‘Tale’ authors among autumn’s most anticipated releases

Saturday, September 24, 2011
By Ben Beagle bbeagle@batavianews.com

New titles from two authors previously featured in the “A Tale for Three Counties” community reading program are among the buzziest books for fall.

Thomas Mullen’s time-travel tale “The Revisionists” (Mulholland Books) and Hillary Jordan’s “When She Woke” (Algonquin), a fable about a stigmatized woman, will be arriving in bookstores in the next two weeks and are already receiving accolades.

“When She Woke,” out Oct. 4, has been descibed as a contemporary revision of “The Scarlet Letter” for its story that explores prejudice and other social issues.

Jordan, who is scheduled to do a reading in Buffalo next month, has received a coveted starred review from Booklist, been named to Publishers Weekly list of top 10 literary fiction releases for fall, and been chosen as the October Indie NEXT Pick by the American Booksellers Association, which represents independent bookstores.

“This is a book that deserves to be read and discussed; it stays with you long after you have finished reading the last page. It’s thought-provoking, a little unsettling and absolutely compelling,” said Erica Caldwell, owner of independent bookstore Present Tense, 101 Washington Ave., Batavia.

Jordan sets her story in a dystopian near-future where criminals are “chromed.” Their skin color changes to reflect the crime. The heroine of Jordan’s book, Hannah, is permanently turned red because she had an abortion. The book explores issues of sexual politics, religious fundamentalism and incursions by the States against peoples’ civil rights.

“It’s not a book of polemics, it’s a story,” Jordan said in March during her area visits for the Tale program. “I see that as my primary job. To tell a ripping good story.”

“When She Woke” has been praised by such varied sources as Family Circle magazine, which said Jordan wrote a “provocative, politically charged novel” that was “chilling and riveting,” to numerous independent booksellers.

Caldwell’s review of “When She Woke” will be featured by the ABA in Indie NEXT fliers distributed to ABA member stores and on the Indiebound website. In her review, Caldwell writes that Hannah’s “navigation through the perils of a hostile society launches Hannah on a journey of self-discovery and makes readers question the consequences of politicizing the personal. Jordan’s chracters are compelling and her pacing is flawless.”

Booklist said “Jordan blends hot-button issues such as the separation of church and state, abortion and criminal justice with an utterly engrossing story, driven by a heroine as layered and magnetic as Hester Prynne herself.”

Jordan, who began a months-long book tour this week, is scheduled to stop Oct. 25 for a 7 p.m. reading and booksigning at Hallwalls, 341 Delaware Ave. Admission is free. For information, call (716) 854-1694

Jordan’s debut novel, “Mudbound,” was the featured selection for the 2011 Tale program. She had begun “When She Woke” at the same time as “Mudbound,” but set the former aside for several years after getting “stuck.” Political events of recent years renewed her interest in the story.

Mullen and his debut novel, “The Last Town of Earth,” was the Tale pick for 2008. The historical fiction novel explored a town’s actions in the wake of the devastating 1918 flu pandemic.

“The Revisionists,” arriving Wednesday, is Mullen’s third novel. The author, writing on his blog, describes his latest as a “literary spy novel with a time traveler set in contemporary D.C.”

The thriller explores the ethical implications of time travel after a megadisaster devastes the world. “The Government” then creates a Department of Historical Integrity to prevent rouge time travelers — known as historical agitators, or hags — from traveling through time to change the past. A DHI agent named Zed travels from the near future back to a circa 2011 Washington, D.C., shortly before the disaster to ensure nothing interferes with the muder of an investigative journalist about the meet with an important source.

Mullen has received a starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.

“The complex concatenation of events that follows make this book a one-sitting read despite its length,” wrote Publishers Weekly. “The Revisionists” is 448 pages.

David Keymer, writing in Library Journal, said Mullen “has crafted an outstanding dystopic novel, but, surprise!, the dystopia includes today.”

Mullen’s novel has also been singled out as a top September release by Cynthia Corssen’s “Dear Book Lover” column for The Wall Street Journal, and at the recent Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show, Mullen’s book was identified as a buzzed-about titles for adults.

Steve Weinberg, in a review published Tuesday by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, praised Mullen as “a skilled storyteller” with an “expansive imagination.”

“Many novelists, including some of the best, render the world as it is. Mullen renders the world as it is not and probably never could be — yet manages to persuade readers to suspend disbelief and become engages in the story,” Weinberg wrote.

While the book has some elements of science fiction, Weinberg says “The Revisionists” is not easy to categorize.

“The novel, however, is much more than a page-turning techno-thriller. It also serves as a vehicle for philsophical musings.”

Nine authors have been featured in “A Tale for Three Counties,” the community reading project organized by libraries for Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties. Many authors have found some of their greatest critical and commercial successes in the years after their Tale appearances. The latest books from Jennifer Donnelly (2010’s young adult novel “Revolution” and this year’s adult historical fiction novel “The Wild Rose”) and Julia Spencer-Fleming (2010’s “One Was A Soldier”) also received acclaim when released.

Leslie DeLooze, the community services librarian at Batavia’s Richmond Memorial Library who started the Tale project, said it’s great to see the ongoing success of featured authors.

“For us, it’s an affirmation of our selection,” DeLooze said. “It’s a lot of work to choose the author, but it’s exciting to see that the quality and potential that we saw in their writing is coming to fuition for them.”

A Tale selection for 2011 is expected to be announced later this fall.
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