21 Books to Read This Summer: ‘Lapvona,’ ‘The Friend,’ and More

  • Lapvona

    By Ottessa Moshfegh

    Ottessa Moshfegh’s latest novel takes place in Lapvona, a medieval fiefdom ruled over by a vain and gluttonous lord, Villiam. The story begins with Marek, a masochistic, God-fearing 13-year-old boy who craves pain and punishment because he knows that God loves those who suffer. His father, Jude, cares far more about the lambs he keeps than about his son. The village they live in is full of odd people and cruel tragedy—an old woman who survives a plague as a child and spontaneously starts lactating in her 40s becomes a wet nurse for most of the village’s children; a brutal summer drought overtakes the village while Villiam lavishes by his manor’s reservoir. Lapvona flips all the conventions of familial and parental relations, putting hatred where love should be or a negotiation where grief should be. It is ultimately the story of a boy whose parents really don’t care for him, and the corruption and tragedy that he falls into because of it. Through a mix of witchery, deception, murder, abuse, grand delusion, ludicrous conversations, and cringeworthy moments of bodily disgust, Moshfegh creates a world that you definitely don’t want to live in, but from which you can’t look away. — Maya Chung

  • The Latecomer

    By Jean Hanff Korelitz

    From birth, the Oppenheimer triplets, Harrison, Sally, and Lewyn, operate with an unspoken pact of mutual avoidance. They have it all: a stately house, wealth, nearby grandparents, and a mother, Johanna, who brings and keeps her family together through sheer will. But she can’t stop her husband, Salo, from straying, and she can’t bring her children closer to her or to one another. In adolescence, they act like magnets with the same charge; for example, Sally and Lewyn both attend Cornell, where they claim to everyone that they don’t know each other (which eventually causes them both deep harm). By adulthood, their shared dislike crystallizes into open disdain and anger. But, as the title suggests, they’re not the only Oppenheimers with a stake in the family’s affairs. Though their domestic drama gets more tangled with each passing year’s refusal to address it, someone eventually arrives with the intention of cutting through the knot. Read it now to get ahead of the forthcoming, inevitably star-powered TV version—the last Jean Hanff Korelitz adaptation, The Undoing, had Nicole Kidman as the lead, and Mahershala Ali is attached to an upcoming series based on Korelitz’s The Plot. — Emma Sarappo

  • You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty

    By Akwaeke Emezi

    Akwaeke Emezi is well versed in writing the tender devastation of flesh. Their critically acclaimed debut novel, Freshwater, features a slinky, wounded narrator—a deity’s child, who speaks from the first-person plural—fighting and grieving the restrictions of living in a human body. Their memoir, Dear Senthuran, looked squarely at the author’s own struggles with embodiment. Emezi’s latest offering, You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty, is in many ways a classic romance novel; it may at first glance seem like a radical departure for a writer who typically deals in spirituality and mortality. But here, too, Emezi makes mourning their centerpiece, even as sex and seduction form the base of the book. A young widow and an artist named Feyi is tentatively coming to terms with living after losing her lover. Between breathlessly erotic encounters and lavish, tropical escapades, Feyi returns again and again to that stark pain. The novel is somehow a beach read and a psychological portrait, and is likely to spark conversations both sultry and vulnerable. — Nicole Acheampong

  • Happy-Go-Lucky

    By David Sedaris

    David Sedaris is back, doing the thing his readers have come to adore: offering up wry, moving, punchy stories about his oddball family. This batch also touches on some of the more tumultuous moments of our past two years, sometimes pretty irreverently. Reading Sedaris on, say, his pathetic efforts to stockpile food in the early days of the pandemic is sublimely funny—he ends up with an assortment that includes a pint of buttermilk, taco shells, and a pack of hot dogs. These essays also have more darkness and death than his earlier work, building off themes he began exploring in his previous collection, Calypso. The pieces range widely, following the path of Sedaris’s travels and his eccentric mind, but a through line involves his nonagenarian father, who is living in an assisted-care facility and whose eventual death is captured in these pages. This is one of the more complicated relationships of Sedaris’s life, and he is unflinching as he tries to understand who his enigmatic father was, and how living with him altered the shape of his own existence. — Gal Beckerman

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