July’s Best New Fiction

As you head to fireworks, cookouts, and daytrips this summer, you’ll want to make room in your beach bag for these new releases. Whether you’re in the mood for mystery-dramas that span decades, World War II spy thrillers, a trip to 1900s Russia, or more lighthearted fare set in modern-day Nantucket, the characters you meet this month will stay with you long after summer ends.

The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead  
Fresh off the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for The Underground Railroad, Whitehead returns with a novel about two philosophically opposed black students at a notorious reform school, the Nickel Academy, in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s. Though the school claims to turn delinquents into “honorable and honest men,” via “physical, intellectual and moral training,” in truth it’s an appalling place, full of corruption and abuse of every type. Elwood Curtis tries to emulate his hero, Dr. King, during the hellish internment, as a means of keeping his own humanity close, but his friend Turner is more cynical about the world. The boys’ disparate survival techniques culminate in a plan that will impact the rest of their lives.

Chances Are…, by Richard Russo
It’s been ten years since Russo’s last stand-alone novel, and Chances combines the best of Russo’s signature style—family bonds, unrequited love, humor—with a mystery that’s haunted three best friends for forty years. When 60-somethings Teddy, Mickey, and Lincoln decide to meet up in Martha’s Vineyard, what’s notable about their reunion is the person who’s not there: Jacy, the woman they each adored, who disappeared without a trace during a Memorial Day party in 1971. Each man brings his own secrets to the present-day gathering, and readers will eagerly pore over the details of their shared past to uncover the truth.

Dragonfly, by Leila Meacham
Five young Americans from wildly different backgrounds—a female fencer, an orphaned fashion designer, a destitute fly fisherman, a businessman’s son, and an athlete with German roots—are recruited to become spies, tasked with infiltrating the Third Reich in this thrilling World War II historical set in Paris. Blending in, communicating on the sly, staying on target, and surviving the dangers thrown at them becomes second nature to the group, collectively codenamed Dragonfly. But then one of them gets caught…

Surfside Sisters, by Nancy Thayer
After a series of personal and professional setbacks, Keely Green, a successful writer living in New York City, returns to the Nantucket island of her childhood to care for her ailing mother. But for Keely, this isn’t an easy homecoming; it means acknowledging that her former best friend, Isabelle, and Keely’s ex-boyfriend (whom Isabelle stole) have made a family together. It also means spending time with Isabelle’s older brother, Keely’s unrequited crush. It’s not easy to forgive someone who’s wronged you, even if it means a chance at a different kind of happiness.

The Golden Hour, by Beatriz Williams
Fresh off last year’s hit, The Summer Wives, Williams returns with a historical novel set in the Bahamas in the early 1940s, where the infamous Duke and Duchess of Windsor have been exiled from England. Lulu Randolph is determined to find a place for herself in the couple’s social circle so she can report on their goings-on to a glossy American magazine. What she finds instead is a doomed romance with a British spy, Benedict Thorpe. How their relationship relates to a different love story set in 1900 is one of several tantalizing mysteries readers will happily pursue.

Deep River, by Karl Marlantes
A trio of siblings, Finnish immigrants, leave Russian-occupied Finland in the early 1900s to forge a new life in the Pacific Northwest, and their hardships and tenacity are rendered in vivid detail. Eldest son Ilmari Koski is the first to arrive in Washington state, followed by middle son Matti, who joins him in high-risk logging. Youngest daughter Aino is the last to make it out. She leaves behind her political tormenters but not her ideals; her determination to help the Industrial Workers of thyye World achieve their goals (spurred on by the dangers she witnesses in the logging industry) lands in her prison, far from her brothers. Inspired by the author’s family history, with lush descriptions of Finland and Pacific Northwest wilderness, this epic historical novel looks to be completely immersive.

Tell Me Everything, by Cambria Brockman
Attention unreliable narrator fans: this highly binge-able debut twists and turns right up to the very end. It’s freshman year at Hawthorne College, a small liberal arts school in Maine, and Malin Ahlberg ruthlessly sheds the skin of her loner past to embrace a clique as quickly as possible. Her tight-knit friend group sticks with her for the next few years, until graduation looms and the relationships fall apart. Malin’s attempt to repair the rift seems to culminate in murder, but if you think you know where the story is going, you’re wrong.

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, by H.G. Parry
Parry’s sparkling debut, a B&N Discover Pick, tells the story of brilliant Charley Sutherland: teenage Ph.D. and a Summoner, someone who can read literary characters from books into the real world and back. His family, especially his normal, jealous brother Rob, have worked hard to keep Charley’s talents secret. Rob especially cherishes a hope that if Charley simply stops using his ability, they’ll fade away. Then Charley makes a shocking discovery—there’s a whole hidden neighborhood where literary characters hide from view and try to make a life, and another Summoner at work in town—he’s bringing evil characters to life, and he is aware of Charley and determined to do him harm. Teaming up with a host of literary characters and a Nancy Drew-like girl detective named Millie Radcliffe-Dix, Charley and Rob must stop the evil Summoner before the villains brought into the world destroy it entirely.

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