Life After Life | KATE ATKINSON: What if you were born--and then died--and then were reborn and reborn again as early 20th-century England hurtles toward its second world war? That is exactly what happens to Ursula Todd, who just may be able to save the world from its terrifying fate. Atkinson, the British author of the Jackson Brodie novels (starting with Case Histories, 2004), once again reveals her trademark wit, humor, and manipulation of time and reality.
Benediction | KENT HARUF: Haruf returns to the small town of Holt, Colorado (featured in Plainsong  and Eventide [*** July/Aug 2004]), where an elderly man is diagnosed with terminal cancer. As his wife struggles to ease his final days, Dad Lewis's condition affects the dreams and lives of everyone around him.
Middle C | WILLIAM H. GASS: This longawaited novel by the author of the American Book Award--winning The Tunnel (1995) has raised expectations: we'll see if early reviews are right. The novel starts in Austria in 1938, where Joseph Skizzen's father leaves the country for England. When he mysteriously disappears, the family is relocated to Ohio, where Joseph creates a fantasy doppelganger
The Woman Upstairs | CLAIRE MESSUD: In this tale of obsession and artistic aspiration by the author of The Emperor's Children (**** SELECTION Nov/Dec 2006), a 30-something elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts--a woman who once gave up her dreams of becoming an artist--becomes involved with a Lebanese-Italian family and their enchanting child. We suspect Messud's novel doesn't end well.
Maya's Notebook | ISABEL ALLENDE: The acclaimed Chilean-Californian writer has long written multigenerational sagas set against Chile's social and political turmoil. As it turns out, individuals in her novels aren't all that stable either. Maya Vidal, a teenager abandoned by her parents, grows up in Berkeley with her Chilean grandparents. When she becomes caught up in drugs, crime, and Las Vegas lowlife, she tries to stitch her life back together.
The Interestings | MEG WOLITZER: Wolitzer knows women and men well--and the way their relationships can stray off course over time. In the summer of 1974, six teenagers meet at an arts summer camp and become inseparable. Thirty years later, they are still friends (two are even married to each other), but their dreams of artistic fame and fulfillment have all taken different turns.