Fabulous Fiction Firsts #652 and #653



Conversations with Friends * * * by Sally Rooney (Trinity College, Dublin) is drawn largely from conversations with the author's own friends.

Frances, a poet and aspiring writer performs at spoken-word poetry events around the college with her best friend and former lover Bobbi. At one of these events, Melissa, a well-known photojournalist proposes to do a piece on them. Invited to her Monkstown home, Bobbi falls under Melissa's spell while Frances is more impressed with the trappings of wealth and success, and instantly drawn to Melissa's gorgeous and standoffdish husband, Nick, an actor.

Mild flirtation and furtive conversations between the two turn into a clandestine affair, but it is Frances' literary ambition and secrets kept that ultimately attenuate the bonds among them all.

"With painful missteps and wise triumphs, Frances probes her beliefs in most everything --
sexuality, relationships, politics, and her family -- and learns to distinguish between what she’s told and what she thinks. Less a coming-of-age story and more a coming-of-now tale, Rooney’s first novel is a smart, sexy, realistic portrayal of a woman finding herself in and out of a well-depicted friendship." (Booklist)

"Readers who enjoyed Belinda McKeon's Tender and Caitriona Lally's Eggshells will enjoy this exceptional debut." (Library Journal)

* * * = 3 starred reviews

Goodbye, Vitamin *, former Lucky Peach Executive Editor Rachel Khong's debut has been called a "family dramedy ... that ruminates on love, loss, and memory." (Kirkus Reviews)

30-year-old San Francisco ultrasound tech Ruth Young heads home to LA for the holidays with a broken heart. Fiancé Joel, a doc that she had dropped out of college to follow across the country(twice), broke up with her just as they were about to move to a bigger, nicer apartment.

The tension at home is palpable. Howard, her father, a prominent history professor is losing his memory (as well as his teaching position) and is only erratically lucid. Her mother, Annie is lucidly erratic, having given up cooking altogether since aluminum from cooking utensils could cause memory loss. The household subsists on carry-out pizza and a smorgasbord of vitamins. Ruth's brother Linus is conspicuously absent, unable to overlook their father's drunkenness and history of infidelity. So Ruth quits her job and moves home.

Written in chronological vignettes over the next year, we watch as Ruth navigates the role of daughter, sister, caregiver, and cheerleader as Howard's condition worsen. "Ruth’s new preoccupation with memory, in its most concrete form, gives her a different glimpse of her father and family, while they all cope with what they know is a one-way-only illness. In her tender, well-paced debut novel, which spans Ruth’s year at home, Khong writes heartbreaking family drama with charm, perfect prose, and deadpan humor." (Booklist)

Readers might also enjoy You Are Having a Good Time by Amie Barrodale, a collection of tales startlingly funny and original that make you reconsider the fragile compromises that underpin our daily lives; and Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian about a young woman's discovery of life’s continuously shifting, perplexing intimacies.

* = starred review

Related:
Fabulous Fiction Firsts archive