Four books from first-time authors for fall

A haunted journey through a family’s history, “Daughters of the New Year” travels from present day New Orleans and the unique experiences of three second-generation Vietnamese American daughters back through their matrilineal line and across the Atlantic to the Vietnam War and colonial and pre-colonial Vietnam. The way is guided by specters of Vietnamese women past as the three daughters and their mother Xuan seem to become ghosts themselves the further you read into their ancestry. As their history becomes apparent to the reader, the daughters and even the mother remain in the dark about their ancestors’ secrets and lives, making the reader feel much more keenly how much was lost through colonization, war, racism and displacement.

By Erika T. Wurth (Flatiron Books, $27.99, available Nov. 1)

Let’s not forget that fall is also the time of spirits (Día de Muertos) and things that go bump in the night (Halloween). Erika T. Wurth’s debut (with a major publisher; she has published collections and poetry with indie presses) “White Horse” doesn’t forget it. Equal parts horror and magical realism with a noir edge, you can practically smell the cigarette smoke and stale whiskey seeping from the pages as easily as you can feel the hairs standing up on the back of your own neck as the heroine faces screaming ghosts, creeping shadows, and a monster that smells of human flesh and that’s rarely made itself known outside of Indigenous communities.

But there’s more to it than the supernatural. There on the edges of the pages the very real horror story of the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the U.S., Canada and Latin America haunts. Of Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee descent and raised outside of Denver, Wurth also draws on her own upbringing to bring a raw realism to her depictions of urban Indigenous life in the West.

You won’t find anything else like it this fall.

Other debuts we’re looking forward to:

  • ‘The Mountain in the Sea’

By Ray Nayler (MCD, $28, available Oct. 4)

OK, I haven’t read this one yet, but the premise is too good to pass up and I can’t wait to give it a go. Remember, the not-so-brief preoccupation with zombies and vampires in the early 2010s? Well, I think we have a new combo to capture our imaginations — androids and octopuses. That’s right, Ray Nayler’s debut novel sends the world’s first android a few leagues under the sea to break bread with a newly discovered (and rapidly proliferating) species of highly intelligent octopuses that may have developed their own language and culture.

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