March 15, 2017 Booklist 19 www.booklistonline.com
“On This Day You Are All Your Ages”), and
across time, from the 1970s to the present.
At times he echoes the fiction of Canada’s
Craig Davidson, especially the boxing theme
of “Calcheck and Priest,” but his stories are
less pessimistic. Driscoll explores the effects of
Vietnam and Iraq, fathers abandoning their
children, the desperation and pride of financial hardship, and the aftershocks of violence,
as in “The Alchemist’s Apprentice,” which
is told by Rollo, whose mother was burned
and disfigured by a former lover. But Driscoll
never concludes with such scenes; he always
allows his characters to regroup and seek solutions. Moving across place and memory, these
stories are technically dazzling and deeply
affecting accounts of precarious lives in a
unique environment. —Alexander Moran
The Golden Legend.
By Nadeem Aslam.
Apr. 2017. 336p. Knopf, $26.95 (9780451493781).
The Pakistan of memory, with its relative
tolerance, collides with the harsh realities of
modern Pakistan in Aslam’s ( The Blind Man’s
Garden, 2013) aching lamentation. Massud
and Narghis are husband-and-wife architects
and guardians of a treasured library. But when
Massud is killed in an altercation involving an
American spy, a Pakistani intelligence officer
turns ruthless in his insistence that Narghis
publicly forgive the attacker. Meanwhile,
Narghis’ adopted daughter, Helen, a journalist who was born Christian but pretends to
be Muslim, falls in love with Imran, a Kashmiri gone AWOL from a terrorist training
camp. Together they shelter in the remains
of an island mosque that the architects, in a
moment of idealism, had designed to bring
rival sects together in ecumenical worship.
But even there, they cannot find sanctuary.
The plot pivots on acts of cruelty and political violence, but the moments in between
are wistful, languid, and suffused with longing for a gentler time. Carefully constructed
and thoughtful, this is, one senses, a highly
personal work for Aslam, whose family was
forced to leave Pakistan. —Brendan Driscoll
By Lisa Ko.
May 2017. 352p. Algonquin, $25.95 (9781616206888).
When Deming is 11, his Chinese American
mother vanishes, leaving him with a surrogate
family that, no longer able to provide for him,
places him with foster parents, two academics
who move Deming from New York City to up-
state New York and subsequently adopt him.
Flash-forward 10 years. Now 21, aimless Dem-
ing has flunked out of college, more interested
in his music than his studies but always won-
dering about his mother. How could she have
left him? Where is she? Then, after all these
years, he learns she has returned to China, and,
securing her phone number, he calls her. The
action then shifts from his point of view to the
first-person voice of his absent mother, telling
her side of the story. Will son and mother be
reunited? Though obviously skillfully writ-
ten—it’s a winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize
for Socially Engaged Fiction— the book can
sometimes be difficult to read, thanks to its
bleak subject matter, which, nevertheless, is
reflective of today’s reality. Those who are in-
terested in closely observed, character-driven
fiction will want to leave room for The Leavers
on their shelves. —Michael Cart
A Line Made by Walking.
By Sara Baume.
Apr. 2017. 352p. Harcourt, $25 (9780544716957).
Frankie is an artist in her midtwenties with
depressive tendencies and a generally aimless
outlook on the world. She decides to move
into her late grandmother’s cottage to keep
an eye on the house, get some fresh air, and
hunt for artistic inspiration
while the cottage waits for
a buyer. Frankie does a few
chores and whizzes around
the countryside on a refur-
bished bicycle, generally lost
in her own thoughts. Her
latest photography project
might not win any awards,
but it allows her to view the world around her
in new and complex ways. Frankie knows that
staying at the cottage won’t fix everything, but
it might inspire her to start fixing things for
herself. Author Baume is an Irish native with
a blissfully poetic voice perfectly suited to the
novel’s pastoral setting. Referencing works of
art ranging from paint-daubed Impression-
ists to experimental performance pieces, she
helpfully includes an index of cited works.
Baume’s second novel is a study in contrasts:
high art against natural beauty, a mechani-
cal turbine against the rustic Irish landscape,
inner turmoil against outward appearances.
Fans of Colum McCann and Richard Russo
will adore this masterful and meditative novel
that doesn’t emphasize plot over atmosphere.
By Barbara Gowdy.
May 2017. 304p. Tin House, $19.95 (9781941040607).
Rose Bowan leads a small life running her
family’s theater, caring for the mother that
she is heartbreakingly losing to dementia
and dating a man she doesn’t love. Then the
episodes begin. Triggered by thunderstorms,
Rose begins entering the body of Harriet
Smith, an editor who appears to work in
the same city. Each episode gives Rose a no-
holds-barred glimpse into some of the most
poignant moments of Smith’s life, starting
with her affair with a married man and the
resulting pregnancy. Harriet reminds Rose of
her sister, Ava, who died in childhood, and
Rose finds herself taking an intense interest
in her. Determined to see if Harriet exists
outside the episodes, Rose begins a quest to
help Harriet, while inadvertently redefining
herself. Gowdy (The Romantic, 2003) pres-
ents a promising premise and knows her way
around dialogue and characters. However,
the plot leaves something to be desired, with
odd little twists and an ending that gives the
impression of a missing final chapter. Over-
all, an intriguing concept but one that doesn’t
play out quite right. —Stacy Shaw
Living in the Weather of the World.
By Richard Bausch.
Apr. 2017. 256p. Knopf, $25.95 (9780451494825).
Bausch is well versed in the wildly divergent
weather of our psyches. The author of a dozen
novels, including Before, During, After (2014),
he presents his latest reports on the climate of
emotions in his ninth book of short stories, a
galvanizing collection charting the chill and
heat, storms and droughts of marriage and
family life. When a long-divorced real-estate
agent finally tries online dating, the man she
meets for dinner can’t stop crying about his
dead wife. A cheating husband dies in the act.
After her rude and miserable sister-in-law destroys her honeymoon, a woman finds grim
amusement in a sign that from a certain angle
reads, “Hotel Macabre.” A man caught in the
rain on his way to what will be a surprisingly
revealing encounter with his nearly unknown
half-sister thinks, “this was life in the world:
getting yourself drenched even with an umbrella.” With extraordinary gifts for quickly
establishing intricately complex and affecting
personalities, creating authentically spiky and
sputtering dialogue, and tracking the bruising
collisions of volatile and failing relationships,
Bausch is a profoundly clarifying meteorolo-gist of the soul. —Donna Seaman
By Paul Theroux.
May 2017. 560p. HMH, $28 (9780618839322).
In this novel-cum-memoir—the details of
narrator JP’s life align so closely with the author’s that fans will find it impossible to read
this purely as fiction—Theroux depicts a late-career writer who has returned home to Cape
Cod, where the siblings in his large family live
in thrall to the Machiavellian manipulations
of their aging mother. They feud, fight over
money, and grow old while becoming weirdly
infantilized as Mother, though brittle and ossified, remains stronger than them all. This
is occasionally repetitive, and some readers
may wish for greater understanding of what
made Mother who she was, but it’s as intense
and searing a portrait of mother-as-monster
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is a remarkable debut about a
singular woman. Readers will cheer Eleanor as she confronts her dark
past and turns to a brighter future. Feel good without feeling smarmy.
—Bridget Thoreson, on Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine