6 New Fiction Books on First Half of May

1. See Loss See Also Love: A Novel by Yukiko Tominaga

Amazon | 255 pages | May 7, 2024 | Scribner

A tender, slyly comical, and shamelessly honest debut novel following a Japanese widow raising her son between worlds with the help of her Jewish mother-in-law as she wrestles with grief, loss, and—strangest of all—joy.

Shortly after her husband Levi’s untimely death, Kyoko decides to raise their young son, Alex, in San Francisco, rather than return to Japan. Her nosy yet loving Jewish mother-in-law, Bubbe, encourages her to find new love and abandon frugality but her own mother wants Kyoko to celebrate her now husbandless life. Always beside her is Alex, who lives confidently, no matter the circumstance.

Four sections of vignettes reflect Kyoko’s fluctuating emotional states—sometimes ugly, other times funny, but always uniquely hers. While freshly mourning Levi, Kyoko and Alex confront another death—that of Alex’s pet betta fish. Kyoko and Bubbe take a road trip to a psychic and discover that Kyoko carries bad karma. On visits back to Japan, Kyoko and her mother clash over how best to connect Alex with his Japanese heritage, and as Alex enters his teenage years and brings his first girlfriend home, Kyoko lets her imagination run wild as she worries about teen pregnancy.

In this openhearted and surprising novel about the choices and relationships that sustain us, there are times where Kyoko is lonely but never alone and others in which she is alone but never lonely. Through these moments, she learns how much more there is to herself in the wake of total and unexpected upheaval. See: Loss. See Also: Love. is a testament to how grief isn’t a linear process but is a spiraling awareness of the vast range of human emotion we experience every day.

2. A Perfect Day to be Alone by Nanae Aoyama (Author), Jesse Kirkwood (Translator) 

Amazon | 125 pages | May 9, 2024 | MacLehose Press

It was raining when I arrived at the house. The walls of my room were lined with cat photos, set in fancy frames just below the ceiling.

When her mother emigrates to China for work, twenty-year-old Chizu moves in with 71-year-old Ginko, an eccentric distant relative, taking a room in her ramshackle Tokyo home, with its two resident cats and the persistent rattle of passing trains.

Living their lives in imperfect symmetry, they establish an uneasy alliance, stress tested by Chizu's flashes of youthful spite. As the four seasons pass, Chizu navigates a series of tedious part-time jobs and unsatisfying relationships, before eventually finding her feet and salvaging a fierce independence from her solitude.

A Perfect Day to be Alone is a moving, microscopic examination of loneliness and heartbreak. With flashes of deadpan humour and a keen eye for poignant detail, Aoyama chronicles the painful process of breaking free from the moorings of youth.

3. Shanghailanders by Juli Min

Amazon | 267 pages | May 7, 2024 | Spiegel & Grau

A dazzling and ambitious debut novel that follows a cosmopolitan Shanghai household backward in time—beginning in 2040 and moving through our present and the recent past—exploring their secrets, their losses, and the ways a family makes and remakes itself across the years.

2040: Wealthy real estate investor Leo Yang—handsome, distinguished, a real Shanghai man—is on the train back to the city after seeing his family off at the airport. His sophisticated Japanese-French wife, Eko, and their two eldest children, Yumi and Yoko, are headed for Boston, though one daughter’s revelation will soon reroute them to Paris. 2039: Kiko, their youngest daughter and an aspiring actress, decides to pursue fame at any cost, like her icon Marilyn Monroe. 2038: Yumi comes to Yoko in need, after a college-dorm situation at Harvard goes disastrously wrong.

As the years rewind to 2014, Shanghailanders brings readers into the shared and separate lives of the Yang family parent by parent, daughter by daughter, and through the eyes of the people in their orbit—a nanny from the provinces, a private driver with a penchant for danger, and a grandmother whose memories of the past echo the present. We glimpse a future where the city’s waters rise and the specter of apocalypse is never far off. But in Juli Min’s hands, we also see that whatever may change, universal constants remain: love is complex, life is not fair, and family will always be stubbornly connected by blood, secrets, and longing.

