Already published to great acclaim in Sweden, Quicksand is Malin Persson Giolito’s first book published in the U.S. After a school shooting in a wealthy Stockholm suburb, only one person in the classroom is unharmed. This is Maja, the novel’s central character and narrator, and the sole surviving suspect. We follow her through her trial and her incarceration as well as the events leading up to the tragedy. Most beguiling is the way the story makes you fall in love with Maja, at the same time uncertain of her complicity in the murder. From the courtroom scenes to the portrayal of wealthy disaffected Swedish youth, everything in Quicksand feels spot on.
Borne of his experience fighting in Iraq, Brian Van Reet’s Spoils is a clear-eyed, gritty, and tension-filled story of young soldiers caught up in impossible circumstances. At the heart of the story is Cassandra, a 19 year old machine gunner who is captured by the enemy. Her ordeal as captive, along with two fellow soldiers, is harrowing but also insightful into the characters of the soldiers and their captors. Recent and current conflicts have inspired some excellent fiction and Spoils ranks with the best of it.
Set right here in Northwest D.C., Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Here I Am (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28) is the story of a family in crisis. When Julia discovers a series of explicit text messages on her husband Jacob Bloch’s phone, it spells doom for their relationship and major changes for the couple’s three sons. Meanwhile, an earthquake in Israel leads to chaos in the Middle East that stretches all the way to the Bloch household. With wisdom and humor, Foer has produced another immensely entertaining novel. Here I Am captures the contradictions and enigmas of contemporary life and the immensity of love, even in a disintegrating family. Mark LaFramboise