This strange story about strange stories, told with intelligence and humor, lingers in the mind like a dream.

THE INVENTION OF ANA

A would-be writer from Copenhagen meets a performance artist from Romania and becomes obsessed with her tragic, surreal life story.

As the unnamed narrator explains in the first pages of this novel, already nominated for a “best debut” prize in the author’s native Denmark, he met Ana Ivan shortly after he arrived in New York. He’d come over to work as an intern for his brother, a successful gallerist, and that night was helping out at a Brooklyn art festival. Anna immediately began telling him a story from her past, about a game she'd played with her father as a child during the endless, boring power cuts of the Ceau?escu regime. They made dots on a paper at random, then stared at the dots until a picture emerged. This is a metaphor for the novel as a whole, the dots being stories from Ana’s life, this being the first of many. The next time he sees Ana, she tells him about a time she pretended she had a stomachache to avoid going to school and ended up dead for two minutes during an unnecessary appendectomy. “Why aren’t you writing it down?” she asks impatiently. “It was only the first chapter.” Her plan, it seems, is for him to become her amanuensis, writing “the whole true tale” of her life, a story she suggests may have bestseller potential. Though he finds the situation “implausible”—“how often, after all, do you meet a random woman and end up being asked to write her life story?”—he has no stories of his own. After all, he’s “just an intern—white and middle-class and male to boot.” And so, her story becomes his story. Much of it revolves around Ana's father, a math prodigy who committed suicide for reasons that were obscure until she herself became a mathematician and began to investigate her parents’ past. The bizarre tragedy they suffered had many long-range consequences, including Ana's convictions that she is cursed and that she can travel through time.

This strange story about strange stories, told with intelligence and humor, lingers in the mind like a dream.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267907-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

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MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION

A young New York woman figures there’s nothing wrong with existence that a fistful of prescriptions and months of napping wouldn’t fix.

Moshfegh’s prickly fourth book (Homesick for Another World, 2017, etc.) is narrated by an unnamed woman who’s decided to spend a year “hibernating.” She has a few conventional grief issues. (Her parents are both dead, and they’re much on her mind.) And if she’s not mentally ill, she’s certainly severely maladjusted socially. (She quits her job at an art gallery in obnoxious, scatological fashion.) But Moshfegh isn’t interested in grief or mental illness per se. Instead, she means to explore whether there are paths to living that don’t involve traditional (and wearying) habits of consumption, production, and relationships. To highlight that point, most of the people in the narrator's life are offbeat or provisional figures: Reva, her well-meaning but shallow former classmate; Trevor, a boyfriend who only pursues her when he’s on the rebound; and Dr. Tuttle, a wildly incompetent doctor who freely gives random pill samples and presses one drug, Infermiterol, that produces three-day blackouts. None of which is the stuff of comedy. But Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator’s predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. (Recovering from one blackout, the narrator thinks, “What had I done? Spent a spa day then gone out clubbing?...Had Reva convinced me to go ‘enjoy myself’ or something just as idiotic?”) Checking out of society the way the narrator does isn’t advisable, but there’s still a peculiar kind of uplift to the story in how it urges second-guessing the nature of our attachments while revealing how hard it is to break them.

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52211-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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