Patricia Marx’s Starting From Happy

Who says that only mindless fiction washes up on the beach for warm-weather reading? This month four standout authors weigh in with novels supremely attuned to either the world in which we live or the past that gave it shape. Perhaps none is more timely than Amy Waldman, whose debut, The Submission (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, August 16), centers on the gripping turmoil of a design competition for a Ground Zero memorial. What would happen, she asks, if the winner, a dashing young American architect, turned out to be a Muslim? Her novel is the suspenseful answer. The three women in Maxine Swann’s The Foreigners (Riverhead Books, August 18) hope to leave their worries behind by plunging into the wild glamour of Buenos Aires, but find even greater surprises when they stumble into the recesses of their own lives. The ocean that Julie Otsuka’s mail-order brides cross in the early 1900s in The Buddha in the Attic (Knopf, August 23) is the Pacific, for they are hopefuls on their way to California from Japan. This is an immigrant epic told exquisitely, and without flinching from the truths of personal fates buffeted by American history. And from the very funny New Yorker writer Patricia Marx comes Starting From Happy (Scribner, August 23), a fine, zippy romance that involves a feisty lingerie designer and is illustrated by the author. Marx says she wanted to ditch the tired chick-lit cliché of “the lonely spinster desperate to get married” for a heroine who is “happily single”—her personal definition of happy being “fewer than 63 things on my To-Worry-About List.”

Photo: courtesy of Simon & Schuster