Four new fiction books
Photography by Chris Plavidal/Styling by Penny Plavidal

By Bethanne Patrick

Only the River by Anne Raeff (Counterpoint)
Anne Raeff has a gift for depicting how disasters ravage groups. Her latest novel focuses on Austrian refugees, first in Nicaragua, then New York. While awaiting a visit from her daughter, 85-year-old ailing widow Pepa reminisces about her long-ago affair with a boy named Guillermo that will affect her family decades later. Nicaragua’s tumultuous, war-torn history repeatedly upends their lives, with tragedy recalling earlier tragedy – especially when Pepa’s son insists on joining the Sandinistas. However, the adjustments also bring them great joy: The tiny jungle town of El Castillo, where Pepa’s parents settled, remains a comfort long after she leaves it behind.

All Adults Here by Emma Straub (Riverhead Books)
The Strick family matriarch, widowed Astrid, lives in Clapham, New York, in that part of the Hudson Valley now trendy among Manhattan creatives looking for a more bucolic way of life. There she witnesses a school-bus accident that shakes her so much she reassesses her parenting decisions years earlier – and decides to tell her three adult children about her ongoing relationship with her hairdresser, Birdie. Between Emma Straub’s plot twists and her delightfully befuddled characters, who include an artisanal goat-cheese maker and a one-hit Hollywood wonder, this is one of the year’s sunniest, most enjoyable beach reads.

Heroes by Stephen Fry (Chronicle Books)
British actor, comedian, documentarian, and author Stephen Fry dedicates this second volume of his series about the great world myths to “all the heroes we never heard of. Perhaps you are one.” His versions of Greek heroic literature owe much to his deep reading of the originals, but these aren’t your decorous Edith Hamilton Greek myths. They’re cheeky and witty, and, above all, they bring the larger-than-life figures back to human scale – as if Fry had channeled Monty Python. Reading Heroes might not turn you into one, but it’ll likely make you ponder how to bring a bit of heroism into everyday life.

Red Dress in Black and White by Elliot Ackerman (Knopf)
An Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart, Elliot Ackerman writes about Americans and overseas conflicts with a deep understanding of the tensions that exist. His latest novel centers around American expat Catherine, married to Murat, a Turkish real estate developer in Istanbul. After years of marriage, she seeks a divorce to return home with their young son. Murat objects, turning to an American diplomat friend to help block her exit, a tactic that pulls everyone deeper into the webs of power and corruption bubbling beneath Turkey’s surface.

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