A Map Of Betrayal by Ha Jin. (Vintage) In stark contrast to the lurid lives of many other fictional spies, Gary Shang, a Chinese mole inside the CIA, navigated ambivalence and modest motivations throughout his long espionage career. As our reviewer, Ben Macintyre, wrote, what emerges is a study of “the painful, often humdrum essence of the hidden agent, living a double life but only half a life.”
Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local – And Helped Save An American Town by Beth Macy. (Back Bay/Little, Brown) After decades of business success, the Bassett family of Virginia, whose factory had buoyed the hometown economy, found itself challenged by overseas competitors. Macy nimbly outlines the effects of globalization in her account.
Your Face In Mine by Jess Row. (Riverhead) Questions of identity and rebirth underpin this provocative satirical novel, which plausibly imagines the possibilities of racial reassignment surgery. Row’s protagonist opts to become an African-American man, offering a paradigm of how race might be both bought and performed.
Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness by Joel Gold and Ian Gold. (Free Press) The peculiarities and origins of mental illness have intrigued society for centuries, but psychiatry often looks chiefly to neuroscience for answers. The authors, from philosophical and psychiatric perspectives, argue instead that social and cultural factors (including our reliance on technology and the rise of government surveillance) have a profound influence on the mind and its distortions.
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom. (Random House) In “Love Invents Us,” Bloom’s first novel, her heroine searches for a cohesive sense of self. But in this novel, Bloom’s third, two half sisters reinvent themselves against the backdrop of World War II America. Iris, the ambitious older sister, leads them from a quiet Ohio town to Long Island (with a failed stop in Hollywood along the way), trying on new identities at every turn.
Soldier Girls: The Battles Of Three Women At Home And At War by Helen Thorpe. (Scribner) A college student, a single mother and a grandmother are the subjects of this study, which chronicles their unexpected overseas deployments and turbulent homecomings. Through medical and military records, personal correspondence and detailed interviews, Thorpe captures an important cross section of military life.
Talking To Ourselves by Andrés Neuman. Translated by Nick Caistor and Lorenza Garcia. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) After Mario learns he is terminally ill, he and his young son embark on a last road trip together while his wife grapples with her grief at home. Neuman’s novella shifts among the perspectives of mother, father and son as they wade into uncertainty.
New York Times