A dizzying, lush flight through the ecstasy and devastation of an incendiary romance and the grief that follows its loss.

THEY SAY SARAH

In a whirlwind of queer eroticism, classical strings, and vernal sensuality, debut novelist Delabroy-Allard whips up a bracing portrait of consumptive love and mutual obsession.

A young mother and new teacher in Paris has found herself adrift, “living a life [she] never thought [she’d] live” following her husband’s sudden departure. Left to raise their young daughter alone, the unnamed narrator “walk[s] around like a ghost,” the sudden shift in identity rendering her vulnerable, transparent, thrust into "a period of latency." Drawing her back into the world and its fecund, proliferating springtime is Sarah, a woman she met at a New Year's party who has quickly woven herself into the fabric of the narrator’s life, sparking off a liminal hum of possibility that buzzes between them. Sarah, a successful violinist who darts in and out of the city on tour with her quartet, is too much in every respect—she drinks too much, smokes too many cigarettes, wears too much makeup, is too loud, too magnetic. In her faded and fragile state, the narrator absorbs Sarah's radiance until she too begins first to shine, then burn as their unsustainable passion increasingly erupts in violence and despair. Each time Sarah departs and returns, the narrator is torn apart and stitched back together, until finally she's worn too thin for further repair. While the cumulative effect of repetition can at times slow rather than drive the swell of the narrative's crescendo, overall the prose exerts a tidal pull, and the book's structure skillfully mirrors the story's atmosphere: The short vignettes that constitute Part I replicate the breathless swirl of the narrator's turbulent affair with Sarah while lengthening chapters throughout Part II reflect her descent into rambling dishevelment and a sense of being stuck in time. In this second half, the narrator flees Paris for Italy in a frantic attempt to resurrect herself from the ashes of her devastation when her relationship with Sarah finally collapses beneath the weight of its own fraught history.

A dizzying, lush flight through the ecstasy and devastation of an incendiary romance and the grief that follows its loss.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-985-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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The World War II Hollywood setting is colorful, but it’s just a B picture.

MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS

An ambitious young Italian woman makes her way among the émigrés of 1930s and ’40s Hollywood.

Maria Lagana has come to Los Angeles after her father is sentenced to confino—internal exile—for his anti-fascist advocacy in Mussolini’s Italy. Living with her mother in the Italian American neighborhood of Lincoln Heights—also home to a trio of no-nonsense great-aunts forever dressed in black—Maria finds work as a typist at Mercury Pictures International, working in the office of studio head Artie Feldman, a fast-talking showman with a collection of toupées for every occasion. In time, the letters from her father stop, and Maria becomes an associate producer, Artie’s trusted right hand, as well as the secret lover of Eddie Lu, a Chinese American actor relegated to roles as Japanese villains. When a young Italian immigrant turns up at her door introducing himself as Vincent Cortese, Maria’s past—and the mystery of what happened to her father—crashes into her present. Like the author’s earlier novels, the award-winning A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013) and The Tsar of Love and Techno (2015), this one builds a discrete world and shows how its denizens are shaped—often warped—by circumstance. But the Hollywood setting feels overfamiliar and the characters curiously uninvolving. While the prose frequently sings, there are also ripely overwritten passages: At a party, the “thunking heels of lindy-hopping couples dimpled the boozy air”; fireworks are described as a “molten asterisk in the heavens to which the body on the ground is a footnote.”

The World War II Hollywood setting is colorful, but it’s just a B picture.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-451-49520-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Ford raises fascinating questions, but a rushed ending too neatly ties up the answers in an unconvincing, sentimental bow.

THE MANY DAUGHTERS OF AFONG MOY

Covering 250 years, Ford’s new novel traces the way states of consciousness involving extreme moments of pain or joy interconnect seven generations of Chinese women.

Embedded images—airplanes, ships, waves—and the occasional ghostly vision highlight how these women’s lives reverberate as the focus moves back and forth in time. In 1942 China, Faye Moy, a nurse in her 50s who’s working with American forces, feels an eerie connection to a dying young pilot in whose pocket she finds a newspaper photograph of herself as a teenager and a note in her own handwriting that says, “FIND ME.” Finding oneself and/or one’s soul mate becomes the throughline of the book. Faye’s great-grandmother Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman in America, dies in childbirth after a short career being exhibited as a curiosity in the 1830s. Faye’s mother, Lai King (Afong’s granddaughter), sails to Canton after her parents’ deaths in San Francisco’s Chinatown fire of 1892. Onboard ship she bonds with a young White boy, also an orphan, and nurses him when contagion strikes. When Faye is 14, she has an illegitimate daughter who is adopted and raised in England. Presumably that girl is Zoe Moy, who, in 1927, attends the famously progressive Summerhill School, where a disastrous social experiment in fascism destroys her relationship with a beloved poetry teacher. In 2014, Zoe’s emotionally fragile granddaughter, Greta, loses both her skyrocketing tech career and the love of her life at the hands of an evil capitalist. While several earlier Moys receive aid and guidance from Buddhist monks, Greta’s troubled poet daughter, Dorothy, turns to both Buddhism and radical scientific treatment to uncover and understand how past crises, emotional, physical, and spiritual, are destabilizing her current life in 2045. Expect long treatises on anamnesis, quantum biology, and reincarnation before traveling with Dorothy’s adult daughter in 2086.

Ford raises fascinating questions, but a rushed ending too neatly ties up the answers in an unconvincing, sentimental bow.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5821-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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