The Burrow

Melanie Cheng

The Burrow follows members of the Lee family as they navigate grief and hope in their quiet Australian suburb: Jin, an emergency physician and father; Amy, a published author and mother; Lucie, their bookish and introverted ten-year-old; and Pauline, Amy’s mother who’s trying to make amends. Racked with grief for Ruby—Lucie’s baby sister who died in a shocking accident—the family adopts a rabbit in the hopes of bringing much-needed cheer to their home. At first, each family member benefits from the distraction of a new and needy creature, but when a violent home invasion breaks their fragile sense of peace, the family is forced to confront the terrible circumstances surrounding Ruby’s death.

Atmospheric and tautly lyrical, Melanie Cheng’s slim novel brings together four distinct perspectives—and one wide-eyed rabbit—to reveal the enormity of loss, long-buried family secrets, and how to survive in a newfound world after the ultimate tragedy.

Misinterpretation

Ledia Xhoga

In present-day New York City, an Albanian interpreter reluctantly agrees to work with Alfred, a Kosovar torture survivor, during his therapy sessions. Despite her husband’s cautions, she soon becomes entangled in her clients’ struggles: Alfred’s nightmares stir up her own buried memories, and an impulsive attempt to help a Kurdish poet leads to a risky encounter and a reckless plan. 

 As ill-fated decisions stack up, jeopardizing the nameless narrator’s marriage and mental health, she takes a spontaneous trip to reunite with her mother in Albania, where her life in the United States is put into stark relief. When she returns to face the consequences of her actions, she must question what is real and what is not. Ruminative and propulsive, Ledia Xhoga’s debut novel Misinterpretation interrogates the darker legacies of family and country, and the boundary between compassion and self-preservation.

Masquerade

Mike Fu

Set between New York and Shanghai, Masquerade is a queer coming-of-age mystery about a lovelorn bartender and his complex friendship with a volatile artist.

Newly single Meadow Liu is house-sitting for his friend, artist Selma Shimizu, when he stumbles upon The Masquerade, a translated novel about a masked ball in 1930s Shanghai. The author’s name is the same as Meadow’s own in Chinese, Liu Tiana coincidence that proves to be the first of many strange happenings. Over the course of a single summer, Meadow must contend with a possibly haunted apartment, a mirror that plays tricks, a stranger speaking in riddles at the bar where he works, as well as a startling revelation about a former lover. And when Selma vanishes from her artist residency, Meadow is forced to question everything he knows as the boundaries between real and imagined begin to blur.

Exploring social, cultural, and sexual identities in New York, Shanghai, and beyond, Mike Fu’s Masquerade is a skillfully layered, brilliantly interwoven debut novel of friendship, queer longing, and worlds on the brink, asking how we can find ourselves among ghosts of all kinds, and who we can trust when nothing—and no one—is as it seems.

Concerning the Future of Souls

Joy Williams

Returning to her legendary short stories, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist Joy Williams offers a much-anticipated follow-up to Ninety-Nine Stories of God, which The New York Times Book Review called a “treasure trove of bafflements and tiny masterpieces.” Concerning the Future of Souls balances the extraordinary and the humble, the bizarre and the beatific, as Azrael—transporter of souls and the most troubled and thoughtful of the angels—confronts the holy impossibility of his task, his uneasy relationship with Death, and his friendship with the Devil.

Over the course of these ninety-nine illuminations, a collection of connected and disparate beings—ranging from ordinary folk to grand, known figures, such as Jung, Nietzsche, Pythagoras, Bach, and Rilke; to mountains, oceans, dogs, birds, whales, horses, butterflies, a sixty-year-old tortoise, and a chimp named Washoe—experience the varying fate of the soul as each encounters the darkness of transcendence in this era of extinction. A brilliant crash course in philosophy, religion, literature, and culture, Concerning the Future of Souls is an absolution and an indictment, sorrowful and ecstatic. Williams will leave you wonderstruck, pondering the morality of being mortal.

Fire Exit

Morgan Talty

From the porch of his home, Charles Lamosway has watched the life he might have had unfold across the river on Maine’s Penobscot Reservation. On the far bank, he caught brief moments of his neighbor Elizabeth’s life—from the day she came home from the hospital to her early twenties. But there’s always been something deeper and more dangerous than the river that divides him from her and the rest of the tribal community. It’s the secret that Elizabeth is his daughter, a secret Charles is no longer willing to keep.

Now, it’s been weeks since he’s seen Elizabeth, and Charles is worried. As he attempts to hold on to and care for what he can—his home and property; his alcoholic, quick-tempered, and bighearted friend Bobby; and his mother, Louise, who is slipping ever deeper into dementia—he becomes increasingly haunted by his past. Forced to confront a lost childhood on the reservation, a love affair cut short, and the death of his beloved stepfather, Fredrick, in a hunting accident—a death he and Louise are at odds over as to where to lay blame—Charles contends with questions he’s long been afraid to ask. Is his secret about Elizabeth his to share? And would his daughter want to know the truth, even if it could cost her everything she’s ever known?

