An intense, recursive book that evokes the chill despair of a Bergman film.

WELCOME TO AMERICA

A girl gives her dysfunctional family an extreme and distressing version of the silent treatment.

Ellen, the narrator of the second novel by Boström Knausgård and first published in the U.S., is certain she’s killed her father, because she constantly prayed for his death. “I had access to God. It was me and God who’d killed my dad,” she tells us early on. That line is more than enough reason to fire up the “Unreliable Narrator” siren, but Boström Knausgård encourages the reader not to dismiss her situation as madness but empathize with it as trauma. Ellen's mentally ill father has been institutionalized and may have tried to kill the family by leaving the gas on; her brother is angry and abusive; her mother, an actress, is distant and narcissistic. (The title refers to her in a role as a “fallen Statue of Liberty.”) In that light, Ellen’s silence (and this book) represents a protective carapace against an adulthood she associates with pain: “I stopped talking when growing began to take up too much space inside me. I was sure I couldn’t do both, grow and talk at the same time.” The mood intensifies as Ellen’s mother and brother pursue their own relationships, but the novel doesn’t have an arc so much as a set of fuguelike variations on Ellen’s musings about death and loss. Boström Knausgård’s writing (via Aitken’s translation) is crystalline and careful; like her ex-husband, Karl Ove Knausgård, she has an eye for quotidian but revealing details, though she eschews his expansiveness. Here, restraint and ambiguity prevail, whether it’s about the intensity of the abuse Ellen sustained or the veracity of her assertions. Regardless, it’s a taut portrait of how difficult it can be to reconcile ideals about faith and family with their messier realities.

An intense, recursive book that evokes the chill despair of a Bergman film.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64286-041-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: World Editions

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

REGRETTING YOU

When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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This quirky, complex, and frustrating heroine will win hearts and challenge assumptions about family dysfunction and mental...

WITHOUT MERIT

With the help of unusual houseguests, a teenage girl who tries to rebel by airing her family’s dirty laundry cleans up her act instead.

To Merit Voss, the white picket fence around her house is the only thing normal about the family it contains. She lives in a converted church with her father, stepmother, and siblings, and although her parents have been divorced for years, her mother still lives in the basement, struggling with social anxiety. No one in her family is religious, so her brother Utah updates the church marquee every day with fun facts instead of Bible verses. Merit is less accomplished than her identical twin sister, Honor, so she likes to buy used trophies to celebrate her failures. But Honor seems to have a fetish for terminally ill boys, so it’s a surprise to Merit when Sagan, who is perfectly healthy, kisses Merit after mistaking her for her sister—and then reveals that he’s living in their house. Soon they have another houseguest, Luck, whose connection to the family makes Merit even more convinced she’s living in a madhouse. So why is everyone so angry at her? Merit has a love/hate relationship with her sister. She's conflicted by her feelings for Sagan, who leaves intriguing sketches (illustrated by Adams) around the house for her to decipher. She’s simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by Luck, who annoys her with his questions but is also her confidant. She can’t sit through dinner without starting a fight; she’s been skipping school for days; and when she decides to give her whole family the silent treatment, Sagan is the only one who notices. In fact, he and Luck are the only people in the house who recognize Merit’s quirks for what they really are—cries for help. And when Merit takes drastic measures to be heard, the fallout is both worse and much better than she feared. Hoover (It Ends With Us, 2016, etc.) does an excellent job of revealing the subtle differences between healthy teenage rebellion and clinical depression, and Merit’s aha moment is worthy of every trophy in her collection.

This quirky, complex, and frustrating heroine will win hearts and challenge assumptions about family dysfunction and mental illness in a life-affirming story that redefines what’s normal.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7062-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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