Book Tags, Not Books

My Blog’s Searches

A couple months ago, Ally made this really fun post (inspired by Kaleena) about looking at her blog’s search terms. I love to look through my search terms from time to time, so I decided to make a post about it as well! I’ll group related searches together just for simplicity’s sake, and I won’t include searches that are just “[book] review” unless there are more than expected for a single book.


“sarah suoerfan stuff you should know”
I have no idea what this means??

“merry spinster thankless child”
“the merry spinster review the wedding party”
“a merry spinster the thankless child”
“the merry spinster the wedding party”
“ortberg thankless child”
I don’t know how so many people ended up at my blog searching for this, but I hope they enjoyed my review.

“stefan merrill block”
“oliver loving review”
“”oliver loving” “stefan merrill block””
This is also another book/author that has given me some traffic for ??? unclear reasons.

“we have always lived in the castle characters”
Ah, one of my fav books! Unfortunately I do not provide a list of characters.

“sarah foley black lives matter”
I have gotten curious and also searched this, but I don’t know who or what they’re looking for!

“ghost wall spoiler”
Pretty sure there are no spoilers in my review. Sorry, stranger!

“bad man by dathan auerbach explained”
I wish I knew what they wanted explained, because I’d be happy to help.

“sarah foley short story”
Whomst is she?

“the winter people sara”
Kind of, I guess?

“tbr gems”
Vague yet specific. Sorry I don’t have this for you!

“the wild girls by pat murphy real life comparison”
I do Not know what this means.

“seven deaths of evelyn hardcastle spolier”
“seven deaths of hardcastle review”
No spoliers here.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Red, White & Royal Blue [review]

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin on May 14, 2019
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg: 
4.50 (as of 2019-05-14)
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own. All quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?


I put this on my TBR when I saw it on Reads Rainbow’s Enemies to Lovers rec list (PS pls follow their blog, Charlotte and Anna share some wonderful stuff and are always beefing up my to-read list!). I was #BLESSED with a review copy from Netgalley and have spent the last week and a half getting my heart destroyed by this book.

Straight people, he thinks, probably don’t spend this much time convincing themselves they’re straight.

RW&RB is a skillful combination of both the “enemies to lovers” and “fake relationship” tropes, although the fake relationship is a fake friendship rather than fake dating. The main character, Alex, is a bisexual biracial angel who falls in love with the (extremely gay) Prince Henry of Wales after plenty of angst and a lot of drama. I will admit it’s a little instalove-y, if that’s something that bothers you. Luckily it’s not something I mind and I found their relationship so, so precious!

[…] Henry, who knows him. Henry who’s seen him in glasses and tolerates him at his most annoying and still kissed him like he wanted him, singularly, not the idea of him.

The side characters are equally wonderful and McQuiston does an incredible job of fleshing them out. The two we see the most are Alex’s older sister June and his best-friend-sort-of-ex Nora who is openly queer, although I don’t think she uses any particular label on-page. There are several other queer side characters, including a trans woman and a pansexual character. I love that this book kind of demonstrates how we gays tend to stick together, since I’d say a good 95% of my friends have identified as lgbtqia.

He rolls onto his side and listens, trails the back of his hand across the pillow next to him and imagines Henry lying opposite in his own bed, two parentheses enclosing 3,700 miles.

Besides containing a truly unbelievably cute romance, this book explores discovering your sexuality, politics, and mental health. Alex and Henry have very different feelings about their lives in the public eye, and the expectations set upon them as the children of leaders conflict with what they’d prefer to do with themselves. Henry also deals with depression, which is touched on but isn’t the focus of the story.

“Ugh! Men!” she groans. “No emotional vocabulary. I can’t believe our ancestors survived centuries of wars and plagues and genocide just to wind up with your sorry ass.”

Overall, I just loved this book more than I can even convey. I cried several times reading it and am positive I’ll return to it in the future. It’s fluffy, it’s steamy, it’s political, and it is quite honestly PERFECT. Casey McQuiston is heading straight to my insta-read author list.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Freshwater [review]

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Published by Grove Press on February 13, 2018
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.00 (as of 2019-05-09)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.

Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.

Narrated by the various selves within Ada and based in the author’s realities, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.


