Lee Rourke's first novel, THE CANAL (Melville House, June), features an unnamed, bored first-person protagonist, but the book doesn't have the quirky and solipsistic observations that solitude spawns and that many debut novelists cram onto the page. For lack of anything better to do, the narrator quits his job and sits each day by a London canal. A woman stranger soon joins him and relates a story that pierces his apathy: "I was uncomfortable with what she was saying . . . yet she excited me that moment more than I ever thought possible."
Michelle Hoover's THE QUICKENING (Other Press, June) begins at the turn of the century and vividly relates fifty years of hardscrabble midwestern farm life: "Those cows smelled good and warm. . . . Some might call it a stink, but that smell has always been home to me."
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