In 1917, the poet and decorated soldier Siegfried Sassoon made a public declaration urging the British government to end WWI, saying, "I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolonging those sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust." In response, his superiors declared him mentally unfit and sent him to a psychiatric hospital. In Barker's brilliant reimagining of the event, Sassoon meets with the compassionate Dr. Rivers, and the two men try to discover what it means to be "sane" in a time of war.
in just 200 pages, van den Berg accomplishes something few novelists have managed: she captures the surreal feeling of a post-pandemic world as it emerges politically, socially, and physically. With the sharpness of a fever dream, this book works like an ax, each chop leaving the narrator more isolated as she faces her past, her family, unsettling new technologies, and Florida. In the immediate wake of the pandemic we follow her attempts to make sense of an increasingly senseless world: her neighbors knife each other's trucks, sinkholes appear overnight, her sister is obsessed with a creepy virtual reality meditation, and the governor is… the governor of Florida. Van den Berg's speculations have the ring of truth and they tell us much about the world we live in now; her beautiful writing is mesmerizing as the scales of a submerged reptile--one that took a bite out of me.
If you suffer from parenting your parents, this book is for you. Following Bridget--who has a man-child father and an overbearing mother--Riley writes with a wit that lets the prose fairly float, even as she creates scenes that make readers feel they are right there when, for instance, Bridget's father explains why his marriage to her mother had to end. The book will make you want to jump into the pages and tell Bridget, “Don’t worry--my parents are just as bad.”