I finished this after the Women’s Prize shortlist is released and all I can say is: it’s a damn travesty that this book didn’t make the cut. It was initially interesting to see that it was longlisted — Akwaeke Emezi is nonbinary, which the judges were not aware of until after they had decided upon the list. Emezi gave their okay for the book’s inclusion regardless and fans were glad to see it gain further recognition. But for the judges to leave off this masterpiece in favor of the combination they did… I won’t get into it, but it sure doesn’t make any sense.

The first madness was that we were born, that they stuffed a god into a bag of skin.

I actually received a Netgalley ARC of this in January 2018, which I far too quickly DNFed in a “I’m not sure I Get this, maybe later” scenario. Maybe for the best, since I don’t know that I would have fully appreciated this novel without the growth my literary tastes have experienced over the last year. While I’m still not sure I was able to fully appreciate it — there were doubtless many things I missed — this is one of the most impactful books I have ever read and I’m sure I’ll never forget it.

The boy made Ada a gibbering thing in a corner — this is the truth, but he would never get her again. I had arrived, flesh from flesh, true blood from true blood. I was the wildness under the skin, the skin into a weapon, the weapon over the flesh. I was here. No one would ever touch her again.

Freshwater is an exploration of many things, but at the forefront lie trauma, gender identity, and spirituality. It’s hard to explore the plot too deeply without spoilers, but I’ll say that this is one of the best portrayals of trauma that I’ve ever read. The entire book requires endless trigger warnings and it’s quite an intense experience, but I found it so rewarding. If you’re in the space where you can pick this up, I cannot recommend it enough.


More Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist reviews:
The Pisces
Ghost Wall
Ordinary People
Circe
Lost Children Archive
Praise Song for the Butterflies
An American Marriage
My Sister, the Serial Killer
Normal People
Freshwater

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Normal People [review]

Normal People by Sally Rooney
Published by Hogarth on April 16, 2019 (originally 2018)
my rating: ★★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.08 (as of 2019-05-09)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.


While I knew from the start that this book would be different than anything I had experienced before, I had no idea how much I would love it. Normal People tells the story of Connell and Marianne, two very different people who somehow just keep meeting. It begins while they’re in secondary school and spans the course of their university careers. At its heart, this is the story of two people whose lives cannot untangle.

Even in memory she will find this moment unbearably intense, and she’s aware of this now, while it’s happening.

While their relationship is often not quite healthy, I really rooted for them to be together. Sally Rooney writes in such a way that you can understand them both even while condemning their actions. Oftentimes their conflicts are the result of miscommunications that could have easily been avoided by pressing one another further rather than making assumptions. Deep down, they both care quite deeply about each other and none of the hurt is intentional.

Is the world such an evil place, that love should be indistinguishable from the basest and most abusive forms of violence?

I found myself repeatedly caught up in the depth of emotion I felt while reading this. Sometimes I would have to put it down for a moment, breathless, as I contemplated the characters and their situations and the parallels I was able to draw to my own life. I nearly wept at the closing page, but at the same time felt buoyed by its message. I’d say I thought my reaction to this was just me, but everyone else in my Women’s Prize group also gave the book 5 stars.

Life offers up these moments of joy, despite everything.

Sally Rooney is really something else. I was worried my expectations for her were a bit too high, but she still managed more than I could have even hoped for. I have a copy of Conversations With Friends sitting on my shelf at work that I cannot wait to dig into. If you were thinking about picking up Normal People, I cannot recommend it highly enough.


More Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist reviews:
The Pisces
Ghost Wall
Ordinary People
Circe
Lost Children Archive
Praise Song for the Butterflies
An American Marriage
My Sister, the Serial Killer
Normal People
Freshwater

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Bookworm Blogging, Monthly Wrap-Ups

April 2019 Wrap-Up

Books Read:

  • Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden. 3.5 stars, review.
  • Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli. 4 stars, review.
  • Dust by Hugh Howey. 4 stars, re-read.
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. 3 stars, review.
  • The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. 4 stars, review.
  • My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. 4 stars, review.

Books read: 6
Average rating: 3.75 stars

Other Media:

  • Shrill [2019-?]. This series is very good, very entertaining, very emotional, and very impactful. I very much recommend it.
  • The Perfect Date [2019]. 4/5 stars. Cute!
  • Ant Man [2015]. 4/5 stars, rewatch. Fun, probs one of my fav Marvel movies!

