Tuesday Nights in 1980

6 of 21
Tuesday Nights in 1980
336 pages; Gallery/Scout Press
Among the protagonists of Molly Prentiss's debut is an art critic with the neurological condition synesthesia, which causes him to experience people and paintings as bursts of color and luscious fruits. James Bennett senses his wife, Marge, as "strawberry...wild and small and individual," until she gets pregnant and becomes "pomegranate...holding a million seeds of new, red life." Prentiss seems to have her own version of this gift; her sensual linguistic flourishes exquisitely evoke the passions we can feel for people and places we've known or are discovering.

Tuesday Nights in 1980 is a novel about art and New York City, love and disappointment. Again and again, the temptation is to underline passages: "She was a lime after a shot of strong tequila." "He began to remember all of the things that painting had once conjured for him: molasses, sand dunes, the feeling of holding hands."

There are riveting plots and subplots. A mother is separated from her child. A brother abandons his sister. An artist is rendered unable to paint. A city sells its soul. Still, the book's magnificence remains in its shadings, descriptive and emotional. Toward the end, you'll find yourself turning the pages slowly, sorry to realize you're almost finished, thinking, as one character does about returning home: "But how can you go back? You have only just gotten here."  

— Leigh Haber