By Kat Ward
Updated March 10, 2015 at 12:00 PM EDT

This debut novel plays off of a well-worn literary archetype: the unhappy wife. Anna is an American expat living with her family in Switzerland who fights her alienation with a dose of adultery. Essbaum’s poetry background is clear in the graceful, economical prose, whether in descriptions of Swiss life and the quirks of language, or Anna’s sordid activities and increasingly detached state of mind. Like the Swiss trains Anna rides, her choices usher the story toward a conclusion at once completely foreseeable and utterly unavoidable. B