Daily Mail




by Tiffany McDaniel

(W&N £16.99, 480pp)

THE unsolved deaths of six sex workers in Chillicoth­e, Ohio, seven years ago haunts this extraordin­ary new novel by the Cherokee author Tiffany McDaniel, although don’t go expecting a convention­al true crimestyle whodunnit. Rather, this unapologet­ically beautiful book is shaped by the idiosyncra­tic imaginatio­n of its narrator, Arc, who lives with her twin sister Daffy and her mother and aunt, both sex workers and heroin addicts, in America’s drug-ravaged Midwest.

As children, Arc and Daffy sought refuge in make-believe (drawing birthday cakes in the dust each year in the absence of the real thing); as an adult, Arc holds stubbornly onto a transfigur­ative poetic view of the world even while succumbing to addiction and sex work herself. Meanwhile, the bodies of women she knows start turning up in the nearby river.

McDaniel combines unflinchin­g realism with otherworld­ly fairy-tale lyricism to powerfully redemptive effect in this slow-burning reckoning with America’s exploding drugs nightmare.


by Cecile Pin

(Fourth Estate £14.99, 256pp)

THERE’S no doubting the worthiness of this novel about the Vietnamese boat people, based on the author’s family history, which has been longlisted for this year’s Women’s Prize.

Following the mass upheavals of the Vietnam War, Anh and her two brothers make the treacherou­s crossing to Hong Kong in one boat, with their parents and younger siblings in another. Yet only Anh and her brothers make it, meaning they must make the rest of their long journey, to eventual settlement in Thatcher’s Britain, alone.

Pin interspers­es historical reportage with various narrative strands, including that of the siblings’ dead younger brother and an anonymous narrator from the perspectiv­e of several decades hence. Yet while the writing is cool and clear, the human beings at the centre of this all-too-familiar tale never spring to life, as so often seems to be the case with novels about refugees.


by Idra Novey

(Viking £9.99, 256pp)

IDRA NOVEY also grapples with the social crisis engulfing rural America in this deceptivel­y simple novel, which tacks between the present-day perspectiv­e of Leah and the retrospect­ive one of her estranged stepmother Jean, who has devoted her later years to creating large metal sculptures in her childhood hometown in the impoverish­ed Allegheny Mountains.

Leah grew up there, too, and is returning with her husband and young son on hearing Jean has left her these sculptures following her death.

Her conflicted feelings about her stepmother contrast intriguing­ly with Jean’s more forthright account of her years of solitude spent mourning the loss of Leah and shaped by the complicate­d feelings she develops for Elliot, the troubled teenage son of a neighbour.

Novey teases out all manner of subtle questions on the nature of art, grief and privilege in this ruminative if somewhat inert novel. It’s at its most potent, though, as a portrait of America’s abandoned small towns, so gripped by poverty that dreams, possibilit­y and even art itself can’t help but turn to dust.

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