From the award-winning author of Night of the Living Rez, Morgan Talty’s debut novel, Fire Exit, is a masterful and unforgettable story of family, legacy, bloodlines, culture and inheritance, and what, if anything, we owe one another.

Mystery Lights

Lena Valencia

An influencer attempts to derail a viral TV marketing campaign with her violent cult following. A marriage between two ghost hunters is threatened when one of them loses her ability to see spirits. The lives of a famous painter in the twilight of her career and a teenage UFO enthusiast converge when a mysterious glowing orb appears in their small desert town. And a slasher-flick screenwriter looking for inspiration escapes a pack of wild dogs only to find herself locked in an SUV with a strange man beside her. Set primarily in deserts throughout the American Southwest, Lena Valencia’s Mystery Lights is a debut collection of stories about women and girls at the crossroads of mundane daily life and existential dread.

From the all-too-real horror of a sexual predator on a college campus to a lost sister transformed by cave-dwelling creatures, Mystery Lights grapples with terrors both familiar and fantastic, introducing an electrifying new voice in contemporary fiction while bringing to light the many faces of the forces that haunt us.

Smothermoss

Alisa Alering

In 1980s Appalachia, sisters Sheila and Angie couldn’t be more different. While their mother works long shifts at the nearby asylum, Sheila does her best to care for their home and keeps to herself, even when enduring relentless bullying from classmates. Her rambunctious, fearless younger sister, Angie, is more focused on fighting imaginary zombies, and creating tarot-like cards that seem to have a mind of their own.

When the brutal murder of two female hikers on the nearby Appalachian Trail stuns their small community, the sisters find themselves tangled in a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Angie discovers a ripped shirt, soaked in blood; money Sheila’s been stashing away disappears; and a strange man shows up at a local store, trying to barter with a woman’s watch. As the threat of violence looms larger, the mysterious, ancient mountain they live on—and their willingness to trust each other—might be the only things that can save them from the darkness consuming their home.

In turns both terrifying and otherworldly, author Alisa Alering opens the door to the hidden world of Smothermoss—a mountain that sighs, monsters made of ink, rabbits both dead and alive, and ropes that just won’t come undone. Unsettling, propulsive, and wonderfully atmospheric, Alering’s stunning debut novel renegotiates what is seen and unseen, what is real and what is haunted.

The Skunks

Fiona Warnick

Dear Skunks, I wrote. Then I got stuck. What was there to say about the skunks? Of course there was the smell—the spraying. Everyone’s mind jumped to the spraying. I often forgot about the spraying entirely, which was nice because it made me feel that I wasn’t like other people.

From the outside, Isabel doesn’t seem to have much going on. It’s the summer after college graduation and she’s moved back to her hometown, where she spends her days house-sitting, babysitting, working the front desk at a yoga studio, and hanging out with her childhood friend Ellie. But on the inside, Isabel’s mind is always running, always analyzing, and right now, she’s trying hard to not let her thoughts give weight to boys. So when Isabel spots three baby skunks in the yard, their presence is not only a strangely thrilling break from the expected, it feels like a fortuitous sign from the universe. Skunks. That’s what she should be thinking about.

As the summer unfolds, Isabel becomes increasingly preoccupied with the skunks, while also navigating her various jobs and an ambiguous relationship with Eli, the son of the couple she’s house-sitting for. In her own life and in the imagined inner lives of the skunks, Isabel ponders the nature of existence, love vs. infatuation, and the many small moments that make us animal, make us human. The Skunks is an unforgettable coming-of-age story about the complexities of crushes, desire, friendship, and modern life.

Nonfiction

Julie Myerson

This is definitely not a ghost story. But for a while after you’re gone, I see you everywhere. Every ragged young person sitting huddled on a pavement, every stretched-out body under cardboard in a shop doorway.

Two parents stand by powerlessly as their only child seems intent on destroying herself. As the mother—a novelist—attempts to understand her daughter, she finds herself revisiting her own uneasy, unresolved relationship with her mother. Weaving between childhoods past and present, laced with temptation and betrayal, Nonfiction: A Novel is an unflinching account of a mother, daughter, wife, and author reckoning with the world around her. But can a writer ever be trusted with the truth of her own story?

Clear-eyed, lacerating, and fearless, Julie Myerson’s Nonfiction: A Novel explores maternal love as an emotional foundation to both crave and fear. A hauntingly beautiful and deeply moving love letter from a mother to a daughter, this is a tale of damage and addiction, recovery and creativity, compassion and love.

 

Tin House Magazine: Winter Reading 2015

Win McCormack

The best company on a cold night is hot new fiction, poems, essays, and interviews. Warm up with Tin House this winter.

