinning tour de force when it was published in France, Violaine Huisman’s remarkable debut novel is about a daughter’s inextinguishable love for her magnetic, mercurial mother. Beautiful and charismatic, Catherine, a.k.a. “Maman,” smokes too much, drives too fast, laughs too hard, and loves too extravagantly. During a joyful and chaotic childhood in Paris, her daughter Violaine wouldn’t have it any other way.

But when Maman is hospitalized after a third divorce and a breakdown, everything changes. Even as Violaine and her sister long for their mother’s return, once she’s back Maman’s violent mood swings and flagrant disregard for personal boundaries soon turn their home into an emotional landmine. As the story of Catherine’s own traumatic childhood and adolescence unfolds, the pieces come together to form an indelible portrait of a mother as irresistible as she is impossible, as triumphant as she is transgressive.

With spectacular ferocity of language, a streak of dark humor, and stunning emotional bravery, The Book of Mother is an exquisitely wrought story of a mother’s dizzying heights and devastating lows, and a daughter who must hold her memory close in order to let go.

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For All Time
by Shanna Miles

FOR ALL TIME is a fresh and wholly romantic story of the definition of star-crossed lovers. Over the course of a thousand lives, Tamar and Fayard have been musicians, pioneers, warriors, and hustlers. The two things that remain constant are their love for each other and the fact that they never get to learn how their story ends. At last, they may have discovered what it will take to break the cycle, but they may not have what it takes to make the sacrifice.

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For All Time
Shanna Miles

“An unforgettable and artfully crafted romance right down to the very last page.” —Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’

“A romance for the ages. Fresh voices and original predicaments make this one perfect little novel.”
—Stacey Lee, award-winning author of The Downstairs Girl

The Sun Is Also a Star meets Outlander in this vivid, utterly romantic debut novel about two teens who relive their tragic love story over and over until they uncover what they must do to change their fate.

Tamar is a musician, a warrior, a survivor. Fayard? He’s a pioneer, a hustler, a hopeless romantic.

Together, Tamar and Fayard have lived a thousand lives, seen the world build itself up from nothing only to tear itself down again in civil war. They’ve even watched humanity take to the stars. But in each life one thing remains the same: their love and their fight to be together. One love story after another. Their only concern is they never get to see how their story ends. Until now.

When they finally discover what it will take to break the cycle, will they be able to make the sacrifice?

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Shallow Waters
by Anita Kopacz

SHALLOW WATERS is a spellbinding act of storytelling about Black strength and resistance. Anita Kopacz imagines a deity of the Yoruba people, Yemaya as a young woman in mid-nineteenth-century America as she begins to discover the power she possesses. Yemaya travels from Africa to America and along the Underground Railroad searching for the mysterious Obatala, a man willing to sacrifice his freedom for hers. Along the way, she will confront the evils of our history as well as the heroes of their time.

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Shallow Waters
Anita Kopacz

In this stirring and lyrical debut novel—perfect for fans of The Water Dancer and the Legacy of Orïsha series—the Yoruba deity of the sea, Yemaya, is brought to vivid life as she discovers the power of Black resilience, love, and feminine strength in antebellum America.

Shallow Waters imagines Yemaya, an Orïsha—a deity in the religion of Africa’s Yoruba people—cast into mid-1800s America. We meet Yemaya as a young woman, still in the care of her mother and not yet fully aware of the spectacular power she possesses to protect herself and those she holds dear.

The journey laid out in Shallow Waters sees Yemaya confront the greatest evils of this era; transcend time and place in search of Obatala, a man who sacrifices his own freedom for the chance at hers; and grow into the powerful woman she was destined to become. We travel alongside Yemaya from her native Africa and on to the “New World,” with vivid pictures of life for those left on the outskirts of power in the nascent Americas.

Yemaya realizes the fighter within, travels the Underground Railroad in search of the mysterious stranger Obatala, and crosses paths with icons of our history on the road to freedom. Shallow Waters is a nourishing work of ritual storytelling from promising debut author Anita Kopacz.

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A Little Hope
by Ethan Joella

Greg Taylor has just been diagnosed with an intense form of cancer, but he is determined to overcome it with his trademark determination. As he and his family struggle through his diagnosis, the members of the community around him dip in and out of his story as they cope with their own attempts to overcome loss and find forgiveness: a man loses his wife’s trust, a widow misses her partner, and a boy struggles with addiction. A LITTLE HOPE is a portrait of a community under stress that finds hope, love, and survival through connection.

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A Little Hope
Ethan Joella

A deeply moving, life-affirming novel about residents in a small Connecticut town facing everyday fears and desires—a lost love, a stalled career, a diagnosis—that pulls at the heartstrings and provides hope, for readers of Olive Kitteridge.

In the small city of Wharton, Connecticut, lives are beginning to unravel. A husband betrays his wife. A son struggles with addiction. A widow misses her late spouse. At the heart of these interlinking stories is one couple: Freddie and Greg Tyler.

Greg has just been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a brutal form of cancer. He intends to handle this the way he has faced everything else: through grit and determination. But can Greg successfully overcome his illness? How will Freddie and their daughter cope if he doesn’t? How do the other residents of Wharton learn to live with loss, and find happiness again?

An emotionally powerful debut that immerses the reader into a community of friends, family, and neighbors, A Little Hope celebrates the importance of small moments of connection and the ways that love and forgiveness can help us survive even the most difficult of life’s challenges.

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A Play for the End of the World
by Jai Chakrabarti

In this dazzling literary feat, it is 1972 and Jaryk Smith, a Warsaw Ghetto survivor, has fallen in love with a woman named Lucy Gardner in New York City. But when Jaryk finds out that his best friend has died under strange circumstances in a small, eastern Indian village, he leaves immediately to collect his friend’s ashes. Once in India, he becomes embroiled in turbulent local politics and efforts to stage a play of resistance, the same one he once staged in Warsaw.

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A Play for the End of the World
Jai Chakrabarti

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Fault Lines
by Emily Itami

Mizuki seems like the perfect Japanese housewife. She has two beautiful children, a successful husband, and a luxurious apartment. But she still finds herself occasionally daydreaming about throwing herself off the edge of her high-rise. That is, until she meets Kiyoshi, a restauranteur who reintroduces her to the electrifying nightlife of the city she loves. But soon Mizuki realizes that she cannot live both lives and must confront the cost of her own desires. Sharp and heartbreaking, FAULT LINES explores the fractures in contemporary female identity.

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Fault Lines
Emily Itami

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MENTIONED IN:

Author Picks: 6 Literary Quotes That Stuck with Me

By Ash Davidson | November 29, 2021

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By Sarah Woodruff | November 24, 2021

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Staff Picks: 5 Books We’re Extra Thankful For This Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 18, 2021

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Photo credit: iStock / CherriesJD

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