Brilliantly constructed and achingly resonant, Shanghailanders is an unforgettable exploration of marriage, relationships, and the layered experience of time.

4. Vladivostok Circus by Elisa Shua Dusapin (Author), Aneesa Abbas Higgins (Translator)

Amazon | 174 pages | May 14, 2024 | Open Letter

Tonight is the opening night. There are birds perched everywhere, on the power lines, the guy ropes, the strings of light that festoon the tent . . . when I think of all those little bodies suspended between earth and sky, it makes me smile to remind myself that for some of them, their first flight begins with a fall. 

Nathalie arrives at the circus in Vladivostok, Russia, fresh out of fashion school in Geneva. She is there to design the costumes for a trio of artists who are due to perform one of the most dangerous acts of all: the Russian Bar. 

As winter approaches, the season at Vladivostok is winding down, leaving the windy port city empty as the performers rush off to catch trains, boats and buses home; all except the Russian bar trio and their manager. They are scheduled to perform at a festival in Ulan Ude, just before Christmas. 

What ensues is an intimate and beguiling account of four people learning to work with and trust one another. This is a book about the delicate balance that must be achieved when flirting with death in such spectacular fashion, set against the backdrop of a cloudy ocean and immersing the reader into Dusapin’s trademark dreamlike prose.

5. The Banana Wars by Alan Grostephan

Amazon | 280 pages | May 14, 2024 | Dzanc Books

Urabá, Colombia, 1990: A violent strike at plantations across the banana zone leads to crops in flames, managers murdered, and the local economy teetering on the brink. In retaliation, the banana producers finance right-wing paramilitaries to cleanse the zone of guerrillas and their supposed collaborators.

Through the intertwined lives of four characters—a banana worker making a play for power in the guerrillas, a decadent Colombian banana planter who runs his business from the safety of Medellín, a widow in Urabá struggling to stay on the right side of the local paramilitaries, and an American banana executive wading ever deeper into troubled waters—The Banana Wars charts the struggle to survive in impossible conditions, in a place where no one is to be trusted and one false move can lead to death.

Starkly drawn from the true history of Urabá and this period of conflict, including the unseen role of US corporate interests, celebrated author Alan Grostephan’s latest is an incandescent historical novel for fans of Jesmyn Ward, Roberto Bolaño, and Fernanda Melchor.

6. Oye: A Novel by Melissa Mogollon

Amazon | 324 pages | May 14, 2024 | Hogarth

A coming-of-age comedy. A telenovela-worthy drama. A moving family saga. All in a phone call you won’t want to hang up on.

As the baby of her large Colombian American family, Luciana is usually relegated to the sidelines. But now she finds herself as the only voice of reason in the face of an unexpected crisis: A hurricane is heading straight for Miami, and her eccentric grandmother, Abue, is refusing to evacuate. Abue is so one-of-a-kind she’s basically in her own universe, and while she often drives Luciana nuts, they’re the only ones who truly understand each other. So when Abue, normally glamorous and full of life, receives a shocking medical diagnosis during the storm, Luciana’s world is upended.

When Abue moves into Luciana’s bedroom, their complicated bond intensifies. Luciana would rather be skating or sneaking out to meet girls, but Abue’s wild demands and unpredictable antics are a welcome distraction for Luciana from her misguided mother, absent sister, and uncertain future. Forced to step into the role of caretaker, translator, and keeper of the devastating family secrets that Abue begins to share, Luciana suddenly finds herself center stage, facing down adulthood—and rising to the occasion.

As Luciana chronicles the events of her disrupted senior year of high school over the phone to Mari, Oye unfolds like the most fascinating and entertaining conversation you’ve ever eavesdropped on: a rollicking, heartfelt, and utterly unique novel that celebrates the beauty revealed and resilience required when rewriting your own story.


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