Staff picks by Katelyn.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a sharp, funny, and pitiless characterization of the simultaneous material abundance and spiritual emptiness of the early 00s. Though Moshfegh's narrator spends the majority of the novel willing herself into a twilight state via an obscene number of pharmaceuticals blithely prescribed by her kooky and malpractical doctor, her observations of her own malaise and the antics of the people around her are always keen and penetrating. A little sad, very funny, and in small but rewarding turns, incredibly lovely.
This debut collection of stories is unbelievably funny and charmingly bizarre. Winking at the absurdity and madness of modern womanhood, Bonnaffons' real talent is the crushing humanity she injects into each story. This collection has style, substance, and the perfect mix of whimsy and macabre. In short, I can't shut up about how much I loved it. Fans of Aimee Bender, Samantha Hunt, Karen Russell, George Saunders and all those other lovable literary weridos— make room on your literary altar for Amy and rejoice!
Though taking place mostly in a commune-style summer camp for kids at the onset of the Gulf War, The Optimistic Decade feels incredibly relevant and universally resonant as the reader encounters a cast of complex characters with strong (and often conflicting) political ideologies. Over the course of the book, readers will see the characters grapple with justifying and maintaining these ideals as they are challenged by current events, mitigating circumstances, personal histories, and disillusionment from peers and role models. While Heather Abel accomplishes so much in this debut, perhaps the most astonishing is her unflinching and ultimately very human portrayal of the evolution of hard and fast, (and arguably sometimes self-righteous) virtues softening into something messier, grayer, and harder to classify. This book is a lesson in the painful necessity of learning what to relinquish and what to grasp tighter to if we want to make any effective change in ourselves or in the world.
After a traumatizing adolescence and self-destructive young adulthood, Amy resolves to lead a quiet life helping through the simple austerity of the neighborhood Catholic Church. It's in the midst of this stewardship that she finds herself witness to an act of what seems to be random violence. Though horrified, the thrill and danger of the act draw Amy further and further back into a world of moral ambivalence, desperation, and horizons that extend beyond a few blocks in Brooklyn. Faced with old lovers, estranged relatives, and an unreliable potential partner in crime, Amy finds herself at a crossroads between who she was, who she wishes to be, and perhaps something altogether different from either. Boyle's slow burn and twisty mystery delivers a clever spin on the woman-in-peril trope giving us a complicated but always sympathetic heroine and makes for an engrossing and honest read about the shaping and portrayal of self and the frightening (or is it freeing?) mutability of our destinies.
Reading Jamie Quatro's Fire Sermon is like a baptism in sensation. Fraught, sexy, and solemn, the novel details writer Maggie's flawed and prolonged attempts to navigate a labyrinth of obligations to her husband, her scholarly ambition, her extramarital desire, and her God. Expertly paced and thoughtfully arranged, it's a rich, contradictory, and deeply human story. You'll burn through this book and feel it smoking in your head long after you finish.
The Afterlives is a smart and compulsively readable blend of speculative fiction, ghost story, and a tender, real-feeling romance shot through with metaphysical crises all set in the Blue Ridge Mountains. If that sounds overly ambitious, reading it never feels that way. This is a novel with charm and heart to spare.
Never in my reading life have I encountered a book that so completely captures the dread, uncanny familiarity, and off-kilter pacing that often characterizes a nightmare. This haunting little volume is an astounding accomplishment of craft and reminds the reader that the horror lurks in true unexamined common place.
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A hothouse little novel exploring the slowly corrosive and claustrophobic nature of sudden wealth of power on the modern family. The expert pacing in this slim but ultimately cautionary tale still knock out out—read in one sitting!
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Readers will be lured in by the premise of a fatal female friendship but find themselves completely captivated by Buntin's gorgeous and atmospheric prose. It's as if she found my old high school diaries and spun the sap and angst through some kind of magic poetic machine and produced an insightful and wounding piece of fiction. A terrifically poignant meditation on loss, memory, and the ghosts that follow no matter how much time and distance you put between them. I won't soon forget it.
Ottessa Moshfegh is an author with her finger on the ragged pulse of every lonely-heart Grotesque and desperado. This stunning (often shocking) collection of short stories is populated with characters behaving badly as a result of the all too familiar to be seen and understood. Think of Moshfegh as the tough-as-nails and effortlessly cool literary granddaughter of Sherwood Anderson and Shirley Jackson.
I wasn't sure Samanta Schweblin could top her masterful & nightmarish 2017 novella Fever Dream but I stand happily corrected. The majority of the stories in this collection take place in the "real world" but Schweblin always manages to tap into a latent but potent kind of primal anxiety that the reader can't help but feel & later carry around after the stories end. CREEPY BUT CATHARTIC.
P.S. the prose is A+++
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Per Petterson is back after 2007's stunner OUT STEALING HORSES, and his latest is well worth the wait. The story begins with a chance encounter between two long-estranged friends, both radically changed since their boyhoods. Through a series of remembrances narrated by the two men and others close to them, the reader sees the lasting effects of childhood traumas and the inevitable melancholy of life's ever-shifting fortunes. Coolly composed, elegiac, and engrossing.
