A flinty, lyrical, and storm-clouded study of loss.



The myth of Athena inspires a deeply melancholy portrait of a fractured family in the debut novel by Boström Knausgård (Welcome to America, 2019).

“I am born of a father. I split his head,” says Anna, the novel’s young narrator, as if she’d sprung from the head of Zeus. It’s a metaphor, of course: The split head of the girl’s father evokes the schizophrenia that will send him to an institution and her to a foster home. Yet Boström Knausgård brings the metaphor intriguingly close to reality. Though we’re in the author’s native Sweden, Anna has an inherent connection to Greek roots: She obsesses over a map of the Mediterranean, and her prophetic babbling at the church her foster family takes her to turns out not to be speaking in tongues but Greek. Regardless of Anna’s provenance, her life is shot through with a profound sense of longing for her father and a host of failed strategies to connect with him. Church only deepens her sense of distance. The letters he writes her reveal frustratingly little. And channeling her inner Athena feels like a false front. (“I must become stronger. So strong that I won’t be the one who is alone, rather those who avoid me will.”) The somber, flat tone of the narrative (ably maintained by translator Willson-Broyles) gives the reader plenty of room to interpret Anna as mad or misunderstood, and Boström Knausgård’s imagery is piercing (“My scream was like a storm. Like pouring rain. My scream was like a spear. Like a way out”). As she becomes increasingly desperate to escape the institutions that constrict her (churches, schools, hospitals) and reconcile with her father, the latter pages of the narrative become mordant, a touch repetitively. But it’s a moving trip to an emotional bottom.

A flinty, lyrical, and storm-clouded study of loss.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64286-068-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: World Editions

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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


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

Did you like this book?



A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

Did you like this book?