Brewster by Mark Slouka. (Norton) Set in the late 1960s, Slouka’s third novel unfolds against a backdrop of Woodstock and Vietnam. Stuck in a suffocating blue-collar town in upstate New York with their different but equally painful families, two teenage boys – an introverted track star and a scrappy, loudmouthed rebel – forge a friendship that sees them through impossible choices and acts of unspeakable cruelty.
Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel. (Picador) In “The Good Soldiers,” Finkel chronicled the 15-month deployment of the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment to Baghdad during the “surge” of 2007-08. Now he follows many of those same soldiers as they return home and struggle to reintegrate while coping with a variety of psychological and physical ailments.
T.C. Boyle Stories II: The Collected Stories Of T. Coraghessan Boyle, Volume 2 (Penguin) Crackling with intelligence and humor (not to mention drinking binges, mishaps, male-bonding rituals and heartbreak), “Stories II” gathers Boyle’s work from his three most recent collections – “Wild Child,” “Tooth and Claw” and “After the Plague” – along with 14 new tales.
Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang. (Anchor) In 1861, Cixi, an imperial concubine, seized power after her 5-year-old son ascended to the throne. Chang’s authoritative biography sets out to overturn Cixi’s reputation as a conservative despot, portraying her as a proto-feminist who brought peace and prosperity and opened China to Western trade and ideas.
Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward. (Bloomsbury) Ward, author of the National Book Award-winning novel “Salvage the Bones,” delivers a raw, beautiful elegy for her brother and four male friends who died young in Mississippi between 2000 and 2004, lost to accidents, drugs, murder and suicide.
At Night We Walk In Circles by Daniel Alarcón. (Riverhead) Set in an unnamed, war-torn country in South America, an idealistic young actor named Nelson joins a storied guerrilla theater troupe. When the troupe organizes a revival tour of a farcical play, “The Idiot President,” Nelson wins a starring role as the president’s equally idiotic son.
New York Times