Gods Without Men

Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D

5 of 18
Gods Without Men
384 pages; Knopf
Jaz and Lisa Matharu travel to the California desert for the most ordinary of reasons: a vacation meant to repair their fraying marriage. But there's nothing ordinary about what they encounter in Hari Kunzru's mind-bending Gods Without Men (Knopf). Kunzru's Mojave is a strange and mystical place, the setting for interlocking narratives—of a cult that believes in extraterrestrials, a British rock star hiding out from his overbearing producer, an Iraqi refugee girl working with the U.S. Marines (among many others)—that converge around a geological formation known as the Pinnacles. The Matharus' own lives turn hellishly surrealistic when their 4-year-old autistic son, Raj, disappears into the desert. While the book is set mostly in 2008, Kunzru plays with time, ricocheting between decades and centuries in short, fast-paced chapters. At its core, this thrill ride of a novel is about searching for truth, even as Lisa finally comes to realize, "At the heart of the world...is a mystery into which we are not meant to penetrate." 
— Michele Filgate