An auspicious debut that challenges the reader to follow the progress of mental distress and bravely offers little relief...

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OK, MR. FIELD

A concert pianist finds his life and mind drifting after an accident damages his hand in this gloomy, evocative novel.

Mr. Field is sleeping when the book starts. He is sleeping when a train crash shatters his left wrist. He is sleeping when his wife leaves him. The scant story he narrates alternates between stark reality and a dreamlike limbo, specifics and vagueness. With the compensation money he receives, he buys a white house, a box on stilts, that overlooks the sea on the Capetown coast of South Africa and was designed by an admirer of Le Corbusier. Mr. Field—no definite first name is given—meets the admirer’s widow, who lives nearby, and she soon haunts his waking life. He spends time peeping through her garden window. He often encounters a stray dog in a graveyard when he’s out walking. In the widow’s sitting room, a Chagall-like print shows a woman, a dog, and a rudimentary box of a house. Near Mr. Field’s house, a circular residential tower is being built. He wanders around his house, which is in a state of decay, as is Mr. Field. He is sad about his lost career and lost wife. His sadness wearies him: “I was so tired of being sad.” Maybe his wife found his sadness tiresome. Before she left, she played computer solitaire and studied the sea, writing observations in a notebook he later finds. Kilalea, who grew up in South Africa and whose previous book, One Eye’d Leigh, was a poetry collection that hasn't been published in the U.S., conjures from precise prose and elements as basic and fraught as Tarot card images—sea, widow, wife, round tower, box house, sad man—a kind of tone poem that seems at times forced but ultimately resonates well beyond one man’s depression.

An auspicious debut that challenges the reader to follow the progress of mental distress and bravely offers little relief from the painful sight.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-57363-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Tim Duggan Books/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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

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SUCH A FUN AGE

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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Offill is good company for the end of the world.

WEATHER

An ever growing list of worries, from a brother with drug problems to a climate change apocalypse, dances through the lively mind of a university librarian.

In its clever and seductive replication of the inner monologue of a woman living in this particular moment in history, Offill’s (Dept. of Speculation, 2014, etc.) third novel might be thought of as a more laconic cousin of Lucy Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport. Here, the mind we’re embedded in is that of a librarian named Lizzie—an entertaining vantage point despite her concerns big and small. There’s the lady with the bullhorn who won’t let her walk her sensitive young son into his school building. Her brother, who has finally gotten off drugs and has a new girlfriend but still requires her constant, almost hourly, support. Her mentor, Sylvia, a national expert on climate change, who is fed up with her fans and wants Lizzie to take over answering her mail. (“These people long for immortality, but can’t wait ten minutes for a cup of coffee,” says Sylvia.) “Malodorous,” “Defacing,” “Combative,” “Humming,” “Lonely”: These are just a few of the categories in a pamphlet called Dealing With Problem Patrons that Lizzie's been given at work, Also, her knee hurts, and she’s spending a fortune on car service because she fears she's Mr. Jimmy’s only customer. Then there are the complex mixed messages of a cable show she can't stop watching: Extreme Shopper. Her husband, Ben, a video game designer and a very kind man, is getting a bit exasperated. As the new president is elected and the climate change questions pour in and the doomsday scenarios pile up, Lizzie tries to hold it together. The tension between mundane daily concerns and looming apocalypse, the "weather" of our days both real and metaphorical, is perfectly captured in Offill's brief, elegant paragraphs, filled with insight and humor.

Offill is good company for the end of the world.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-35110-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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