A biting, sagacious, and delightfully dark metaliterary novel about finding your way in a world on fire.

BLACK WAVE

Churning through lovers, baggies, and bottles, writer Michelle Leduski runs for LA with the end of the world on her heels.

In 1999, San Francisco’s Mission District is rapidly gentrifying. The gritty glittering landscape of artists and radicals is gradually being supplanted by the sterile manufactured cool favored by dot-com boomers who spread like a fungus, displacing the neighborhood’s previous crop of displacers, to which Michelle belongs, “a tribe bound not by ethnicity but by other things—desire, art, sex, poverty, politics.” In what seems at first like a lightly fictionalized memoir, Tea (How to Grow Up, 2015, etc.) traverses ground familiar to readers of her previous work: booze, drugs, sex, protracted adolescence, and '90s queer culture. But as time destabilizes, we’re irresistibly sucked into an alternate universe where the byproducts of modern living cause illness and alienation, the natural world has been all but eradicated, poisonous mists roll off the Pacific, and compost-powered cars trace the roads. Michelle leaves the Mission and attempts to write about a relationship ruined through the slow decay of self-neglect but is constantly plagued by a memoirist’s fears of overexposing and harming those around her. While reality expands and collapses like a gasping lung and the Earth crumbles around her, Michelle digs at the emotional truth of a loss that feels like the end of everything. But, rather than succumb to apocalyptic depression as spectacles of hysteria and petty distractions continue to swirl around her, Michelle claws her way out of her spiral of self-destruction to face the end, clear-minded and resolute. Gliding deftly through issues of addiction and recovery, erasure and assimilation, environmental devastation and mass delusion about our own pernicious tendencies, this is a genre- and reality-bending story of quiet triumph for the perennial screw-up and unabashed outsider.

A biting, sagacious, and delightfully dark metaliterary novel about finding your way in a world on fire.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-55861-939-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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