Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
Brock Clarke should be a familiar name to you. Not just for today's featured title, Exley, but also for his An Arsonist's Guide to Writer's Homes in New England. I need to warn you: Exley is one of those novels that you pick up just to browse and find yourself still engrossed an hour later. Yeah, it's that kind of book.
Take a look at the publisher's summary:
For nine-year-old Miller, who lives with his mother in Watertown, New York, life has become a struggle to make sense of his father’s disappearance, for which he blames himself. Then, when he becomes convinced that he has found his father lying comatose in the local VA hospital, a victim of the war in Iraq, Miller begins a search for the one person he believes can save him, the famously reclusive—and, unfortunately, dead—Frederick Exley, a Watertown native and the author of his father’s favorite book, the “fictional memoir” A Fan’s Notes. The story of Miller’s search, told by both Miller himself and his somewhat flaky therapist, ultimately becomes an exploration of the difference between what we believe to be real and what is in fact real, and how challenging it can be to reconcile the two.I was serious when I said that you can't just browse Exley. At least I couldn't. I was curious right from the first page and especially from the second paragraph (told in Miller's voice):
So why don't I begin there: the day I went to see my dad in the VA hospital. Exley's book begins toward the end, but he calls it a beginning anyway. Because this is one of the things I learned from Exley: anything can be a beginning as long as you call it one.And so I needed to know about the beginning that might not have been a beginning. Before I had a copy of the book in my hands, I read a couple of reviews that caught my attention:
- The Kirkus starred review calls Exley a "seriously playful novel about the interweave of literature and life."
- The NPR review says: "In the hands of a less talented writer, the novel's layers, twists and identity puzzles could strain the belief of even the most credulous reader; but Clarke's narrative assurance and unfailingly realistic characters allow him to pull off the literary equivalent of a half-court shot."
Exley was an Indie Next pick for November 2010 and was named a best of 2010 by Kirkus. Be sure to check out Brock Clarke's website for more quotes and an excerpt as well as photos from the novel's setting.
This book was spotlighted as part of both my Imprint Fridays feature and my Get to know Algonquin Books feature. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.