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Literature

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Talking gills, exploding whales, enormous ... um ... appendages, exploding heads ... “The Boys” isn’t “The Crown.” And its vigilantes aren’t Marvel superheroes either. But the Amazon series’ subversive storytelling appealed to enough voters in a year when more traditional drama series were on a pandemic-mandated break.

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Majumdar’s debut, a 2020 bestseller, is a tale of contemporary India, in which a Muslim girl from a slum neighborhood is accused of a terrorist attack after a careless Facebook comment. “Immaculately constructed, acidly observed and gripping from start to finish, ‘A Burning’ is a brilliant debut,” wrote a reviewer in The Guardian. “The novel is both a crime thriller in which Jivan battles to avoid execution, and a moral drama: will her old acquaintances risk their burgeoning careers to speak up for a vilified Muslim woman?”

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Inspired by his real-life stint as Carrie Fisher’s personal assistant, Byron Lane’s debut novel has at its center a Los Angeles writer named Charlie who takes a job as assistant to Kathi Kannon, star of the cult-favorite science fiction film “Nova Quest.”

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The Booker Prize-winning author of “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha” sets his latest book in a Dublin restaurant, with two old friends raising a glass ... and a few more.

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Jennifer Lopez transforms the maid trope from character part to leading role in “Maid in Manhattan.” But the Cinderella story, with Ralph Fiennes as a Senate candidate who falls for Lopez, gets mixed reviews for its lazy use of rom-com tropes.

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Edward James Olmos becomes the first Mexican American to earn a lead actor nomination for his role in “Stand and Deliver” about Garfield High calculus teacher Jaime Escalante. Dustin Hoffman wins the award for “Rain Man.”

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Cork O’Connor’s father, Liam, was “a good man in a hard job.” The latest novel in Krueger’s accomplished series set in the North Woods of Minnesota returns to 1963 and an investigation when Cork was 12 and his father was sheriff of Tamarack County. The reminiscing is the older Cork’s attempt “to unravel the mystery that had been his father.” The case involves Big John, a “handsome and sad and solitary” man whom the young Cork discovers hanging from “the burned remains of a large log construction” that was once a sacred site for the Ojibwe. It’s during this first time working with his father that Cork learns “a tremendous sense of responsibility for finding the truth.” This expertly crafted mystery has the North Woods, its people and their legacies at its tender heart.

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Hirahara’s beautifully written and deeply moving mystery set in 1943 is about the lives of two sisters, Rose and Aki Ito (Nisei, first generation Japanese born in America) after their release from Manzanar, a concentration camp in California. Rose is relocated first and heads to Chicago. If Rose “insisted on something, the whole family went along with it.” They follow Rose to Chicago. But on the day they arrive, they learn Rose was run over at the corner of Clark and Division. Aki doesn’t want to be “that tragic girl,” the “surviving sister.” With Rose’s diary in hand and a deep commitment to her sister’s memory in her heart, Aki investigates. Hirahara’s novel is an accomplished and important story about a time in American history that I felt privileged bearing witness to.

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Like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Mrs. March is planning a party (her first name isn’t revealed until the book’s last line). Mrs. March is the wife of a famous novelist. They live in an expensive brownstone in New York. Like Mrs. Dalloway, Mrs. March’s perception of herself is thrown into dangerous relief when a shopkeeper suggests the main character in her husband’s latest novel is based on her. In that barbed moment, paranoia seizes her, her identity dissolves. She wonders if she “was ever there at all.” Feito’s fiendish narrator presents Mrs. March to readers like a specimen under glass. The narrator zooms in and out of Mrs. March’s thoughts with sometimes scathing, sometimes sympathetic precision as her psyche unravels. I delighted in every moment of this stellar debut.

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In Percy’s immersive and imaginative sci-fi thriller, Minnesota is the epicenter of a phenomenon that’s created a “geopolitical crisis” for the world and “existential quandary” for humanity. Northfall, Percy’s fictional town in the Manitou Range, is “making bank” from omnimetal. It’s an alien matter, a powerful energy source like nothing in the known universe, but it’s infected more than the land. Mother Gunderson once was a cashier at Farm and Fleet. Now, she’s a “drug lord or a pope or an amulet” sitting on incalculable wealth. Percy’s novel is a clever amalgamation of speculative fiction and family drama, of supercharged characters and regular folk, encompassing various viewpoints in a highly cinematic narrative.

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You crash land on a dark, mysterious planet and stumble across the corpse of an astronaut — and you’re horrified to discover that it’s you.

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