Laing sets out on a trans-America journey to better understand six literary powerhouses' relationships with alcohol and the effects the elixir had on their craft and personal life. Told in a series of place-based anecdotes and carefully researched, the contents of this book will make you an infinitely more interesting person at cocktail parties. Cheers!
This is not your mama's devotional. Instead it offers a glimpse into the writer's life at 22, studying at the esteemed Iowa Writer's Workshop. Her struggle to balance literary ambition and a meaningful relationship with Catholicism is as eloquent and engaging as her fiction. A must-read for aspiring writers and fans of Southern Gothic.
What if Flannery O'Connor wrote Wise Blood in a crummy strip mall instead of Andalusia? The end result would probably resemble this knockout "Christ haunted" novel. Steinke mines the Grotesque in every corner of the deperate press-board universe she's created and paints each page with startling and innovative metaphor. Check it out if you like to chew your words before you read them. WWJD? Probably buy this book.
This slim volume meditating on the small joys of domesticity and feline chamrs is the literary equivalent of a deep exhale at a day spa. Even if you aren't crazy for cats or lack poetic inclinations, I guarantee this book serve to remind you to slow down and rediscover the peace and beauty of your everyday surroundings.
Widely regarded as one of the literary world's most accessible poets, neophytes and die-hard fans alike will relish this definitive collection of the late Nobel Prize winner's work. Flip to any page and you'll be convinced this is a necessary volume for any bookshelf. Revelatory but rooted in commonplace.
Smith is a weird and wonderful mix of Sylvia Plath and Shel Silverstein baptized in the Thames. (Visit p.67 to see what I mean). Suggested pairing: Ginger scone from Bottletree Bakery and an Irish coffee.
I can't count the number of times I've recommended this collection to friends and customers wanting to add some edge to their library. Think of Mr. Keret as Israel's answer to Chuck Palahniuk (only so much better). You'll laugh, cringe, shudder, and gawk at this fresh and culturally vital voice. (P.S. last story is source material for indie darling Wristcutters: A Love Story).
If you like
- abnormal sperm
- Walt Whitman
- aortic dissections
- presidential addresses
- Marfa, TX
- bagging mangoes
- baby octopus
- and self referential fiction
...Quick! Read this book!
A phrase repeated throughout the book postures that the real powers of a story "are the possibilities and ideas that the novel's imaginary plot infuses us with." Oh the possibilities of The Infatuations, a deeply affecting hybridization of murder mystery and metaphysical crisis. Though the whodunit plot provides the reader with genuine thrills, Marias's genius lies in his ability to construct a dense labyrinth of examination with a profound sense of empathy, making hard and difficult truths easily digestible. Hauntingly familiar, narrartor's reflections and digressions will bleed into your non-reading life like some kind of brilliant literary bruise leaving you stunned and heartsick in the best way. Infatuated? I'm hopelessly devoted.
The Gunners follows a group of friends from their close knit childhood in working class Buffalo, NY to their disparate mid thirties. Mikey, Alice, Lynn, Jimmy, and Sam are brought together again by the sudden suicide of fellow "Gunner," Sally who, as a teenager, abruptly abandoned the group with little explanation. After the funeral, the group, reunited for the first time in a decade, spend a drunken evening grieving, reminiscing, confiding, consoling, and most importantly, just being with one another, while trying to understand the kind, quiet, and mysterious motivations of Sally. Sharp, bighearted, and rich with specific detail, the story ticks every box in a bildungsroman you could hope for leaving readers with that familiar warm and tight-throated nostalgia you feel when rediscovering a shoebox of old photos from high school. Highly readable and certainly a good companion for a Spring Break getaway.
Reading Jenny Offill is like eating potato chips in the sense that once you start it's very difficutlt to stop.
I read Movie Stars in its entirety one Sunday on a whim & now that afternoon is cemented in my memory as one of the best in my reading life. These stories are strange & often sweet & always funny. Populated with eccentrics, shut-ins, sad-sacks, & weirdos, you're guaranteed to at least crack a smile if not legitimately laugh out loud as you make your way through the wildly imaginative, wonderfully demented, & darkly funny world Jack delivers.
Looking to escape the pressures of the holiday season at home in LA, type-A Liv and her impulsive cousin Nora opt for a high luxury cruise with their husbands and young children. What begins as a dream getaway becomes a nightmare when the kids go missing during an unplanned excursion offshore. Paced like a thriller but every bit as character-driven and insightful as Meloy's earlier work, this is a beach read you won't feel guilty reading. Enjoy with your toes in the sand and your heart in your throat.
Required reading for anyone hoping to gain insight into (or empathy for) the diverse trials of their fellow man. 10 years in the making, Solomon's findings are engaging and eye-opening--a first rate collection portraying the various tribulations, triumphs, and make-ups of the modern family.
Dybek's collection of loosely related stories is the Great Lakes' answer to Barry Hannah's Airships. A master of the short-story form and the nuances of the human heart, Dybek plunges the reader, as one narrator so beautifully phrases, "into the zone where the present turns ghostly memory and yet resists quite becoming the past." Lyrical, insightful, devastating, and erotic.