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First Looks, April 2012: Goliath and HHhH

Hello again, FWR friends. Welcome to the third installment of our new blog series,  “First Looks,” which highlights soon-to-be released books that have piqued my interest as a reader-who-writes. We publish “First Looks” here on the FWR blog around the 15th of each month, and as always, I’d love to hear your comments and your recommendations of forthcoming titles. Please drop me a line anytime: erika(at)fictionwritersreview(dot)com, and thanks in advance.

Susan Woodring and I are graduates of the same low-residency MFA program. Although we overlapped for a couple of semesters, we were never assigned to the same workshop. Still, I’ve been expecting her to become a “big name” in the literary world for about a decade now, since a long-ago evening when a group of us students gathered in the dorm living room for an informal reading. It was the first time I encountered Susan’s writing. I knew instantly that her fiction was already at a level different from—superior to—almost everything the rest of us were doing. Some things you just can’t explain.

So I wasn’t surprised to watch from afar as Susan’s excellent stories showed up in journals, won contests, and were gathered in a collection (which was, incidentally, one of my very first e-book purchases). And I’m not surprised that on April 24, St. Martin’s Press is releasing Susan’s second novel: Goliath.

I’d be eager to read this novel even without Bret Lott’s endorsement: “Goliath is a beautiful and quietly moving story of love, grief, forgiveness and redemption—heady themes handled here with a big heart and a deft hand. In prose exquisitely clear and with details that will make your heart ache, Susan Woodring has written a meaningful portrait of small town life, and what it means to move through grief toward love.” Which reminds me that I should also recommend Susan’s wonderful blog posts, where I first read of Bret Lott’s influence on her work.

I’d love to tell you all about another new book scheduled for imminent release—but I’ve already reviewed it for another publication, and until that review is published, I shouldn’t spill too many beans. But I will say that I can’t wait to see the other reviews that will be published about HHhH, a debut novel by Laurent Binet (translated by Sam Taylor), simply because I’m eager to see how other readers respond to it. And I’ll say this, too: If I ever teach historical fiction again, I’ll be assigning this novel, which blends historical fiction and metafiction as it reconstructs Operation Anthropoid, the plot to assassinate Nazi Reinhard Heydrich.

Until next month…

Further Reading

  • You can read the first chapter of Susan Woodring’s Goliath online.
  • You can also find some of Susan’s short stories online, in journals including Ruminate and turnrow.
  • If you’d like to learn more about HHhH, you can read its starred review from Publishers Weekly.

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