I began my summer read of 2013 in the winter of 2007.
It was a cold February evening if I recall correctly. I was leafing through a couple hundred files, trying to decide on writing candidates for Hunter College, where I taught. I was at the point of paralysis when a voice rose up and took a chunk of oxygen from the air. There was something sassy, brash, acrobatic and colorful about the writer. Jessica Soffer. Twenty-one years old. From New York. Her father a painter from Iraq.
I walked home through the snow with a dozen voices in my head, including hers. Soffer was too young for graduate school, I thought. She needed more time, more space. But the voice — like all good voices — wouldn’t leave.
Six years later — after two years in Hunter’s M.F.A. program, where she honed her skills — Soffer’s novel arrived on my desk. Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots. It is my summer reading precisely because I want to read it again and again — a novel about an elderly Iraqi Jewish immigrant and a 14-year-old pain addict, a novel of redemption and joy, a novel of history and belonging, beautifully written and sharply felt.
It is a love song to both American and Iraqi culture, a sly political allegory and a homage to loneliness. It’s a book that, for me, shakes the soul of this summer out.
McCann’s latest novel is TransAtlantic
Next Walter Mosley