My Month in Photos:

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Invited [review]

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon
To be published by Doubleday on April 30, 2019
my rating: ★★★.5
Goodreads avg: 
3.93 (as of 2019-03-04)
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own. All quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Times best-selling author of THE WINTER PEOPLE, returns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house, they start building one from scratch, without knowing it, until it’s too late…

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate abandon the comforts of suburbia and teaching jobs to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this charming property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. As Helen starts carefully sourcing decorative building materials for her home – wooden beams, mantles, historic bricks — she starts to unearth, and literally conjure, the tragic lives of Hattie’s descendants, three generations of “Breckenridge women,” each of whom died amidst suspicion, and who seem to still be seeking something precious and elusive in the present day. 


Jennifer McMahon’s The Winter People became one of my favorites when I read it last year so of course Rachel let me know the second she saw it on Netgalley and I requested it immediately. McMahon’s books combine my love of horror with my love of all things Vermont (and New England) and I’ve been meaning to pick up more of her books for quite some time now. Rachel actually lent me a copy of The Night Sister, which I’ve got sitting in my physical TBR pile. Unfortunately, while I enjoyed The Invited, it just wasn’t as strong a book as I had hoped for.

What people don’t understand, they destroy.

As with The Winter People, McMahon sets up alternating perspectives. We have Helen, an outsider who is building a house with her husband Nate on supposedly haunted property. We also have Ollie, a girl in her early teens who is searching for a treasure that may or may not exist. I sympathized with Helen and while I found Ollie a bit irritating at first, I quickly warmed up to her as well. I also adored Ollie’s aunt, Riley, with her dyed hair and many tattoos and love of local lore. At one point I briefly hoped that Helen would leave her husband for Riley, but alas, that was wishful thinking.

Sometimes Olive got so caught up in her own grief that she forgot other people were grieving, too.

The plot itself is somewhat interesting: Ollie searches for the treasure and for traces of her mother who had left while Helen searches for more information about the spirit that may haunt her new home. McMahon puts her own unique twist on the classic ghost story, incorporating new elements and giving us just the right amount of red herrings. A lot of my nitpicks came less from issues with the story itself and more from inconsistencies in the writing and the difficulty I had getting invested until about a third in. Hopefully some of this gets pulled together better in the final copy.

“Sometimes a vivid imagination is a curse,” her mama used to tell her.

Overall The Invited was interesting and enjoyable, but it unfortunately lacked the oomph that would have given it a higher rating and put it on my favorites list. Still, Jennifer McMahon manages to explore the storied history of New England and its comparison to modern-day life. I definitely recommend this to anyone who has read and liked any of her other books, as well as to those who like the exploration of relationships between women in horror.


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Book Tags

The Liebster Award #3

I was tagged by Naty a few weeks ago to do the Liebster award again!

Rules:

  • Say thank you to the person who has nominated you for the Award.
  • Answer the 11 questions the person has asked you
  • Nominate 11 people
  • Ask the people who you have nominated 11 questions

Naty’s Questions

What book you wish you could un-read to experience it for the first time again?
Hmm, maybe The Pisces?

What’s your Hogwarts house?
I’m kind of an equal split between Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. Sometimes I lean a bit more to one side or the other. I probably would have been sorted into Ravenclaw.

What popular book have you not read yet?
The Lovely Bones is still on my TBR, I know it was pretty popular back in the day.

What are some of your favorite authors?
Joe Hill, Tamora Pierce, Maggie Stiefvater

What book do you LOVE but you don’t normally recommend to people? 
The Pisces, again!

What book are you always recommending to people?
Hmm, probably Annihilation!

What middle grade book do you wish you had read as a kid?
I can’t think of anything off the top of my head!

How many books do you have on your TBR?
Umm… 1189. Oops.

What bookish universe could you live in?
Haha, probably something contemporary and normal. 😛

What genre do you read most?
Fantasy!

What is a bookish goal you have for 2019?
Less pressure on myself! I don’t want to get stressed out about reading, I want to love it.

My Questions:

If you could control the weather, how would the seasons change for you?
What are you reading right now?
If you could magically acquire a new talent, what would you choose?
How would you describe your “aesthetic?”
What is something you’re hoping to accomplish in the next year?
What is your most used emoji?
What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever had?
If you didn’t have to work for money, what would you do with your time?
What’s the last text you sent?
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
What’s your phone background?