Fiction by Dorothy Allison, Patrick deWitt, Helen Phillips, Martha McPhee, Drew Ciccolo, James Scudamore, and Andrea Barrett

Poetry by Sharon Olds, Caroline Knox, Adam Fitzgerald, Cornelius Eady, Caroline O’Connor Thomas, and Timmy Straw

Features by Claire Vaye Watkins, Evie Wyld & Joe Sumner, Rachel Jamison Webster, CJ Hauser, and John Fischer

Lost & Founds by Carrie Brown, James Guida, Pamela Erens, Scott F. Parker, and Carol Keeley

Village Weavers

Myriam J.A. Chancy

In 1940s’ Port-au-Prince, Gertie and Sisi become fast childhood friends, despite being on opposite ends of the social and economic ladder. As young girls, they build their unlikely friendship—until a deathbed revelation ripples through their families and tears them apart. After François Duvalier’s rule turns deadly in the 1950s, Sisi moves to Paris, while Gertie marries into a wealthy Dominican family. Across decades and continents, through personal success and failures, they are parted and reunited, slowly learning the truth of their singular relationship. Finally, six decades later, with both women in the United States, a sudden phone call brings them back together once more to reckon with and—perhaps—forgive the past.

Told with power and frankness, Village Weavers confronts the silences around class, race, and nationality, charts the moments when lives are irrevocably forced apart, and envisions two girls—connected their entire lives—who try to break inherited cycles of mistrust and find ways back into each other’s hearts.

 

A Kind of Madness

Uche Okonkwo

A teenage girl from a poor family is dazzled by her rich, vivacious friend, but as the friend’s behavior grows unstable and dangerous, she must decide whether to cover for her or risk telling the truth to get her the help she needs. A young woman and her mother bask in the envy of their neighbors when the woman receives an offer of marriage from the family of a doctor living in Belgium—though when the offer fails to materialize, that envy threatens to turn vicious, pitting them both against their community. And a lonely daughter finds herself wandering a village in eastern Nigeria in an ill-fated quest, struggling to come to terms with her mother’s mental illness.

Across ten stories, Uche Okonkwo’s A Kind of Madness unravels the tensions between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, best friends, siblings, and more, marking the arrival of an extraordinary new talent in fiction.

The Woman in the Sable Coat

Elizabeth Brooks

At the height of the Second World War in England, twenty-two year old Nina Woodrow joins the British Royal Air Force and rebels against her careful upbringing by embarking on an illicit affair with an officer. She risks losing everything for Guy Nicholson: her comfortable home, her childhood friends, and, especially, the love of her father, an enigmatic widower.

Meanwhile, in the sleepy village where Nina grew up, where the upheavals of war seem far away and divorce remains taboo, Kate Nicholson struggles to cope with her new role as the wronged wife. She finds an unlikely confidant in Nina’s father, Henry, and as they grow closer Kate finds that she’s embroiled in something much murkier, and more menacing, than a straightforward friendship.

Sweeping and impassioned, with pitch-perfect period detail, Elizabeth Brooks’ The Woman in the Sable Coat tells the story of two families fatally entangled in one another’s deepest, darkest secrets.

How We Named the Stars

Andrés N. Ordorica

When Daniel de La Luna arrives as a scholarship student at an elite East Coast university, he bears the weight of his family’s hopes and dreams, and the burden of sharing his late uncle’s name. Daniel flounders at first—but then Sam, his roommate, changes everything. As their relationship evolves from brotherly banter to something more intimate, Daniel soon finds himself in love with a man who helps him see himself in a new light. But just as their relationship takes flight, Daniel is pulled away, first by Sam’s hesitation and then by a brutal turn of events that changes Daniel’s life forever.

As he grapples with profound loss, Daniel finds himself in his family’s ancestral homeland in México for the summer, finding joy in this setting even as he struggles to come to terms with what’s happened and faces a host of new questions: How does the person he is connect with this place his family comes from? How is his own story connected to his late uncle’s? And how might he reconcile the many parts of himself as he learns to move forward?

Equal parts tender and triumphant, Andrés N. Ordorica’s How We Named the Stars is a debut novel of love, heartache, redemption, and learning to honor the dead; a story of finding the strength to figure out who you are—and who you could be—if only the world would let you.

 

Tin House Magazine: Summer Reading 2015

Win McCormack

Summer Reading 2015 features previously untranslated work from 2014 Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano on Paris and a timely essay from Lewis Hyde revisiting the 1964 murder of two young black men in Mississippi. In addition to these works by established authors, this issue also presents work from five New Voices in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Featuring fiction from: Jodi Angel, Smith Henderson, Greg Hrbek, Tara Ison, Patrick Modiano, Matthew Socia, and Sarah Elaine Smith
Poetry by: Catherine Barnett, Cody Carvel, Diana M. Chien, Rita Gabis, Robert Duncan Gray, Kimiko Hahn, Ed Skoog, and Jenny Xie
Nonfiction by: Mary Barnett, David Gessner, and Lewis Hyde
Lost & Found: S. Shankar on Agnes Smedley, John Reed on André Gide, Jessica Handler on Berton Roueché, Jonathan Russell Clark on H.D., and Rachel Riederer on Barbara Grizzuti Harrison.