By MEGANNE FABREGA • Special to the Star Tribune

"God Is an Astronaut," by Alyson Foster. (Bloomsbury USA, $26, July 1.)

In this smart novel told in a series of one-sided e-mails, Foster brings to life Jess Frobisher, a perfectly flawed protagonist whose sharp wit is as natural as her green thumb. Jess' husband works for a space tourism company that recently suffered a public relations nightmare (read: fatal explosion) and their small family is thrown into the public eye.

Jess gradually retreats to her expanding greenhouse to evade her crumbling marriage and the journalists who follow their every move, including her trip to the final frontier.

"The Lobster Kings," by Alexi Zentner. (W.W. Norton, $26.95, May 27.)

In a twist on the traditional Maine lobsterman story, Zentner (inspired by Shakespeare's "King Lear") spins a dark and stormy tale of the Kings family and their cursed past. As descendants of the island's famous artist, Brumfitt Kings, the Kingses have a history to uphold and to fear.

Cordelia Kings, the oldest of three daughters and the only one to work the lobster boats, stands to inherit her father's exalted position in the community as well as become the head of their tight family. Her moment comes sooner than she thinks, and she is forced to confront the overwhelming responsibilities of her past in a crescendo worthy of the Bard himself.

"I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You," by Courtney Maum. (Touchstone, $25.99, June 10.)

There's not much to like about confirmed adulterer Richard Haddon at the beginning of "I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You," and yet by the end of Maum's debut novel there was nothing I wanted more than for this poor guy to have the two things he realized were most important to him: his family and his art. Maum's raw honesty about the hard work of long-term relationships, what is said and left unsaid, and her intimate knowledge of Paris make this a bittersweet yet comical read.

"We Are Called to Rise," by Laura McBride. (Simon & Schuster, $25, June 3.)

Rarely does a novel reach into my soul and leave me sobbing, but "We Are Called to Rise" did just that with its beautifully drawn characters, true-to-life plot and such exquisite writing that it's hard to believe that this is Laura McBride's first book.

Divorce, death and the lingering effects of war are part of a larger story set against the backdrop of life in Las Vegas, and despite its serious subjects, McBride's skillful narrative turns a tragic story into a graceful portrait of our time. Told from multiple points of view, this book will demand your attention from the first page.

"Land of Love and Drowning," by Tiphanie Yanique. (Riverhead, $27.99, July 10.)

Sisters Eeona and Anette are like oil and water; different in every way yet bound together by their parents' passionate history and their family's oppressive secrets.

Eeona's beauty is so powerful that she often has to cover herself in order to go about her everyday business, while Anette's red hair is considered her cross to bear. A multigenerational family saga written with authority and an intimate knowledge of the unbreakable ties between people and place.

10 at a glance

"Cutting Teeth," by Julia Fierro. (St. Martin's Press, $24.95, May 13.)

Nicole invites her daughter's playgroup — and their parents — for a weekend at the beach, but she never imagined that the group would be so demanding, so aggressive or so out of control. (The kids weren't on their best behavior, either.)

"The Girls From Corona del Mar," by Rufi Thorpe. (Knopf, $24.95, July 8.)

The intangible power of friendship shimmers in this spectacular debut novel, where Mia and Lorrie Ann grow from girls to women with life's unpredictable challenges — drug addiction, bad relationships, forgotten dreams — dogging them every step of the way.

"Lay It on My Heart," by Angela Pneuman. (Mariner Books, $14.95, July 1.)

Charmaine Peake is struggling: with her mentally ill father, her difficult mother, the boy on the bus, her homemade purse and her relationship with God. Pneuman captures the voice of adolescence and the uncertainty of faith in this endearing novel.

"The Sixteenth of June," by Maya Lang. (Scribner, $25, June 3.)

It's the Portman family's annual Bloomsday party, but Nora's in no mood to celebrate. She's harboring a secret from the Portman brothers, Leopold and Stephen, who also happen to be her fiancé and her best friend. A perfect book for fans of Jonathan Tropper, Meg Wolitzer and, yes, James Joyce.

"The Pearl That Broke Its Shell," by Nadia Hashimi. (William Morrow, $25.99, May 6.)

Generations of fearless Afghani women have done whatever it took to survive under merciless oppression, and young Rahima is no different. This gripping novel will appeal to those interested in historical fiction and world affairs.

"The Book of Unknown Americans," by Cristina Henríquez. (Knopf, $24.95, June 3.)

With eloquence, grace and, yes, sorrow, Henríquez creates an ensemble cast that speaks for millions of people who live among us but whose voices are rarely heard. This is a remarkable novel that every American should read.

"The From-Aways," by C.J. Hauser. (William Morrow Paperbacks, $14.99, May 20.)

Leah and Quinn become unlikely friends in this novel that is set in Maine, but which could take place in any number of villages where visitors (the "from-aways") threaten the integrity of the native community. Hauser has crafted a memorable story that entertains and lightly cautions.

"The Hundred-Year House," by Rebecca Makkai. (Viking Adult, $25.95, July 10.)

Makkai artfully takes us through the history of a house full of secrets: A troubled marriage (or two), an unconventional arts colony, an exploding oak tree and untimely deaths are all part of the foundation of Laurelfield. This is a page-turner of a novel with whip-smart dialogue.

Rebecca Makkai will read at 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at Common Good Books in St. Paul.

"Chaplin & Company," by Mave Fellowes. (Liveright, $25.95, June 2.)

A humanistic tale of bravery and adventure. Odeline Milk is a curious protagonist who sweeps us up in her struggle to make her way in the world after the loss of her mother, with a little help from her motley group of friends.

"The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing," by Mira Jacob. (Random House, $26, July 1.)

As a first-generation Indian American, Amina Eapen has a front-row seat to the immigrant experience, and watches her parents embrace their new country while clinging to the events of the past. An eloquent drama where life and death intersect in a strangely familiar way.

Meganne Fabrega is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She lives in New Hampshire.