I love a splashy, fresh debut novel as much as the next person, but hate when the fanfare dies down and the sophomore novel gets overlooked. In these second books, each writer’s real skill, breadth, and lyricism is fully on display; they’re expanding their genre range, testing new grounds, and taking their thematic expertise and prose mastery to greater heights. Whether you’ve heard of the following eight outstanding authors or not, these show-stopping sophomore titles are powerful enough to demand that you pay attention.
In 1977, Sunny Kim has just moved to Los Angeles from Korea. Pregnant and feeling isolated from her aloof husband, a seemingly innocuous encounter at a bus stop balloons into a series of secrets that will follow the family for generations to come. In 1999, a year after Sunny’s mysterious disappearance, her husband, John, and his grown children are struggling to move on. When a stranger’s body turns up in his backyard with a letter for Sunny, John and his children must unravel the truth about their mother in this wrenching and masterful mystery.
The New York Times bestselling author of the Reese’s Book Club pick The Last Story of Mina Lee returns with a timely and surprising new novel about a family’s search for answers following the disappearance of their mother.
1999: The Kim family is struggling to move on after their mother, Sunny, vanished a year ago. Sixty-one-year-old John Kim feels more isolated from his grown children, Anastasia and Ronald, than ever before. But one evening, their fragile lives are further upended when John finds the body of a stranger in the backyard, carrying a letter to Sunny, leaving the family with more questions than ever about the stranger’s history and possible connections to their mother.
1977: Sunny is pregnant and has just moved to Los Angeles from Korea with her aloof and often-absent husband. America is not turning out the way she had dreamed it to be, and the loneliness and isolation are broken only by a fateful encounter at a bus stop. The unexpected connection spans the decades and echoes into the family’s lives in the present as they uncover devastating secrets that put not only everything they thought they knew about their mother but their very lives at risk.
Both a riveting page-turner and moving family story, What We Kept to Ourselves masterfully explores the consequences of secrets between parents and children, husbands and wives. It is the story of one unforgettable family’s search for home when all seems lost, and a powerful meditation on identity, migration, and what it means to dream in America.
In this unsettling and richly imagined historical novel, it’s eighteenth-century France. In the charming but starving countryside, young Tarare lives a quiet life with his impoverished single mother. While his childhood is defined by a gentle curiosity for the small creatures of the countryside, the violent upheaval of the French revolution throws his world into chaos. What follows is a mesmerizing and tormented descent that turns one boy into the Great Tarare, the Glutton of Lyon, a man with an insatiable appetite that drives him to commit monstrous deeds.
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From the prizewinning author of The Manningtree Witches, a subversive historical novel set during the French Revolution, inspired by a young peasant boy turned showman, said to have been tormented and driven to murder by an all-consuming appetite.
“There are few writers who can be truly likened to Hilary Mantel, but Blakemore is one.” —The Observer
1798, France. Nuns move along the dark corridors of a Versailles hospital where the young Sister Perpetué has been tasked with sitting with the patient who must always be watched. The man, gaunt, with his sallow skin and distended belly, is dying: they say he ate a golden fork, and that it’s killing him from the inside. But that’s not all—he is rumored to have done monstrous things in his attempts to sate an insatiable appetite…an appetite they say tortures him still.
Born in an impoverished village to a widowed young mother, Tarare was once overflowing with quiet affection: for the Baby Jesus and the many Saints, for his mother, for the plants and little creatures in the woods and fields around their house. He spends his days alone, observing the delicate charms of the countryside. But his world is not a gentle one—and soon, life as he knew it is violently upended. Tarare is pitched down a chaotic path through revolutionary France, left to the mercy of strangers, and increasingly, bottomlessly, ravenous.
This exhilarating, disquieting novel paints a richly imagined life for The Great Tarare, The Glutton of Lyon in 18th-century France: a world of desire, hunger and poverty; hope, chaos and survival. As in her cult hit The Manningtree Witches, Blakemore showcases her stunning lyricism and deep compassion for characters pushed to the edge of society in The Glutton, her most unputdownable work yet.
In this explosive, multigenerational epic, Ava Carson is determined to give her son, Toussaint, a better life than her unmanageable mother, Dutchess, gave her. But when they arrive in Philadelphia in 1985, racial and economic injustices are rife, and it isn’t long before Ava is drawn into Toussaint’s father Cass’s radical plans for racial reckoning. Meanwhile, in Ava and Toussaint’s hometown of Bonaparte, Alabama, Dutchess fights to save the land—Ava’s inheritance—from white developers. As both communities rush toward violence, Toussaint dreams of what it would mean to find a home in such a world.
In this chilling polar gothic, Arctic explorer William Day is disgraced. The expedition that was meant to make him famous failed when most of his crew died, and the few survivors were forced to eat those who didn’t. Thirteen years later, Day’s second-in-command, Stevens, has gone missing in the same wasteland he’d tried to explore so long ago. Now, with a suspicious reporter and Stevens’ spirit-medium wife in tow, Day must return to the place that haunts his nightmares and contend with the truth of what he did there. Meanwhile, something is stirring not far behind. . . .
An eerie, atmospheric Polar Gothic following a Victorian explorer in search of his lost shipmate and his own redemption—from the author of the “vivid, immersive” (The Guardian) horror novel All the White Spaces.
William Day should be an acclaimed Arctic explorer. But after a failed expedition, in which his remaining men only survived by eating their dead comrades, he returned in disgrace.
Thirteen years later, his second-in-command, Jesse Stevens, has gone missing in the same frozen waters. Perhaps this is Day’s chance to restore his tarnished reputation by bringing Stevens—the man who’s haunted his whole life—back home. But when the rescue mission becomes an uncanny journey into his past, Day must face up to the things he’s done.
