Looking for a unique novel that's thus far flown under the radar? You might try Ekaterina Sedia's latest, The House of Discarded Dreams, a phantasmagorical modern fantasy that follows on such critically acclaimed novels as The Secret History of Moscow and The Alchemy of Stone.
Booklist describes the new novel as follows: "Vimbai, who studies invertebrate zoology because of a fascination with horseshoe crabs, moves into the house on the beach in order to escape her Zimbabwean immigrant mother's intensity; she finds something strange and beautiful. There are two roommates: Zach, who has a pocket universe where his hair should be, and Maya, who works in an Atlantic City casino. Vimbai's dead grandmother haunts them, a ghostly presence who tells Zimbabwean children's stories and does the dishes. When the house comes unmoored and drifts away to sea, Vimbai must bargain with ghostly horseshoe crabs, untangle the many and varied stories that have come loose in the vast worlds of the house, and find a way home. From Maya's urban nightmares to Vimbai's African urban legends, the house is filled with danger and beauty and unexpected magic."
And here's Sedia talking about the novel exclusively for the Amazon book blog...
"The House of Discarded Dreams was a difficult book to write. I know about immigrant experience first-hand--but I really wanted to write about the divide that occurs between immigrant parents and their American children. My protagonist, Vimbai, is born to Zimbabwean parents, who are still very much wrapped up in the conflicts and preoccupations of their homeland, along with the new concerns and issues. Being an immigrant is essentially about being caught in two different frames of references, where you understand the cultural references of the people around you, but they rarely have any idea of yours. And it can be especially wrenching if it is your children who lose that essential connection to a large part of their parents' past.
"So I wanted to write a story about a college student who is on some level a normal American biology major, who very much struggles between asserting her independence and maintaining the umbilicus that connects her to her parents' world--a situation that is ripe for folkloric intrusions and literal ghosts. Discarded dreams are just that--stories we shed as we grow into our new (or simply adult) selves; but it doesn't mean that we don't miss them.
"The house Vimbai moves to gives these stories a physical interpretation--first with the Psychic Energy Baby and then with her dead Zimbabwean grandmother who manifests in the kitchen. Vimbai's stories are jumbled with those of her two roommates--each of whom has their own complexities to deal with and their own dreams to either exorcize or readopt. And I didn't want dreams to be just folklore; there are urban legends and literary references (Man-Fish, a well-known Zimbabwean urban legends figured prominently in Marechera's writings, and it seemed fitting to have him in the house), but there's also invertebrate zoology and neocolonialism, things with their own complex narratives that I felt enriched the story.
"So what is that book? I used to joke when I started writing it that it's an inverse Heart of Darkness, in which a daughter of African immigrants discovers herself in the wilds on New Jersey. The comparison is of course overly glib. But I do think that stories of self-discovery have a universal appeal, for they let us identify with people so different from ourselves. I hope that the readers will have that glimmer of recognition, when they see themselves in Vimbai, or her mother, or her roommates--or even the Man-Fish."