Where are you from? Zeniter’s family saga addresses this question and a more difficult one: What if you don’t know?

THE ART OF LOSING

What if the world identifies you as being something you don’t know anything about?

Naïma, a young French gallery worker, spends her days drifting between alcohol-fueled despair and bliss, unable to identify the nagging uncertainty about her roots that lurks at the edge of her consciousness. Born in France, the daughter of Hamid, an Algerian immigrant, and Clarisse, the daughter of a “traditional” French family, Naïma is aware of her Algerian identity but uninformed about its meaning (to herself and to the rest of the world) primarily due to her father’s purported lack of any memories about his early childhood years. After terrorist attacks in France, unspoken, but not unfelt, worries about the perception of darker skinned “Arab” residents prompt Naïma to wonder what others think of her and of her elderly Algerian grandmother. An opportunity to visit Algeria in order to prepare for an exhibit at the gallery where she works allows Naïma to explore the multigenerational effects of colonization, immigration, discrimination, and deracination—the most corrosive of these forces—on her family. Naïma’s and Hamid’s stories are told in turn but only after the history of Hamid’s father, Ali, as well as the disturbing aftermath of the choices he and others made during the course of Algeria’s war for independence. An unnamed and invisible narrator occasionally breaks through the fourth wall of Zeniter’s narrative, which is densely packed with fact and feeling about Algeria’s often difficult relationship with France and France’s difficult relationship with Algerians. Awarded the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens (a sort of junior version of France’s esteemed literary prize, voted upon by lycée students), the novel provides a crash course in a contemporary problem with historical roots.

Where are you from? Zeniter’s family saga addresses this question and a more difficult one: What if you don’t know?

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

KLARA AND THE SUN

Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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