Much like the city of Brooklyn, the main character in Paul Auster’s sixteenth novel, SUNSET PARK (Holt, $25), is worn and conflicted. Estranged from his family for the past seven years because of a dark secret, Miles Heller arrives in New York to temporarily escape yet another personal misfortune. As Miles joins three other squatters in a run-down house in Sunset Park, we are introduced to the equally conflicted and bizarre lives of Miles’s housemates, father, mother, and stepmother. Broadening the scope of the novel, Auster employs historical facts from topics such as baseball, publishing, film, and military history to draw his characters together. Auster is at his literary best, delving deep into the consciousness of each character with sharp descriptions and pinpoint metaphors, shedding light on our own individual needs and reminding us that the things that last in life—love, family, friends—will carry us through in the end.
The eleventh work of fiction by the award-winning Cynthia Ozick is a story of young Americans in Paris in the 1950s. They’re there not so much for love, adventure, and the Bohemian life (though they find some of this), but to escape their domineering father. Having driven his children away, and his wife crazy, he orders his sister to put his family together again. And she does—but in her way, not his. FOREIGN BODIES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26), while an homage to Henry James’s The Ambassadors, is quintessential Ozick. Her writing is polished, her plotting meticulously crafted, and her sharp wit and deft intellect shine throughout.
In her third novel, GREAT HOUSE (W.W. Norton, $24.95), Nicole Krauss weaves together four narrative threads, all of which revolve around a large and impressive writing desk. The novel opens with a young writer, Nadia, recounting how she came to own the desk. Gradually, more narrators pick up the story: an Israeli father struggling with his relationship to his son, a husband trying to understand the secrets of his late wife, a young American woman involved with a complicated man and his strange family, and an antiques dealer who specializes in recovering items pillaged by the Nazis. With beautiful writing and heartbreaking details, Kraus unfolds each character’s losses, despair, and disappointment, leaving it to the reader to puzzle the whole picture together.