I tag:

Rachel
Callum
bookwormmuse
Becky
Hannah
Destiny
Avery
Kristin
Ally
Kaleena
Meeghan

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

My Sister, the Serial Killer [review]

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Published by Doubleday Books on November 20, 2018
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.82 (as of 2019-04-26)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…


I would argue this is probably the most “accessible” Women’s Prize book I’ve read so far due to its readability. This was so easy to breeze through, in part because the pages in my copy were quite small, in part because of its length, and in part because it’s such a page-turner. The narrator of this little novel is Korede, a young woman whose sister Ayoola is a serial killer. Korede is the responsible older sister and works as a nurse. Ayoola is the spoiled younger sibling who spends her time at home designing clothing or out being courted by men.

While Ayoola’s purported innocence is explored somewhat, the focus of this book lies far more in the characters’ various relationships as well as the malleability of our own morality. As we discover during the story’s beginning, Korede has helped Ayoola cover up her crimes and deals with immense guilt for playing a part in the deaths of potentially innocent men. At the same time, she feels an intense responsibility to protect her sister, particularly due to their shared history which is slowly revealed as the story unravels.

I really loved Korede, and felt like she was an incredibly sympathetic character. She has grown up with a gorgeous younger sister who turns heads everywhere she goes, while she herself is not nearly as aesthetically gifted. She is responsible and works hard and seems to suffer for it, as she is not appreciated by her coworkers nor her own family. I became extremely invested in her story and found myself becoming frustrated and sad alongside her. Of course, Korede comes to a fork in the metaphorical road where she must decide how to proceed with her sister. Can she allow Ayoola to continue on as she has been, or will she finally find a way to intervene? There seems to be no easy answer and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen.

Overall, I found this to be quite an enjoyable read. I wouldn’t summarize it as a traditional thriller or mystery, although that’s what I’ve seen it shelved most often as. As I said above, it is more an exploration of interpersonal relationships and how these impact our morals. I’ll definitely be recommending this one around, though, as I think it will interest a wide variety of readers. It’s probably close to the top of my favorites list for Women’s Prize books so far.


More Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist reviews:
The Pisces
Ghost Wall
Ordinary People
Circe
Lost Children Archive
Praise Song for the Butterflies
An American Marriage
My Sister, the Serial Killer
Normal People
Freshwater

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Mini-Review Compilation #14

Praise Song for the Butterflies

This is a difficult book to review; it feels wrong to give it a number and talk about it as “good” or “not good.” The story follows the life of a girl named Abeo, who is born into a relatively privileged West African family. After bad luck befalls them, Abeo is brought to a shrine and is left in ritual servitude. Praise Song for the Butterflies is quite simplistically written, but its matter-of-fact tone makes the horrors within all the more appalling. Unfortunately, it also holds the characters at arms length and makes it difficult to empathize with them on anything more than an artificial level. While the story is important and eye-opening I didn’t find it to be a meaningful literary experience. I’d recommend it to anyone interested, if you can stomach the content.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5

An American Marriage
[spoilers below]

I’ve struggled for days to write this review. An American Marriage is well-written and engaging and while I appreciate what Tayari Jones did with this book, I just felt so frustrated reading it. Roy, the husband in the couple at the center of the story, treats his wife Celestial like little more than property and at one point even tells her he could rape her if he wanted to. I felt like he was irredeemably awful at times to the point where I wanted to put down the book and not pick it up again. I wish I had loved this more and it certainly wasn’t bad, but it also isn’t something that I see sticking with me.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The Lovely and the Lost
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.

I blew through this book, which I requested from NetGalley on a whim. It follows a girl named Kira who trains search and rescue dogs with her adoptive family. Kira herself has a mysterious past that slowly comes further to light as the story progresses. While there were a couple of moments that seemed a little overdramatic and pulled me out of the story, I found this to be wildly compelling otherwise. The characters were all distinct in their own ways and I loved seeing their relationships play out on the page. The plot kept me interested, and I didn’t predict the twist at the end. Overall a really good read, and I’ll definitely be checking out more of Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ work.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Lost Children Archive [review]

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
Published by Knopf Publishing Group on February 12, 2019
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg:
3.96 (as of 2019-04-16)
Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

From the two-time NBCC Finalist, a fiercely imaginative novel about a family’s summer road trip across America–a journey that, with breathtaking imagery, spare lyricism, and profound humanity, probes the nature of justice and equality in America today.