Abandonment. Betrayal. Cannibalism.
Aboard ship, Day must also contend with unwanted passengers: a reporter obsessively digging up the truth about the first expedition, as well as Stevens’s wife, a spirit-medium whose séances both fascinate and frighten. Following a trail of cryptic messages, gaunt bodies, and old bones, their search becomes more and more unnerving, as it becomes clear that the restless dead are never far behind. Something is coming through.
New mother Tash has been looking for camaraderie as well as a scoop to kickstart her burgeoning journalism career. When a young nanny is found dead in her London community and Tash is simultaneously invited to join an exclusive group of other mothers, she thinks she might have found both. At first, her new friend group seems to lead the elegant, upper-class life of Tash’s dreams. But when another young woman is found dead, she is forced to confront that the realities of her fantasy may come at a dangerous price in this twisty, fast-paced thriller.
The author of the “twisty, fast-paced” (The Sunday Times, London) Greenwich Park returns with a fresh and deftly paced thriller about murder, class, and motherhood in an exclusive London community.
When a young nanny is found dead in mysterious circumstances, new mom, Tash, is intrigued. She has been searching for a story to launch her career as a freelance journalist. But she has also been searching for something else—new friends to help her navigate motherhood.
She sees them at her son’s new playgroup. The other mothers. A group of sleek, sophisticated women who live in a neighborhood of tree-lined avenues and stunning houses. The sort of mothers Tash herself would like to be. When the mothers welcome her into their circle, Tash discovers the kind of life she has always dreamt of—their elegant London townhouses a far cry from her cramped basement flat and endless bills. She is quickly swept up into their wealthy world via coffees, cocktails, and playdates.
But when another young woman is found dead, it’s clear there’s much more to the community than meets the eye. The more Tash investigates, the more she’s led uncomfortably close to the other mothers. Are these women really her friends? Or is there another, more dangerous reason why she has been so quickly accepted into their exclusive world? Who, exactly, is investigating who?
From the bestselling author of BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK comes a bold and perceptive story of the machinations of power in the middle of bloody upheaval. A coup d’état in Haiti in 1991 leaves American expat Matt’s scuba company out of business. Teaming up with his business partner, Alix—the reckless son of a prominent Haitian family—Matt decides to explore shipwrecks off the coast that are rumored to house treasure. But as their explorations lead them into the paths of those eager to climb amid the chaos, they must face unimaginable consequences.
Birthed from Christine Coulson’s experience at the Metropolitan Museum of Art writing labels for works of art in new galleries, protagonist Kitty Whitaker is an object-turned-subject. Once a twentieth-century artifact of desire, Kitty embarks on a journey in ONE WOMAN SHOW that takes her from her privileged spot on the shelf to an eccentric journey through the sprawling world of womanhood, transgressions, and human foibles. While Kitty is moved from collection to collection through marriages that see her as a desirable possession, Coulson’s humorous and heartfelt novel offers a playful meditation on womanhood, value, and power.
A sly and stylish novel—remarkably told through museum wall labels—about a twentieth-century woman who transforms herself from a precious object into an unforgettable protagonist.
Author Christine Coulson spent twenty-five years writing for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her final project was to write wall labels for the museum’s new British Galleries. During that time, she dreamt of using The Met’s strict label format to describe people as intricate works of art. The result is this bullet of a novel that imagines a privileged twentieth-century woman as an artifact—an object prized, collected, and critiqued. One Woman Show revolves around the life of Kitty Whitaker as she is defined by her potential for display and moved from collection to collection through multiple marriages. Coulson precisely distills each stage of this sprawling life, every brief snapshot in time a wry reflection on womanhood, ownership, value, and power.
Described with poignancy and humor over the course of a century, Kitty emerges as an eccentric heroine who disrupts her porcelain life with both major force and minor transgressions. As human foibles propel each delicately crafted text, Coulson’s playful reversal on our interaction with art ultimately questions who really gets to tell our stories.
In his haunting and pulse-pounding follow-up to A HISTORY OF FEAR, paleontologist Simon Nealy has never wanted to return to the Hawthorne Museum of Natural History where his younger sister disappeared when he was young. But when the aunt who raised him dies, Nealy accepts a job at Hawthorne to face his past. At the museum, however, he finds himself followed by strange sounds, bloody footprints, and horrifying shadows. As he begins reading his predecessor’s notes, he discovers that his family might be part of a horrifying history that is unfolding again.
A haunted paleontologist returns to the museum where his sister was abducted years earlier and is faced with a terrifying and murderous spirit in this chilling novel.
Curator of paleontology Dr. Simon Nealy never expected to return to his Pennsylvania hometown, let alone the Hawthorne Museum of Natural History. He was just a boy when his six-year-old sister, Morgan, was abducted from the museum under his watch, and the guilt has haunted Simon ever since. After a recent breakup and the death of the aunt who raised him, Simon feels drawn back to the place where Morgan vanished, in search of the bones they never found.
But from the moment he arrives, things aren’t what he expected. The Hawthorne is a crumbling ruin, still closed amid the ongoing pandemic, and plummeting toward financial catastrophe. Worse, Simon begins seeing and hearing things he can’t explain. Strange animal sounds. Bloody footprints that no living creature could have left. A prehistoric killer looming in the shadows of the museum. Terrified he’s losing his grasp on reality, Simon turns to the handwritten research diaries of his predecessor and uncovers a blood-soaked mystery 150 million years in the making that could be the answer to everything.
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