ACADEMY STREET, by Mary Costello. This slender debut novel by an Irish writer distills a woman's life in just 145 pages. As it opens, Tess Lohan is a young girl in rural western Ireland after World War II, hardly able to fathom her mother's death from TB. She'll move to New York, become a nurse, give birth out of wedlock (unthinkable in her home country) and experience 9/11. Written with a quiet intensity, "Academy Street" recalls Colm Tóibín's "Brooklyn" and Alice McDermott's "Someone." (FSG, $22)


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THE BOOK OF ARON, by Jim Shepard. Aron is a scrappy young boy, a Jew with the misfortune to live in Poland when the Germans invade in 1939, driving his family into the Warsaw Ghetto. Surrounded by food shortages and disease, Aron joins a gang of child smugglers, and is ultimately befriended by Janusz Korczak, a historical figure who ran a Ghetto orphanage. Like Imre Kertész's "Fatelessness," this novel offers a child's innocent perspective on monstrous events. (Knopf, $23.95)


GOD LOVES HAITI, by Dimitry Elias Leger. On the opening page of this dark and funny novel by a Haitian-American journalist, a woman finds herself in a torn dress and a broken high-heel on a pile of rubble at the Port-au-Prince airport, moments after the 2010 earthquake. We learn that she is the first lady, her older husband is the president and they are trying to flee the country, leaving behind her lover. Léger's portrait of Haiti and Haitians in the aftermath of disaster is surreal and indelible. (Amistad, $24.99)