A mother and father set out with their kids from New York to Arizona. In their used Volvo–and with their ten-year-old son trying out his new Polaroid camera–the family is heading for the Apacheria: the region the Apaches once called home, and where the ghosts of Geronimo and Cochise might still linger. The father, a sound documentarist, hopes to gather an “inventory of echoes” from this historic, mythic place. The mother, a radio journalist, becomes consumed by the news she hears on the car radio, about the thousands of children trying to reach America but getting stranded at the southern border, held in detention centers, or being sent back to their homelands, to an unknown fate.

But as the family drives farther west–through Virginia to Tennessee, across Oklahoma and Texas–we sense they are on the brink of a crisis of their own. A fissure is growing between the parents, one the children can feel beneath their feet. They are led, inexorably, to a grand, unforgettable adventure–both in the harsh desert landscape and within the chambers of their own imaginations.

Told through the voices of the mother and her son, as well as through a stunning tapestry of collected texts and images–including prior stories of migration and displacement–Lost Children Archive is a story of how we document our experiences, and how we remember the things that matter to us the most. Blending the personal and the political with astonishing empathy, it is a powerful, wholly original work of fiction: exquisite, provocative, and deeply moving. 


I can easily see a lot of people hating this book. In fact, I can see myself hating this book. It’s dense and it’s work to get through. This is yet another one I would almost definitely not have finished if I wasn’t reading it for the Women’s Prize. The writing style isn’t my thing and it’s immediate from the start that layout of the book itself is atypical, for lack of a better word. It’s a “family story” and a “road trip book,” both of which I also tend to stay away from. There are plenty of reasons why I shouldn’t have enjoyed this book, but somehow I did.

The thing about living with someone is that even though you see them every day and can predict all their gestures in a conversation, even when you can read intentions behind their actions and calculate their responses to circumstances fairly accurately, even when you are sure there’s not a single crease in them left unexplored, even then, one day the other can suddenly become a stranger.

There are so many layers to this, and I know I didn’t fully understand all of it. The main character and her husband are sound archivists, which right away makes for a bit of an intriguing tone. It explains the unusual formatting and lets our narrator examine things in a light we may not be accustomed to. It also helps to incorporate the underlying theme of the novel: illegal immigration in the United States.

No one thinks of those children as consequences of a historical war that goes back decades. Everyone keeps asking: which war, where? Why are they here? Why did they come to the United States? What will we do with them? No one is asking: why did they flee their homes?

The narrator and her husband meet while working on a project to record all of the languages being spoken in New York City. The narrator herself was born in Mexico and becomes obsessed with the children crossing the border, hoping to join their family on the other side. Once the language project is complete, she decides to make her next project about giving voices to these lost children. Meanwhile, her husband’s next project is on the other side of history: he has become deeply obsessed with the history of the Apache tribes of Native Americans.

[…] reading others’ words, inhabiting their minds for a while, has always been an entry point to my own thoughts.

I found myself becoming deeply emotionally connected to the narrator throughout the first half of the book, until the focus shifts to the son. From there, I became more enthralled with the plot itself. I found the switch interesting; I went from somber introspection to a more dreamlike reading experience. I enjoyed both parts of the book and felt like they really balanced each other out.

Hard to explain why two complete strangers may suddenly decide to share an unbeautified portrait of their lives. But perhaps also easy to explain, because two people alone in a bar at two in the morning are probably there to try to figure out the exact narrative they need to tell themselves before they go back to wherever they’ll sleep that night.

There are so many deep themes to this that I wish I could discuss in detail, but just can’t grasp strongly enough to wrangle into a coherent analysis. I really wish I had read this in a lit class in college, I know I would have gotten so much more out of it. Regardless, I’ll probably be reading whatever pieces I can find on this, so if you happen to see something interesting please send it my way!

Once he even recorded our voices talking in the backseat of the car, and then played them for Ma when they thought we were both sleeping and not listening. And it was strange to listen to our own voices around us, like we were there but also not there. I felt like we’d disappeared, thought, what if we are not actually sitting back here but only being remembered by them?

All in all, while this was a challenging reading experience for me, I really felt it was worth it. Luiselli succeeded in making me think deeply while consuming her work, and I hope to return to it in the future — perhaps with a better context to place it in. I recommend picking this up if you’re looking for some slower moving literary fiction to make your brain work.


More Women’s Prize 2019 Longlist reviews:
The Pisces
Ghost Wall
Ordinary People
Circe
Lost Children Archive
Praise Song for the Butterflies
An American Marriage
My Sister, the Serial Killer
Normal People
Freshwater

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