April is a big month for Atlanta authors. Three writers publish new novels this month, starting with Anissa Gray, who garnered critical acclaim with her 2019 debut “The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls,” about a family that implodes when its surrogate matriarch is imprisoned.
A senior director for CNN based in Atlanta, Gray returns to her place of origin, Michigan, for her latest book, “Life and Other Love Songs” (Berkley, $27), which publishes April 11.
Gray has a gift for getting under the skin of her characters, rendering them astonishingly knowable, and a keen eye for family dynamics reminiscent of Ann Patchett.
“Life and Other Love Songs” chronicles the story of the Armstead family. When they meet at a party in 1962, Deborah is an aspiring singer in Detroit, and Oz is a transplant from Alabama. They marry a year later and before long their daughter Trinity is born.
Spanning 30 years from the early ‘60s to the early ‘90s, the narrative jumps around in time before and after a momentous event: the disappearance of Oz on his 37th birthday. That morning he left for work like usual and was last seen having lunch at a barbecue restaurant — then poof. His absence and all that leads up to it create the foundation for this elegiac saga about hopes, dreams, regrets and disappointments.
As Trinity’s grandmother says in the prologue: “‘We are all trying to live through our moments, Trinity. That might mean crying a bucket of tears … or playing some good old Otis Redding.’ She waved her drink toward the house. ‘Got to live through it, little girl. Heartbreaks today, joys from yesterday … and God knows what all tomorrow.’”
Next up is Samantha Jayne Allen’s “Hard Rain” (Minotaur Books, $27.99), publishing April 18. Allen’s sophomore book follows her 2022 debut “Pay Dirt Road,” winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize for Best First Mystery Set in the Southwest.
Allen returns to the Southwest for “Hard Rain,” a crime thriller centered on Annie McIntyre, an apprentice private investigator whose first solo case is tracking down the man who rescued a woman during a flood that has devastated a small town in Texas. Navigating the chaos of a post-disaster landscape, Annie’s assignment leads to the discovery of a murder victim that raises questions about the character of the hero she’s seeking.
A Cappella Books will host Allen in conversation about “Hard Rain” with Matt Nixon at 7 p.m. April 20 at Manuel’s Tavern. For details go to acappellabooks.com. She also has an event at 1 p.m. April 22 at FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock. For details go to foxtalebookshoppe.com.
And rounding out the month is one of Atlanta’s veteran New York Times bestselling authors, Joshilyn Jackson, who publishes on April 28. Traditionally a writer of women’s fiction, Jackson has turned more toward the genre of domestic thrillers with her last couple of books. Her latest, “With My Little Eye” (William Morrow, $28.99), doubles down on the thrills this time.
Meribel Mills is a B-list actress in L.A. who had a recurring role on a sitcom in the ‘90s and made a few guest appearances on some detective shows. But she hasn’t exactly set the entertainment industry on fire, and her opportunities have begun to dwindle. As she approaches her 40th birthday, offers will only lessen, warns her agent.
That’s why Meribel is taken aback when she begins to receive chilling anonymous letters from a persistent stalker.
Her 12-year-old daughter Honor, who’s on the spectrum, calls him Marker Man because his envelopes are addressed in huge jagged letters scrawled in garishly colored markers bearing the sickening scent of fake fruit.
Meribel grows more fearful as Marker Man’s threatening behavior escalates. When she’s offered a role filming in Atlanta — a town she’d left behind many years ago — she takes the job, hoping distance will diffuse her stalker.
Once in Atlanta, Meribel develops a relationship with her neighbor Cooper. She also reconnects with her ex-husband and maintains communication with the ex-boyfriend she left behind in L.A. Meanwhile, Marker Man is still at it, and his letters bear postmarks that reveal his location is progressing across the country, getting closer to her every day. Expect plenty of twists and turns along the way.
FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock hosts a book event with Jackson at 6:30 p.m. May 1. For details go to foxtalebookshoppe.com.
Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic and contributing editor to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org