Today's releases include the latest from the Booker Prize-winning author of The English Patient, and a collection of interconnected stories that starts with a highly unusual tale of star-crossed love...
Learn more about today's best books of the month releases below, or browse all of our favorites for May here.
First sentences matter, and Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight begins with a distinctly dramatic one. “In 1945, our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals” says 14-year-old Nathaniel, who with his older sister Rachel finds himself living in bombed-out London with two shady characters known as “The Moth” and “The Pimlico Darter.” Warlight starts with elements of a classic children’s adventure story, but its shadows run increasingly deep as Nathaniel, growing older, uncovers the network of deception that masks his mother’s spy-work. When the trail of factual discoveries grows cold, he imagines a past he can never truly know, composing, in effect, a dreamlike memoir of his “lost inheritance.” In Warlight, Ondaatje, now 74 years old, has written a wonderfully varied, blazingly literary, and gut-twistingly emotional story that will leave readers grateful for whatever solidity their own families can claim, though newly aware of the fundamental mystery of other lives. --Sarah Harrison Smith
In "The Dancing Bear," the first story of Maxim Loskutoff's debut short story collection, Come West and See, a lonesome frontiersman falls hard for a grizzly that happens upon his Montana cabin. It’s weird: "Her fur shimmered and rolled in waves, like the windy prairie where I was born. Her pink tongue swept away stray apple chunks from around her mouth. I wondered if she had lips." As many tales of unrequited love go, especially in the boy-meets-bear genre, his passion cannot span the species gap, inexorably leading to misunderstanding and calamity. It's a funny story (if you have the right ear) and a solid hook, but from there Loskutoff drives the car back onto the highway to the world of human interaction, examining the complexities of a changing American West through a series of vignettes set in the imaginary "Redoubt": A cross-section of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming that's home to a separatist movement grown out of the occupation of a wildlife sanctuary. (If that sounds familiar, it's because a version of that happened.) But throughout the dozen stories, the simmering revolution largely stays (for the most part) in the background. Loskutoff's interest lies with the people of this vision of Sagebrush Rebellion—the disenfranchised, resentful, and angry prepared to defend their "way of life" against the encroachments of changing demographics, environmentalism, and globalism. His characters hum with anxiety, each overstrung by the knowledge that disaster could visit at any moment, that their own actions have led them down a foolish and futile path—even if they would choose it again. That's just what happens when you court a bear. --Jon Foro