Two new books by Cormac McCarthy are set for release this year

The legendary American author, Cormac McCarthy, is set to make a stunning return to the centre of the literary world with two new books slated for release this year.

It’s been sixteen years since the last novel by Cormac McCarthy stole, broke, and then mended our hearts, with the Pulitzer Prize-winning, I-can’t-look-away sensation, The Road. 

In a surprising and very welcome development, it has been announced that not one, but two Cormac McCarthy novels — The Passenger and Stella Maris — are set to be released this year. 

Cormac McCarthy

The intertwined novels follow two siblings Bobby and Alicia Western, who are tormented by the legacy of their father (a physicist who helped develop the atom bomb) as much as they are by their doomed love for each other.  

The Passenger, which comes out on October 25, takes place in 1980 New Orleans. With all the hallmarks of a well-paced thriller, the plot is set in motion when Bobby, a salvage diver, gets assigned to explore the wreckage of a sunken jet off the coast of Mississippi and discovers that the plane’s black box, the pilot’s flight bag, and one of the passengers, are missing. 

A departure from his usual preoccupation with good versus evil, violence, and vengeance (exemplified in works like Blood Meridian and No Country for Old Men), McCarthy has turned his eye to the more intellectual and analytical side of humanity. The Passenger and Stella Maris tackle themes of math and physics, the nature of reality, and the relationship between genius and madness, while posing the age-old question: can religion and science coexist? 

Potentially one of literature’s best-kept secrets, McCarthy had delivered a full draft to his editors eight years ago. Highly anticipated, to say the least! I feel sorry for his publishers (not really). 

“He’s exploring elements of philosophy and some of the bigger life questions more directly on the page,” said Reagan Arthur, the publisher of Knopf.  

Stella Maris is Alicia’s story and is set to be released on November 22. Serving as a concluding piece to The Passenger the story unfolds via a transcript between Alicia and her doctor in Wisconsin in 1972. 20-year-old Alicia is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Her intellect both frightens and intrigues people — not least because she is a math prodigy — but also because her hallucinations appear as characters, with their own distinct voices.

This is the first time McCarthy has focused on a female protagonist. “I was planning on writing about a woman for 50 years,” McCarthy told the Wall Street Journal in a 2009 interview. “I will never be competent enough to do so, but at some point you have to try.” 

Upon completion of the two novels, Knopf considered publishing them a year apart, but given the interconnectedness of the books, they settled on a month apart, to keep the integrity and the conversation between the two books going.

It’s going to be a long wait until spring.