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The Early Word on Summer’s Debut Novels

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LOTTERY
By Patricia Wood (Putnam; August 2)

The Précis: Ph.D. candidate who lives on a sailboat in Hawaii wrote Lottery on the advice of mentor Paul Theroux. A retarded man wins the Washington State lottery.

Pros: Wood has a backstory to sell, about her lottery-winner father and a brother-in-law with Down syndrome. Theroux’s blurb doesn’t hurt.

Cons: Comparisons to Forrest Gump and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, fair or not, are inevitable.

Commercial Potential:

Critical Potential:



LOVING FRANK
By Nancy Horan (Ballantine; August 7)

The Précis: Former resident of Frank Lloyd Wright territory (Oak Park, Illinois) fictionalizes the architect’s scandalous affair with the wife of a client.

Pros: Maybe the buzziest serious novel of the summer—including a coveted spot on BookExpo’s “Buzz Panel.”

Cons: The bar has been set high—a 75,000-copy printing is a lot for a debut. Critics will have one eye on the hype, the other on historical accuracy.

Commercial Potential:

Critical Potential:


THE CHICAGO WAY
By Michael Harvey (Knopf; August 21)

The Précis: The executive producer of A&E’s Cold Case Files tries his hand at a Chicago-based thriller about—what else?—a cold case that turns red-hot.

Pros: Harvey got six figures for a two-book deal, acquired by Knopf’s eagle-eyed Jordan Pavlin. The prestige house’s big shot at a summer best seller.

Cons: The marketing push could backfire when people find out Cold Case Files is a poor relation of a network show.

Commercial Potential:

Critical Potential:


GIFTED
By Nikita Lalwani (Random House; September 11)

The Précis: An Indian-Welsh former BBC director invents a genius child whose overbearing immigrant parents try to get her into Oxford at age 14.

Pros: Less showy than the immigrant-oddball-genius subject would suggest. Deserves (and will probably get) a slow but steady ascent.

Cons: Note the topical similarities to Kaavya Viswanathan’s (plagiaristic) novel. It’s one thing to be late to a trend, another to follow a class act like that.

Commercial Potential:

Critical Potential:


MAYNARD AND JENNICA
By Rudolph Delson (Houghton Mifflin; September 18)

The Précis: A former lawyer writes a sort of fictional oral history— with a huge cast of narrators—about a meet-cute love affair set in post-9/11 New York.

Pros: Scott Rudin has already optioned it—and with endearing, witty, chatty characters, it’s easy to see why.

Cons: That Rudin movie could look like a Zach Braff concoction—beloved by some, tedious for others, too strange for many. Ditto the book.

Commercial Potential:

Critical Potential:


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