2012 has been a great year for fiction. Here's a dozen titles from the last month to round out the year.
Alfa Romeo 1300 and Other Miracles, by Fabio Bartolomei
Diego is a forty-something car salesman with a talent for telling half-truths. Fausto sells watches over the phone. Claudio manages (barely) his family-owned neighborhood supermarket. The characteristic common to each of these three men is their abject mediocrity. Yet, mediocrity being the mother of outrageous invention, they embark on a project that would be too ambitious in scope for any single one of them, let alone all three together. They decide to flee the city and to open a rustic holiday farmhouse in the Italian countryside outside Naples. Things would have been challenging enough for these three unlikely entrepreneurs, but when a local mobster arrives and demands they pay him protection money things go from bad to worse. Now their ordinary (if wrongheaded) attempt to run a small business in an area that organized crime syndicates consider their own becomes a quixotic act of defiance.
The Balloonist, by MacDonald Harris
In 1897, three men, a scientist, a journalist, and an adventurer, set off in a hot-air balloon hoping to be the first men to land on the North Pole, as Major Gustav Crispin, the scientist, contemplates their situation and remembers his love affair with the exasperating Luisa. Originally published in 1976 and nominated for the National Book Award.
The Canvas, by Benjamin Stein
Loosely based on the true story of Binjamin Wilkomirski, whose fabricated 1995 Holocaust memoir transfixed the reading public, The Canvas has a singular construction--its two inter-related narratives begin at either end of the book and meet in the middle. , a psychoanalyst in Zurich, encourages Minsky to write a book about his traumatic childhood experience in a Nazi death camp, a memoir which the journalist Jan Wechsler claims is a fiction. Ten years later, a suitcase arrives on Wechsler's doorstep. Allegedly, he lost the suitcase an a trip to Israel, but Wechsler has no memory of the suitcase, nor the trip, and he travels to Israel to investigate the mystery. But it turns out he has been to Israel before, and his host on the trip, Amnon Zichroni, has been missing ever since. . .
Finding Casey, by Jo-Ann Mapson
Glory Vigil, newly married, unexpectedly pregnant at forty-one, is nesting in the home she and her husband, Joseph, have just moved to in Santa Fe, a house that unbeknownst to them is rumored to have a resident ghost. Their adopted daughter, Juniper, is home from college for Thanksgiving and in love for the very first time, quickly learning how a relationship changes everything. But Juniper has a tiny arrow lodged in her heart, a leftover shard from the day eight years earlier when her sister, Casey, disappeared-in a time before she'd ever met Glory and Joseph. When a fieldwork course takes Juniper to a pueblo only a few hours away, she finds herself right back in the past she thought she'd finally buried.
The Greatcoat: a ghost story, by Helen Dunmore
It is the winter of 1952 when Isabel Carey moves to the East Riding of Yorkshire with her new husband, Philip, a medical doctor. While Philip spends long hours working away from home, Isabel finds herself lonely and vulnerable as she adjusts to the realities of being a housewife in the country. One evening, while Philip is on call, Isabel is woken by intense cold. When she hunts for extra blankets, she discovers an old RAF greatcoat hidden in the back of a cupboard. Sleeping under the coat for warmth, she starts to dream and is soon startled by a knock at her window. Outside is a young RAF pilot wearing a familiar coat. His name is Alec and his powerful presence disturbs and excites her as they begin an intense affair. Nothing though has prepared her for the truth about Alec's life, nor the impact it will have on her own.
Kafka in Love, by Jacqueline Raoul-Duval
An English-language translation of an accessible introduction to the literary master is inspired by the stories of his four defining romances as documented in Kafka's personal journals and offers insight into his decision to maintain long-distance, correspondence-based affairs with a sequence of fiancées he never married. The author uses his voice in her own writing, and a third of the book is pulled from Kafka's journals. It is the perfect introduction to this giant of world literature, and captures his life and romances in a style worthy of his own.
Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, by William Kuhn
When Queen Elizabeth, disguised in a skull-emblazoned hoodie, sneaks out of Buckingham Palace to escape her duties for a little while, an unlikely sextet of royal attendants team up to find their missing monarch and bring her back before her absence sets off a national scandal.
The News from Spain: seven variations on a love story., by Joan Wickersham
In these seven variations on a theme, a series of characters trace and retrace eternal yet ever-changing patterns of love and longing, connection and loss. The stories range over centuries and continents--from eighteenth-century Vienna, where Mozart and his librettist Da Ponte are collaborating on their operas, to America in the 1940s, where a love triangle unfolds among a doctor, a journalist, and the president's wife. A race-car driver's widow, a nursing-home resident and her daughter, a paralyzed dancer married to a famous choreographer--all feel the overwhelming force of passion and renunciation. With uncanny emotional exactitude, Wickersham shows how we never really know what's in someone else's heart, or in our own; how we continually try to explain others and to console ourselves; and how love, like storytelling, is ultimately a work of the imagination.
The Nostalgist, by Griffin Hansbury
Stoop-shouldered and balding beneath a porkpie hat, Jonah Soloway is an old man before his time. Estranged from his astrophysicist father and effectively orphaned when an SUV took his mother's life, Jonah longs to make a human connection?even if it means lying to get it. When he calls the phone number on Rose Benevento's 9/11 missing poster and reaches her mother, Vivian, one lie gives birth to another and another, and before Jonah knows it, the truth becomes indiscernible even to him. Stalked by Rose's ghost and desperate to keep the Beneventos from uncovering his lie, Jonah finds himself adrift in a city he no longer recognizes and more alone than ever.
Noughties, by Ben Masters
Celebrating with his friends the night before his Oxford graduation, Eliot Lamb reluctantly prepares to confront his feelings for a fellow lover of literature while receiving ominous messages from an ex-girlfriend and revealing a tragic long-time secret. For fans of Martin Amis and Zadie Smith.
Raised from the Ground, by José Saramago
First published in 1980, this book follows the changing fortunes of the Mau Tempo family--poor landless peasants not unlike Saramago's own grandparents. Set in Alentejo, a southern province of Portugal known for its vast agricultural estates, the novel charts the lives of the Mau Tempos as national and international events rumble on in the background--the coming of the republic in Portugual, the two World Wars, and an attempt on the dictator Salazar's life. Yet nothing really impinges on the grim reality of the farm laborers' lives until the first communist stirrings.
This book is full of spiders: seriously, dude, don't touch it , by David Wong
From the writer of the cult sensation John Dies at the End comes another terrifying and hilarious tale of almost Armageddon at the hands of two hopeless heroes as they become embroiled in a new set of horrific but absurd challenges when movie-induced zombie phobia enables a nefarious shape-shifter race to take over the world.