The Poet X Antonia Vega, the immigrant writer at the center of Afterlife, has had the rug pulled out from under her. She has just retired from the college where she taught English when her beloved husband, Sam, suddenly dies. And then more jolts: her bighearted but unstable sister disappears, and Antonia returns home one evening to find a pregnant, undocumented teenager on her doorstep. Antonia has always sought direction in the literature she loves--lines from her favorite authors play in her head like a soundtrack--but now she finds that the world demands more of her than words. Afterlife is a compact, nimble, and sharply droll novel. Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: What do we owe those in crisis in our families, including--maybe especially--members of our human family? How do we live in a broken world without losing faith in one another or ourselves? And how do we stay true to those glorious souls we have lost?
Hannah (The Great Alone) brings Dust Bowl migration to life in this riveting story of love, courage, and sacrifice. In 1934 Texas, after four years of drought, the Martinelli farm is no longer thriving, but Elsa is attached to the land and her in-laws, and she works tirelessly and cares for her children, 12-year-old Loreda and seven-year-old Anthony. Her husband, Rafe, has become distant and something of a hard drinker, and after he abandons them, Elsa reluctantly leaves with her children for California with the promise of steady work. Her dreams of a better future are interrupted by the discrimination they face in the unwelcoming town of Welty, where they are forced to live in a migrant camp and work for extremely low wages picking cotton. When Elsa's meager wages are further reduced and she has the opportunity to join striking workers, she must decide whether to face the dangers of standing up for herself and her fellow workers.
In a small village in France, a young woman named Adeline prays to any god who will answer for salvation from a stifling life. But the one who arrives grants Addie a gift, in exchange for her soul, that comes with a curse: though she will not age or die, everyone she meets will forget her as soon as she leaves their sight. For 300 years, Addie moves through the world without touching it, balancing ephemeral but immense suffering against the joy of witnessing, and often underhandedly influencing, art and artists. As the devil she bargained with lingers in the shadows, Addie makes herself his equal, laying claim to her strange life. And then, one day in 2014 Manhattan, she finds a boy who, impossibly, remembers her. Schwab deftly weaves time and place, flitting between Addie's frantic past and her grounded present while visiting intermittent July 29ths in between. Narratively, this is a whirlwind--deeply romantic, impossibly detailed, filled with lush language, wry humor, and bitter memories. This often startlingly raw story begs the questions: what is a soul? What does it mean to be remembered? And what prize is worth giving those things up?