Secrets and Lies

What to add to your September reading list.


The primordial ooze of youth is a recurring theme in modern fiction, so it’s no surprise that two of fall’s biggest novels evolve from murky childhoods. In Jonathan Franzen’s hotly anticipated Purity (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), the title character, Purity Tyler, grows up knowing almost nothing about her origins, until a truth-obsessed, Julian Assange–esque hacker with a homicidal secret gets involved. The dueling plots of Lauren Groff’s deliciously vibrant Fates and Furies (Riverhead Books), meanwhile, unravel the story of a glamorous couple haunted by their surreal upbringings. For a dose of reality—or one woman’s wise take on her past, anyway—there’s Joyce Carol Oates’s The Lost Landscape (Ecco). At once hazy and achingly evocative—“impressionistic art most accurately replicates the meanderings of memory,” she writes—the über-prolific novelist’s account of growing up in rural western New York is told, in part, from the point of view of Happy Chicken, the author’s pet. Truth, as they say, is almost always stranger…