Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse

The debut novel from Lucas Klauss begins as a romance between atheist and evangelist. Phillip, the son of an atheist engineer, meets freckled, green-eyed, "unconventionally hot" Rebekah -- "with a k and an h, like in the Bible" -- while both are running track under the watchful eye of Randy Farragut, a.k.a. Ferret, a thirty-ish assistant coach who tortures him and flirts with her. She's missing her father, who has ditched his family to convert the heathen in Indonesia. He's missing his mother, who became obsessed with doomsday prophecies, built a bunker in their basement, left his father, and then died. Phillip loves stories of the apocalypse; Rebekah offers him her father's Bible, urges him to read Revelations and to join her Wednesday night youth group. He's pretty sure she's flirting, but maybe she just wants his soul?

At first, the swashbuckling Christian adventure stories seem to Phillip like just another "epic" version of Dune and other sci-fi favorites. But Rebekah and Ferret -- who turns out to be moonlighting as youth outreach coordinator at the church -- bring him further into the fold; soon he is hanging out with teens who congregate at the local convenience store, hoping to convince sinners to "turn beer into soda pop," while his former best friends continue to throw keggers. But this book is neither mere teen romance nor straight conversion narrative. It is much odder, less conventional, and more ambitious than any of that. It isn't so much about getting the girl or finding the Truth as about the small, slippery half truths and setbacks one encounters along the way. By the end, Phillip comes to see faith and doubt, sin and redemption, and love and friendship not as ends in themselves but as the beginning of really good questions.

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).