Philosophically exhaustive yet profoundly human, this book sets itself the task of asking the big questions—What am I? What...



A sprawling, fragmented novel that studies the paradoxical alienation and immediacy of the digital age as it follows its twinned narrators: the author and her character, Eleanor.

Moschovakis (They and We Will Get into Trouble for This, 2016, etc.) opens her fourth book with a quintessential 21st-century scene: a woman, alone, skimming a report of a senseless act of public violence. This is Eleanor—approaching 40, adrift in her ambition and ambivalent in her love, grappling daily with “the thing that had happened—that she had made happen, or at least not prevented from happening”; literally a character in someone else’s tale. Eleanor is at a crossroads in her life, but instead of being faced with a binary decision (left or right?), she is confronted by the thoroughly modern dilemma of multiplicity. A reader, a thinker, a woman aging out of youth but still as unsettled and provisional as she was in her 20s, Eleanor can imagine herself as almost anyone, but her only stable companion is her own unsatisfactory reflection. In simultaneous, spliced sections, the reader is also introduced to Eleanor’s unnamed author—a similarly aged, similarly situated woman who is exiting a relationship with her lover, Kat, and entering into a thorny intellectual friendship with a famous male critic who has expressed interest in her manuscript. As the author and the critic’s friendship builds, the author’s struggle to maintain control over her revision against the heedless authority of male confidence leads the reader through a nuanced and provocative discourse on the power of identity as a tool of both creation and erasure. Meanwhile, compelled by the catalyst of a stolen laptop and the data it contained, Eleanor leaves New York on the trail of the enigmatic Danny Kamau—petty thief or good Samaritan—in a peripatetic quest that takes her from an Albany hostel to a “cutting-edge eco-squat,” from Addis Ababa to the Rimbaud museum in Harar. As the novel progresses, the author's and Eleanor’s stories intertwine like strands of a double helix—touching only through the laddered bonds of their shared time and place but inextricably connected by the common access of their thought.

Philosophically exhaustive yet profoundly human, this book sets itself the task of asking the big questions—What am I? What was I? What will I be?—in a style that evokes Lispector and Camus but with the self-referential and weary globalism of the current milieu. A consummately accomplished novel. A worthy treatise on the now.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-56689-508-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

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The relationship between a privileged white mom and her black babysitter is strained by race-related complications.

Blogger/role model/inspirational speaker Alix Chamberlain is none too happy about moving from Manhattan to Philadelphia for her husband Peter's job as a TV newscaster. With no friends or in-laws around to help out with her almost-3-year-old, Briar, and infant, Catherine, she’ll never get anywhere on the book she’s writing unless she hires a sitter. She strikes gold when she finds Emira Tucker. Twenty-five-year-old Emira’s family and friends expect her to get going on a career, but outside the fact that she’s about to get kicked off her parents’ health insurance, she’s happy with her part-time gigs—and Briar is her "favorite little human." Then one day a double-header of racist events topples the apple cart—Emira is stopped by a security guard who thinks she's kidnapped Briar, and when Peter's program shows a segment on the unusual ways teenagers ask their dates to the prom, he blurts out "Let's hope that last one asked her father first" about a black boy hoping to go with a white girl. Alix’s combination of awkwardness and obsession with regard to Emira spins out of control and then is complicated by the reappearance of someone from her past (coincidence alert), where lies yet another racist event. Reid’s debut sparkles with sharp observations and perfect details—food, décor, clothes, social media, etc.—and she’s a dialogue genius, effortlessly incorporating toddler-ese, witty boyfriend–speak, and African American Vernacular English. For about two-thirds of the book, her evenhandedness with her varied cast of characters is impressive, but there’s a point at which any possible empathy for Alix disappears. Not only is she shallow, entitled, unknowingly racist, and a bad mother, but she has not progressed one millimeter since high school, and even then she was worse than we thought. Maybe this was intentional, but it does make things—ha ha—very black and white.

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-54190-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.


A 12-year-old boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash—a study in before and after.

Edward Adler is moving to California with his adored older brother, Jordan, and their parents: Mom is a scriptwriter for television, Dad is a mathematician who is home schooling his sons. They will get no further than Colorado, where the plane goes down. Napolitano’s (A Good Hard Look, 2011, etc.) novel twins the narrative of the flight from takeoff to impact with the story of Edward’s life over the next six years. Taken in by his mother’s sister and her husband, a childless couple in New Jersey, Edward’s misery is constant and almost impermeable. Unable to bear sleeping in the never-used nursery his aunt and uncle have hastily appointed to serve as his bedroom, he ends up bunking next door, where there's a kid his age, a girl named Shay. This friendship becomes the single strand connecting him to the world of the living. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we meet all the doomed airplane passengers, explore their backstories, and learn about their hopes and plans, every single one of which is minutes from obliteration. For some readers, Napolitano’s premise will be too dark to bear, underlining our terrible vulnerability to random events and our inability to protect ourselves or our children from the worst-case scenario while also imagining in exhaustive detail the bleak experience of survival. The people around Edward have no idea how to deal with him; his aunt and uncle try their best to protect him from the horrors of his instant celebrity as Miracle Boy. As one might expect, there is a ray of light for Edward at the end of the tunnel, and for hardier readers this will make Napolitano’s novel a story of hope.

Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5478-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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