As a longtime fan of Jessica Hopper’s vigilant, fearless music criticism, Night Moves is the book I’ve been pining for. A series of vignettes about her coming of age in the Chicago music scene, the pieces are as shaky with youth as a Ferlinghetti poem, and they come together to form one jagged love poem to a city and a way of life. There’s something markedly elegiac about the life Hopper describes, a roiling, breathing cityscape where the escape from the robotic crawl of gentrification seemed still possible. Can young adults still live like this in a city? Riding bikes through electric summer nights? God, I hope so. Night Moves made me feel very young and very old at the same time: a painful, singular elation.
In Happiness, Atilla, a Ghanian psychiatrist and Jean, an American wildlife researcher, meet by chance on the ever- evolving streets of London and the chain of events that is set in motion changes both of their lives. It’s a novel of ideas that doesn’t talk at you; instead the characters confront and metabolize entangled issues like changing environments, urbanization, trauma and attachment, in very personal, idiosyncatic ways. Forna’s creation of the wonder and performance of modern street life is a textural triumph: citizens of all countries and experiences sweat, breath and connect just underneath the skyrocketing urban skyline. Happiness is a novel that knows itself well: it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, and leaves you both intellectually and emotionally full.
Grist Mill Road is a coiled, twisted snake of a book. Christopher Yates inverts everything we think we know about thrillers-- the very first scene is the crime that drives the entire story-- without ever sacrificing his blistering, desperate pace. From the first pages all bets are off, and the true thrills come from learning the motives behind the characters actions-- not the usual “who did it”. The realizations are jagged and grim and never simple—but the humanity and believability of the flawed, complex characters is what gives Grist Mill Road its resonance and what elevates it above and beyond traditional thrillers.