Orhan's Inheritance, Pretty Ugly, A Slant of Light 

Short Stories

click to enlarge Orhan's Inheritance

Orhan's Inheritance

Aline Ohanesian

Algonquin Books, hardcover/$25.95

Aline Ohanesian's debut novel tackles the reality of the Armenian genocide, through a family saga. Orhan Turkoglu has inherited his late grandfather's business, but discovers that the family's home has gone to an Armenian woman in California. No one in his immediate family can tell him who Seda is or why she mattered to his grandfather, so he tracks her down in an Armenian-American nursing home. Though Seda's at first unwilling to revisit the past, eventually the story of her connection to Orhan's grandfather — and Orhan's connection to a complicated past — comes spilling out. Successful as a family novel, Orhan's Inheritance is equally successful at relaying the difficulty of bearing witness and of hearing that testimony, as well as the emotional and psychological consequences for the descendants of survivors and perpetrators alike. — Kel Munger

click to enlarge Pretty Ugly

Pretty Ugly

Kirker Butler

Thomas Dunne Books, hardcover/$25.99

This debut novel from a writer/producer for the animated series Family Guy takes a snarky look at — surprise! — family life through the lens of children's beauty pageants in the South. In Pretty Ugly, Kirker Butler uses exactly the sort of overload that we expect from television: Mom Miranda, a failed beauty queen herself, is starving 9-year-old Bailey to make her sexy, while said kiddo is bingeing to get too fat to compete. Disgraced doctor dad Ray works as a nurse-slash-serial killer (one dead patient a day, sorta) while bonking a 17-year-old in front of the girl's dying grandfather. These are not nice people, but that doesn't mean they're not funny in that embarrassing way that so much of television comedy is funny. The question is whether readers will want their fiction to be as cringe-worthy as their cartoons. — Kel Munger

click to enlarge A Slant of Light

A Slant of Light

Jeffrey Lent

Bloomsbury USA, hardcover/$27

A double murder in the aftermath of the Civil War is the flashpoint for issues of faith, forgiveness and justice in Jeffrey Lent's new novel. A Slant of Light opens when returning veteran Malcolm Hopeton kills his wife and the man he hired to look after his home, and injures another young hired man. Hopeton had intended only to kill Amos Wheeler, who'd usurped his farm and forced his wife into a sexual relationship during his absence — his wife's death and the injury of young Harlan Davis were accidents. The incident divides the community, but things are not even as clear-cut as that; Lent also introduces religious changes in the form of the Public Friend, a Christian spiritualist with elements of Shakerism. Elegiac in tone, with Lent's hallmark gracious descriptions of the natural world, A Slant of Light is a portrait of people in pain and struggle. — Kel Munger


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