Today, we are pleased to present reviews of three debut novels out this spring. First up, Aram Mrjoian reviews Annie Hartnett’s Rabbit Cake, which is written from the point of view of ten-year-old Elvis Babbitt: “Rabbit Cake thus finds universal comedic truths in the face of indomitable loss, reinvigorates the sensory thrill of childhood, and reveals how familial strength can help overcome individual grief.”
Next, our reviewer Brett Beach discusses Elif Batuman’s debut novel The Idiot, which follows Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, as she embarks on her first year at Harvard. “Batuman’s heroine possesses the whip-smart, precise voice so many of us wish we had in our own youth. Selin blunders, yes, and fails, but who hasn’t? The Idiot reminds us that we are not alone.”
To cap it all off, Will Preston contributes a thoughtful review of Omar El Akkad’s debut novel American War, which is set in 2075, in an America undergoing a Second Civil War: “Holding true to the old adage that war is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of terror, the bulk of American War’s narrative occurs in the moments between the violence, deriving its power from the physical and emotional ruin left in its wake.” Dive into these three varied and powerful spring debuts.
Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
Ecosystems perpetually hang in delicate balance, as much with humans as any other species. This is perhaps one thesis of Annie Hartnett’s ebullient Rabbit Cake, a novel loaded with dark humor and self-diagnosed moroseness, but also one that bursts forth with optimism at every turn. Hartnett’s work is interested in classification to say the least, and offers genuine consideration of family dynamics that span the animal kingdom at large. Read more.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Elif Batuman tweets under the handle BananaKarenina—a humorous nod toward a great Russian novelist’s depiction of a woman’s dangerous tangle with love. How fitting, then, that Batuman’s strikingly funny, precisely observed first novel, The Idiot, shares its title with the work of another great Russian writer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Read more.
American War by Omar El Akkad
The year is 2075. The United States, its shorelines eaten away by mega-hurricanes and rising seas, has splintered apart. Mexico has reclaimed large swathes of the southwest. The capital has relocated from Washington DC to Columbus, Ohio. And the states of Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi, enraged by a governmental ban on fossil fuels, have seceded into a Free Southern State. Read more.