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Adjustment Day: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk, W. W. Norton & Co., US $26.95, Pp 320, May 2018, ISBN 978-0393652598

The City of Lost Fortunes (A Crescent City Novel) by Bryan Camp, John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US $24.00, Pp 384, April 2018 ISBN 978-1328810793

The Pisces: A Novel by Melissa Broder, Hogarth, US $26.00, Pp 288, May 2018, ISBN 978-1524761554

Woman of the Ashes: A Novel by Mia Couto, David Brookshaw (Translator), Farrar, Straus and Giroux, US $26, Pp 272, April 2018, ISBN 978-0374292270

Adjustment Day is coming, it is not Judgment Day. The mysterious book the people are memorizing the directives from is preparing them for the day of reckoning. It may as well be a Judgment Day of another kind. In this satirical and fictional work, Chuck Palahniuk shows us the absurdities we all indulge in. As old and fading politicians bring the world closer to another world war, the working class men think of putting an end to elites while professors cast doubts about the future.

In these desperate times, people learn wisdom from a blue-black book. These are times of no hope. Here is the wisdom they are learning!

“The measure of a man is not what he does for wages but what he does for leisure.”

“Imagine there’s no God. There is no Heaven or Hell. There is only your son and his son and his son and the world you leave for them.”

“The weak want you to forgo your destiny just as they’ve shirked theirs.”

“A smile is your best bulletproof vest.”

There is no protagonist but there is an omnipresent being called Talbott Reynolds. The Adjustment Day will be a great equalizer. It is an amazing satire that will make you laugh as well as make you think of yourself and the world around you. It is a harsh critique of our society that is full of cultural chaos. It is a continuation of Chuck Palahniuk’s earlier works in several ways but it is equally something quite different from his earlier books. It is incredibly enjoyable and entertaining.

Chuck Palahniuk is the best-selling author of fourteen fictional works, including Fight ClubInvisible Monsters, Survivor, Choke, Lullaby, Diary, Haunted, Rant, Pygmy, Tell-All, Damned, Doomed, Beautiful You and, most recently, Make Something Up. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.

*****

The City of Lost Fortunes is set in 2011 in New Orleans. The city is still trying to cope with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. It is a place full of magic, monsters, and miracles. Street magician Jude Dubuisson is also trying to bury his past and leave the consequence of the hurricane behind. Jude Dubuisson has the ability to find lost things but nobody knows it. This is something he inherited from his father he never met. His father happens to be a god. Jude Dubuisson owes a debt to a fortune deity. When the debt is called in, he finds himself playing a poker game with the gods of New Orleans who are also trying to revive the soul of the city. Dubuisson has maintained a low profile since the Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. But he has come out in the open when the god of fortune is killed. Jude Dubuisson has to find the murderer of the god and reveal the conspiracy that is targeting the soul of the city. In the process, he will discover what it means to be his father’s son. In this fantasy-mystery novel, Bryan Camp explores class struggle and race relations in New Orleans and beyond. New Orleans has been a city of a variety of faiths and cultures that gave birth to several not-so-apparent conflicts. With the help of syncretic religious culture and traditions, Camp has raised deep philosophical questions and has tried to answer them. It is rare that a serious literary novel is an easy read as well. The City of Lost Fortunes is an extraordinarily enjoyable read.

Bryan Camp is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers’ Workshop and the University of New Orleans’s MFA program. He started his first novel, The City of Lost Fortunes, in the back seat of his parents’ car as they evacuated the Crescent City during Hurricane Katrina. He is writing his second novel which is set in the same version of New Orleans as this one. It is focused on a different main character. It tells the story of a young woman who is also a psychopomp, one of the guides who lead the newly dead into the afterlife. He lives in New Orleans with his wife and their three cats, one of whom is named after a superhero.

*****

Lucy is a disaffected academic who recently had a breakup with her boyfriend Jamie. She has been working on her dissertation on Sappho for the last nine years. The breakup and failure to complete the dissertation push Lucy into a deep depression. She tries to act out with men online but suffers from severe feelings of shame, so much so that she even worries about her smell. Her sister who lives in Los Angeles asks Lucy if she wants to come to Los Angeles during the summer as she will be away from the gorgeous house she calls glass cube on Venice Beach. All her sister wants from her is to dog-sit. Lucy is hardly interested or can find solace in the proposal. But later she accepts the offer. Lucy can overcome her depression and get over her breakup with Jamie by getting under someone else. There is a void in her life. She has a feeling to commune with a higher being. Everything changes when Lucy meets Theo, a mysterious and attractive swimmer, while she is sitting alone on the beach rocks one night. Lucy feels she has found her love of life. But, is it just a tail Theo is hiding? Her understanding of what she wants — and what love should be — takes an unexpected turn when she finds the true identity of Theo. The Pisces may appear to be a story of a woman who has fallen in obsessive love with a merman and enjoys erotic feelings, but Broder is actually exploring far deeper issues including co-dependent relationship, fantasy, depression, suicide, and sex. The Pisces is a woman’s voice which owns her erotic thoughts, fantasies, and obsession. The Pisces is a protesting woman’s voice against a culture where she still does not have her rightful place. It is her way of redemption. It is a bold and necessary debut attempt.

Melissa Broder is the author of the essay collection So Sad Today and four poetry collections, including Last Sext. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, The Iowa Review, Tin House, Guernica, and she is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize. She writes the “So Sad Today” column at Vice, the astrology column for Lenny Letter, and the “Beauty and Death” column on Elle.com. She lives in Los Angeles.

*****

Woman of the Ashes is set in southern Mozambique in 1894. Portuguese colonial forces are advancing to recapture the state of Gaza. The state of Gaza may theoretically be a part of the Portuguese colony but it is practically ruled by King Ngungunyane. In the village of Nkokolani, Sergeant Germano de Melo is overseeing the Portuguese conquest of territory claimed by Ngungunyane, the last of the leaders of the state of Gaza. Gaza is the second-largest kingdom led by an African. Ngungunyane’s army is resisting colonial rule and his soldiers are advancing towards the village border. The Portuguese colonists may not be admired but they offer some kind of protection to the people. Sergeant Germano de Melo hires Imani, a fifteen-year-old girl, to act as an interpreter. Imani is also the main narrator in the novel. Imani’s tribe, VaChopi, is one of the few tribes which support the Portuguese colonial army. One of Imani’s brothers is fighting Ngungunyane’s army while the other brother is fighting the Portuguese. Imani is torn between two kingdoms and is attracted to Sergeant Germano de Melo, just as he is drawn to her. But she also knows that her country is torn by violence and, as a woman, she must go unnoticed as if she is made of ashes. In Woman of the Ashes, the first in a trilogy about the last emperor of southern Mozambique, Mia Couto combines brilliant folkloric prose with extensive historical research to write a novel on the colonial history of Mozambique at the end of the nineteenth century. Woman of the Ashes exposes the nature and impact of colonial power in Mozambique. It is one of the best historical novels published in 2018. You will learn more from Woman of the Ashes than from several scholarly books on Portuguese colonialism in Mozambique.

Mia Couto was born in Beira, Mozambique, in 1955. After studying medicine and biology in Maputo, he worked as a journalist. He has authored several books including Confession of the Lioness, The Tuner of Silences, and Sleepwalking Land. Couto received several awards including the Camões Prize for Literature and the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature. He was also shortlisted for the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award and was a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize in 2015. He lives in Maputo, where he works as a biologist.

David Brookshaw is an emeritus professor at the School of Modern Languages at the University of Bristol. He has translated several other books by Couto, including Confession of the LionessThe Tuner of SilencesA River Called Time, and Sleepwalking Land.

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