Are you looking for a voice that’s new on the scene? Here are two debut novels for you to try! They’re fresh, funny, and thought-provoking. Both take place in the present day.
Agatha of Little Neon, by Claire Luchette, is a novel about a group of four Sisters (not nuns! Nuns are cloistered, Sisters are not) who live and work together in their diocese near Buffalo, New York under the watchful care of Sister Roberta who is in her eighties. Narrated by Agatha, it tells the story of how their close-knit group is relocated to a river town in Rhode Island, where they share quarters with the residents of a halfway house and Agatha ends up teaching high school geometry for the first time. Sister Roberta remains in New York, and it becomes clear that her wisdom and attention held the Sisters together.
Agatha’s sharp observations of the people around her are witty and insightful. Her narrative deals with questions of community and belonging, as she examines the behavior of the other three Sisters and their reactions to the move. Over the course of the book, we are privy to Agatha’s inner thoughts and her personal journey toward becoming the person she believes she is really meant to be. The ending left me wondering what would be coming next for Agatha.
Laura Blackett and Eve Gleichman’s novel The Very Nice Box is a sharp illustration and also pokes fun of corporate culture. Ava, a quiet person in her early thirties who thrives on quiet and order, works for a home furnishings company that reminds me a lot of Ikea. I particularly enjoyed the product names, such as the Very Nice Box and the Cozy Nesting Tables, to name a few. The office is shaken up by the arrival of a charismatic team leader who energizes everyone around him, and Ava in particular.
This is a book about the workplace and about gender roles; and about loss and coping with grief. It’s oddly funny and the adjective quirky was just about made for this book. I enjoyed the characters, the office setting, the plot twists, and the unexpected way the story ended.
Other debut novels include:
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
Mrs. March by Virginia Feito
Dial A for Aunties by Jessie Sutanto