Faye Rapoport DesPres

Kudos and Links for three Debut Novels

Three of my friends and/or colleagues are debuting new novels this month (or soon). Read on for descriptions of each book and links for online ordering.

Joy Castro’s first novel, Hell or High Water (Thomas Dunne Books) is due out in July — but you can pre-order it now on Amazon.com. Here’s a synopsis of this “psychological thriller in the vein of Kate Atkinson and Tana French that introduces Nola Céspedes, an intense and spellbinding protagonist”:

“Nola Céspedes, an ambitious young reporter at the Times-Picayune, catches a break: An assignment to write her first full-length feature. While researching her story, she also becomes fixated on the search for a missing tourist in New Orleans. As Nola’s work leads her into darker corners of the city, a singular narrative voice emerges, and an even more compelling question surfaces: Who is Nola Céspedes? Vividly rendered in razor sharp prose, this novel is a riveting journey of trust betrayed—and the courageous struggle toward recovery.”

Having read and deeply admired some of Joy Castro’s work (including her memoir The Truth Book and a number of essays and poems published in literary journals), I’ve been waiting for a while for this novel’s debut. When I saw it on Amazon, I immediately pre-ordered my copy.

Jessica Keener, meanwhile, celebrated the release of her first novel, Night Swim (Fiction Studio Books), at a launch party at Brookline Booksmith last week. Read a recent review in B.U. Today here. The book was also recently reviewed in The Boston Globe, and its description is below:

“Sixteen-year-old Sarah Kunitz lives in a posh, suburban world of 1970 Boston. From the outside, her parents’ lifestyle appears enviable – a world defined by cocktail parties, expensive cars, and live-in maids to care for their children – but inside their five-bedroom house, all is not well for the Kunitz family. Coming home from school, Sarah finds her well-dressed, pill-popping mother lying disheveled on their living room couch. At night, to escape their parents’ arguments, Sarah and her oldest brother, Peter, find solace in music, while her two younger brothers retreat to their rooms and imaginary lives. Any vestige of decorum and stability drains away when their mother dies in a car crash one terrible winter day. Soon after, their father, a self-absorbed, bombastic professor begins an affair with a younger colleague. Sarah, aggrieved, dives into two summer romances that lead to unforeseen consequences. In a story that will make you laugh and cry, Night Swim shows how a family, bound by heartache, learns to love again.”

I have one more debut novel to tell you about, and then we’ll call it for today. Mariam Kobras experienced kind of an “accidental” early release of her debut novel, The Distant Shore, published by Twitter-friendly Buddhapuss Ink. I actually connected with both Mariam and Buddhapuss through Twitter — being a cat lover, I was of course immediately attracted to this publisher’s logo. (I’m still hoping for a T-shirt). Mariam was preparing for her book’s launch when she learned that Amazon had begun selling the novel two weeks early. This would have been bad news if not for the fact that the book was an Amazon bestseller the day it debuted. According to Amazon, “The storyline for The Distant Shore was inspired by [Kobras’s] fascination with the limitations fame can impose on people. Her book explores the value of love in a world where money and a front-page photo are sometimes more important than a person’s soul.” Here’s the synopsis:

“There’s nothing like finding a letter on your breakfast table informing you [that you] have a teenage son you knew nothing about, but that’s what happens to international rock star, Jonathon Stone. He drops everything to find the boy and his mother, the girl he loved so many years ago, who left him when his rock ‘n roll life became too much for her to bear. Seeing her is like falling in love all over again, and everything seems perfect, until someone sets out to destroy their idyllic life.”

I will be publishing an interview with Mariam in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. We’ll be discussing her process for writing the novel, and her somewhat unique journey toward publication.

I have posted the Amazon links to these books for convenience here, but I encourage you to support your local bookstore by looking for the books there, too. If you don’t find them, inquire — maybe you can inspire some smaller stores to order copies for the readers in your community.

Congratulations, Joy, Jessica, and Mariam. Your determination to stick to your goals and your hard-earned successes are inspiring.


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