22 Booklist April 1, 2017 www.booklistreader.com
the unhappy couple next door, the fox seems to
o;er Mary a chance to free herself for a wilder,
more authentic life. Unusual and strangely fascinating. —Bridget ;oreson
Meeting with My Brother.
By Mun-yol Yi. Tr. by Heinz Insu
Fenkle and Yoosup Chang.
Apr. 2017. 112p. Columbia Univ., $20 (9780231178648);
e-book, $19.99 (9780231544672).
“;e Korean War displaced and fragmented
more than ten million families,” writes Fenkl
in his introduction to his new
translation of Yi’s novella
about the ;rst meeting between two adult brothers. Yi,
one of Korea’s most prominent literary ;gures, and
his family were perilously
victimized by the division of
Korea. His father abandoned
his mother and ;ve young children to defect
to the north in 1950, marking the family as
guilty-by-communist-association targets. Yi
learned of his father’s fate in the mid-1980s:
30 years in prison camps, a second wife, ;ve
more children. Yi expands on his own history
through a ;ctional alter ego who travels from
Seoul to the Chinese-North Korean border
to meet the eldest North Korean son of his
late father. ;eir shared parentage contrasts
sharply with their divergent experiences on either side of the DMZ. Originally published in
1994 in Korea and translated in 2002 by Suh
Ji-moon as An Appointment with My Brother,
this edition is the propitious result of Fenkl
and Chang’s direct work with Yi and includes
an additional scene. At less than 100 pages,
Meeting with My Brother might seem spare,
but Yi’s exploration of identity, family, citizenship, and nationhood is urgently profound
and deeply compelling. — Terry Hong
No One Can Pronounce My Name.
By Rakesh Satyal.
May 2017. 432p. Picador, $26 (9781250112118); e-book
After Ranjana’s son, Prashant, leaves to become an undergrad at Princeton, she and her
husband, Mohan, are alone in their Cleveland home for the ;rst time in 18 years.
She secretly writes paranormal romances in
the evenings and suspects
that Mohan is having an
a;air. Harit, in his midfor-
ties, works in a department
store and grieves for his sis-
ter, Swati. Harit dresses in
Swati’s saris in an attempt
to connect with his mother,
whose eyesight is failing and
who has barely functioned since Swati’s death.
Lonely in their own ways, Ranjana and Harit
form an unusual friendship that allows them
to grow more than either thought possible.
;rough his beautifully crafted characters,
Satyal’s (Blue Boy, 2009) second novel ex-
plores identity, sexuality, family, immigrant
life, and Indian and American cultures. His
writing is both humorous and heart-wrench-
ing while he tells Ranjana’s and Harit’s stories.
He draws every character with such clarity
and depth that their lives become vivid to the
reader. Satyal expertly describes the everyday
struggles that de;ne his characters, and he
elevates the extraordinary moments of nor-
mal life in this skilled and thought-provoking
novel. —Laura Chanoux
Once, in Lourdes.
By Sharon Solwitz.
May 2017. 320p. Spiegel & Grau, $27 (9780812989236).
It’s the summer of 1968 in Lourdes, Michigan, and four teens have forged a bond and
found sanctuary along towering blu;s overlooking Lake Michigan. ;eir ringleader is
lithe and fearless Vera, marked by a strangely
deformed hand. Kay is sweet, creative, overweight, and grief-stricken after her mother’s
suicide. Wealthy and caustic CJ is struggling
with his sexuality. All three are infatuated
with Saint, a con;icted housekeeper’s son
who seeks guidance in Buddhism. Vera has
been coping with abuse from her cop father,
but a new family complication of mythically tragic
proportions goads her into
convincing her three friends
to join her in a solemn pact:
in two weeks they will end
their lives by leaping into
the lake. ;e turbulence
of adolescence was also the
subject of award-winning Solwitz’s ;rst novel,
Bloody Mary (2003), and, after writing a spate
of short stories, she returns to the longer form
with a ravishing sense of place, electric eroticism, and a heightened, almost surreal, feel
for how intense emotions alter our perception
of the world, especially in youth. Solwitz’s
surging, many-threaded, complexly insightful tale dramatizes not only personal crises,
but also the violence of the infamous 1968
Democratic Convention in Chicago. Timely
and timeless. —Donna Seaman
YA/M: Solwitz’s captivating characters
and their struggles with sexuality and
family troubles will evoke compassion and
By Richard Russo.
May 2017. 256p. Knopf, $25.95 (9781101947722).
In a cohesive and astute collection of short
stories, Russo eschews the middle-class working
Everyman he portrays in such novels as
Everybody’s Fool (2016) and revisits ground familiar
to fans of his academic satire, Straight Man
(1998), and the poignant
Bridge of Sighs (2008). In do-
ing so, he probes the tender
egos and fractured psyches
of academics and writers
and ponders the tenuous ties
that bind brother to brother,
father to son, husband to
wife. ;e lopsided world
of the modern university is exposed when a
professor’s confrontation with a plagiarizing
student challenges her own career and marriage
in “Horseman,” while a semiretired professor
is conned into accompanying his brother on
a trip to Venice, where the exotic change of
scene serves only to remind them of failed re-
lationships at home and abroad. A struggling
real-estate agent faces an emotional and physi-
cal crisis in “Intervention,” while an erstwhile
screenwriter navigates Hollywood’s mercurial
egos in “Milton and Marcus.” Getting into the
minds of Russo’s characters, no matter their
background, is a singularly satisfying journey.
Very few writers so thoroughly embrace human
foibles, or present them in such an accepting
and empathic manner. —Carol Haggas
By Jardine Libaire.
May 2017. 320p. Hogarth, $26 (9780451497925).
;e stars are crossed for WASPy Yale student Jamey Hyde, whose family legacies,
good and bad, precede him everywhere
he goes, and Elise Perez, a fatherless, half–
Puerto Rican runaway from the projects,
the unlikely lovers at the heart of Libaire’s
(Here Kitty Kitty, 2004) second novel, set in
1980s New Haven and Manhattan. ;e book
startlingly opens with Elise aiming a gun at
Jamey before immediately hopping back
to the couple’s meeting, 18 months prior,
and speeding through devourable vignettes
within month-by-month chapters. Characters borne of emphatically di;erent worlds,
Jamey and Elise feel at ;rst a bit wooden and
stereotyped; what emerges as the novel’s main
and best aspect is their no-questions-asked,
no-explanation-needed love for one another.
;eir connection is primal, sexually charged,
and, for Jamie, confusing, before becoming
tender and deep. ;e 1980s patois and slang
may grow old for some readers. Still, that setting is viscerally exposed and uniquely gritty,
and Libaire’s meaty, brazen, Ferrari-fast sentences prop it up well. —Annie Bostrom
Woman No. 17.
By Edan Lepucki.
May 2017. 320p. Hogarth, $26 (9781101904251).
Lepucki’s ;rst novel, California (2014), a
postapocalyptic adventure, landed on best-seller lists. Her second is an acidly inquisitive
domestic drama set in the Hollywood Hills
and anchored to depthless questions of identity, family, and art. Lady has ousted her
producer-husband and brought in aspiring
artist S. as a nanny for her peppy toddler
son, Devin. Seth, her teenage son from her
brief, disastrous ;rst marriage, cannot speak,
a mysterious a;iction about which Lady is
supposed to be writing a memoir. S. has embarked on a covert, psychologically risky work
of performance art. ;e novel’s title refers to a
starkly revealing photograph of Lady taken by
her husband’s twin sister, an artist S. reveres.
Psychically bruised by their twisted relationships with their mothers, Lady and S. forge
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