A perfect Mobius strip of a novel that playfully examines the creative and destructive potential of language.

PRESENT TENSE MACHINE

A slippery metafictional take on the peril and power of words and how identities fracture and compartmentalize across a lifetime, from one of the most exciting contemporary voices in international literature.

In another masterful translation by Dickson of Øyehaug's wily, mercurial prose, the author-translator team frolics across the multiverse to explore the rifts that open between, most especially, mothers and daughters but also spouses and ex-lovers and between self-perception and how others experience us. Laura, a 24-year-old literature teacher, is pregnant with her first child and increasingly anxious as her due date approaches: about the safety of their fire-trap flat, about fidelity (her own and her husband's), and about "a disconcerting feeling that everything is double." Anna, aged 44, mother of two children—that she knows of—is a writer working on her latest book and perennial obsession, a novel about the origins of language. Though Anna and Laura are unaware of each other’s existence, they are, in fact, mother and daughter. Twenty-two years earlier, Anna sat reading Swedish poetry while supervising 2-year-old Laura pedaling her tricycle in the front yard. When Anna misread the word “trädgård” (garden) as the nonsensical "tärdgård," it opened a parallel universe that Laura vanished into, entirely erased but for Anna's lasting sense that something important is missing, while in Laura's new universe, Anna has never existed at all. At the same time, Anna's husband, Bård, returning from a job in the upper reaches of Norway to escape his attraction to another woman, split in two—one version in each universe—as he bought a newspaper and committed the same misreading. In the present, as Laura prepares for her own daughter's birth, Anna works on her novel, her narrator simultaneously writing the story we ourselves are reading, and navigates a relationship with her teenage daughter, Elina, that seems at times hardly more bridgeable than that with her lost daughter living in an alternate universe. With wry hyperbole, Øyehaug plays out the effects one seemingly inconsequential mistake can have on our relationships, our selves, and the lives of the next generation.

A perfect Mobius strip of a novel that playfully examines the creative and destructive potential of language.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-3742-3717-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.

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TO PARADISE

A triptych of stories set in 1893, 1993, and 2093 explore the fate of humanity, the essential power and sorrow of love, and the unique doom brought upon itself by the United States.

After the extraordinary reception of Yanagihara's Kirkus Prize–winning second novel, A Little Life (2015), her follow-up could not be more eagerly awaited. While it is nothing like either of her previous novels, it's also unlike anything else you've read (though Cloud Atlas, The House of Mirth, Martin and John, and Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy may all cross your mind at various points). More than 700 pages long, the book is composed of three sections, each a distinct narrative, each set in a counterfactual historical iteration of the place we call the United States. The narratives are connected by settings and themes: A house on Washington Square in Greenwich Village is central to each; Hawaii comes up often, most prominently in the second. The same names are used for (very different) characters in each story; almost all are gay and many are married. Even in the Edith Wharton–esque opening story, in which the scion of a wealthy family is caught between an arranged marriage and a reckless affair, both of his possible partners are men. Illness and disability are themes in each, most dramatically in the third, set in a brutally detailed post-pandemic totalitarian dystopia. Here is the single plot connection we could find: In the third part, a character remembers hearing a story with the plot of the first. She mourns the fact that she never did get to hear the end of it: "After all these years I found myself wondering what had happened....I knew it was foolish because they weren't even real people but I thought of them often. I wanted to know what had become of them." You will know just how she feels. But what does it mean that Yanagihara acknowledges this? That is just one of the conundrums sure to provoke years of discussion and theorizing. Another: Given the punch in the gut of utter despair one feels when all the most cherished elements of 19th- and 20th-century lives are unceremoniously swept off the stage when you turn the page to the 21st—why is the book not called To Hell?

Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54793-2

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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