In our second round of micro-reviews, we are thinking about place – not just in terms of physical setting, but also the emotional and imagined places that books allow us to inhabit.
This collection includes poetry set on a rumbling train, a novella about a woman for whom time is as much as a place as the otherworldly rural setting in which she finds herself, and a mystery in which the real horror comes from inhabiting the mind of the troubled narrator. With books set from Cairo to the Oregon coast and everywhere in between, you are sure to find a book in this round-up that speaks to your desire to escape.
In the Field Between Us by Molly McCully Brown and Susannah Nevison (Persea books 2020)
Reviewed by Joanna Currey
Once, in college, I had a long conversation in the middle of a sidewalk with a friend about whether stories could be considered the basic building blocks of human experience, like an abstract counterpart to molecules. Story is how people make sense of the past and dream about the future. It structures how we have conversations, how we understand relationships, how we share memories, and how we build identities. By organizing pieces of information into story, that information gains meaning, and the protagonists of those stories gain purpose and trajectory— things I and the people I know need to avoid living in a perpetual state of existential breakdown.
Deacon King Kong by James McBride (Riverhead Books 2020)
Reviewed by Allison McCausland
During such turbulent times, it is important to have a sense of humor. The juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy has never been as eloquent as in James McBride’s latest novel, Deacon King Kong. McBride’s follow up to his National Book Award winning The Good Lord Bird draws on the same wit and humor as the author observes and records the human condition.
Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed (Soho Teen 2020)
Reviewed by Maayan D’Antonio
17-year-old Khayyam Maquet—American, French, Indian, Muslim—is spending her August sulking around Paris. Her essay to her dream school, The Art Institute of Chicago, wasn’t received well by the committee, derailing her chances of getting in. On top of that, her maybe ex-boyfriend, Zaid, is ghosting her. Just when everything feels exceptionally crappy, and Khayyam literally steps in crap, she meets Alexander, the descendant of the famous French writer Alexander Dumas.
As we embark on a new decade, I wanted to provide a guidebook for a year of reading – a list which might offer, loosely, a template for reading to encourage you to hear new voices, support new authors, and step outside your comfort zone.