Paul Auster returns with another brilliant novel about personal, familial, and cultural identity. Man In The Dark (Picador, $14) focuses on August Brill, a man who fills his life with narrative—classic films, family secrets, and highly-inventive anti-bedtime stories. Brill creates an America that didn’t experience 9/11 and that has fallen into civil, rather than international, war. These new “facts” become the backdrop for Brill’s nocturnal brooding, even as they distract him from the nagging events of his night-long pondering. By day, Brill’s life revolves around his relationship with his granddaughter, and these sections include some of the most insightful writing about film I’ve ever encountered. Man in the Dark is all things Auster: quizzical, suspenseful, and, above all, incredibly enjoyable.
The Outlander (Harper Perennial, $14.99), by Gil Adamson, starts with a breathless chase scene: a woman who has just killed her abusive husband is being pursued by his two brothers, redheaded twins, determined to get revenge. They track her from Idaho into the mountains of Montana where she receives help from an outdoorsman, a romantic figure who spends his life in the isolation of the wilds. Adamson is a poet and she recounts the adventure of Mary Boulton with spare language, careful observation, and dry wit, creating a tale that resonates with excitement and beauty.
Marisa Silver brings a filmmaker’s well-paced plotting and vivid dialogue to her first novel. Set in 1978 and narrated by twelve-year-old Ares, ironically named after The God Of War (Simon & Schuster, $14), this is the story of two unconventional families and assorted strays living on the harsh edge of the California desert; a military testing ground on one side, the austere natural beauty of the Salton sea on the other, it’s a place where “there’s no such thing as careful. There’s luck. Good and bad.” Ares, however, tries hard to be careful. He struggles to protect his autistic younger brother, though he believes he is Malcolm’s greatest danger, sure that he caused his brother’s condition in an accident five years earlier. As Ares yearns for stability and for “possibilities instead of consequences,” Silver deftly dramatizes the confusions and frustrations of adolescence, and tells a riveting tale of lives lived in unforgiving terrain.