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AMERIKALAND

A contemplative, richly imagined, and occasionally thrilling exploration of the near future.

Awards & Accolades

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Goodman’s novel presents a vision of a grim American future in which two professional athletes confront escalating waves of discrimination.

The novel’s panoramic opening evokes that of Don DeLillo’s Underworld (1997) with its sweeping survey of the assembled audience for World Day, an international day of peace featuring an athletic competition held in New York City that’s reminiscent of the Olympics. Among the participating athletes are Sabine Hellewege, a native German and seasoned tennis star, and Sandy Katzmann, a Jewish American hometown hero and the shortstop for the local Brooklyn baseball team. Both are recovering from recent tragic events; Sabine was shot midmatch a few months ago by a mysterious assailant in Budapest, Hungary, and Sandy recently came home to find a dead Jewish boy he didn’t know on his doorstep, “battered and bloodied” and with the Yiddish word for traitor etched across his back in charcoal. Both are hoping for a return to normalcy on World Day, but it’s not to be; they and the assembled fans are instead met with sudden “light bombs,” which crumble the stadiums and kill over 120,000 people. Goodman effectively describes the scene with a choral we: “The concrete and earth beneath us give way. We are reduced. And when there is nothing left of our bodies, we become the air.” Later referred to as “the Event,” the catastrophic attack further alters the trajectories of Sabine’s and Sandy’s lives. During these middle passages of recovery, the author deftly reveals the characters’ backstories in controlled reflections on their parents and their own shifting understanding of their places in the world. After grounding readers this way, Goodman picks up the pace considerably in the novel’s second half. Once the characters reunite in Berlin and Sabine is kidnapped, the twists come quickly in tense scenes that escalate earlier threats of violence. In his intertwining of personal tragedies with broader social issues, Goodman presents an unnerving picture of a world that seems not so far away.

A contemplative, richly imagined, and occasionally thrilling exploration of the near future.

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9798985107067

Page Count: 283

Publisher: LEFTOVER Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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PROPHET SONG

Captivating, frightening, and a singular achievement.

As Ireland devolves into a brutal police state, one woman tries to preserve her family in this stark fable.

For Eilish Stack, a molecular biologist living with her husband and four children in Dublin, life changes all at once and then slowly worsens beyond imagining. Two men appear at her door one night, agents of the new secret police, seeking her husband, Larry, a union official. Soon he is detained under the Emergency Powers Act recently pushed through by the new ruling party, and she cannot contact him. Eilish sees things shifting at work to those backing the ruling party. The state takes control of the press, the judiciary. Her oldest son receives a summons to military duty for the regime, and she tries to send him to Northern Ireland. He elects to join the rebel forces and soon she cannot contact him, either. His name and address appear in a newspaper ad listing people dodging military service. Eilish is coping with her father’s growing dementia, her teenage daughter’s depression, the vandalizing of her car and house. Then war comes to Dublin as the rebel forces close in on the city. Offered a chance to flee the country by her sister in Canada, Eilish can’t abandon hope for her husband’s and son’s returns. Lynch makes every step of this near-future nightmare as plausible as it is horrific by tightly focusing on Eilish, a smart, concerned woman facing terrible choices and losses. An exceptionally gifted writer, Lynch brings a compelling lyricism to her fears and despair while he marshals the details marking the collapse of democracy and the norms of daily life. His tonal control, psychological acuity, empathy, and bleakness recall Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006). And Eilish, his strong, resourceful, complete heroine, recalls the title character of Lynch’s excellent Irish-famine novel, Grace (2017).

Captivating, frightening, and a singular achievement.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9780802163011

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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