Brood, by Jackie Polzin

Staff Pick

“Brood” has many meanings—from the hopeful act of nesting to the melancholy of dwelling on unhappiness—and Polzin’s accomplished first novel partakes of all of them. In short, vivid  sections with the intimacy of journal entries, the unnamed narrator takes us through the events of a Minnesota year in a town cursed by “a failure to reach potential,” where she waits for news about her husband’s academic appointment, cleans houses, copes with weather, and cares for four chickens. The descriptions of the hens’ daily routines, laying habits, pecking order, appearances, and sad demises are meticulously detailed and lovely: feed in a chute rattles “the small cage that is a chicken” and its comb is a bit of “lobed flesh from outer space [in] an ordinary red.” When, a third of the way in, Polzin’s narrator describes her devastating miscarriage, all the references to eggs and motherhood acquire a sharp emotional resonance, one all the more powerful for the few direct references to it. As she struggles to come to terms with what she can’t understand—both in herself and the birds—the protagonist renders her world in unforgettable images; from “the corner shop, which is always changing hands but never changing,” to uprooted trees that “float up from the ground and dance a tarantella,” Polzin’s language shimmers with beauty and wisdom; like the miracle of sun and nutrients that is a hen’s egg, her prose “appears to glow because it glows.”

 

Brood: A Novel Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9780385546751
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Doubleday - March 9th, 2021

Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Staff Pick

A fable/cautionary tale for the future of our life with technology, Ishiguro’s thought-provoking novel is narrated by Klara, a robot—whose name signals both lucid rationality and, in its spelling, Kafkaesque unreason. An Artificial Friend (AF), Klara and her ilk are designed to save young people from a loneliness that’s become so endemic even the AFs feel it. To fulfill her duties, Klara strives to understand as much as possible about human behavior. But for all her acute observations of her human family and its circle, the “rules” she seeks to learn are elusive—and shifting. Love, hope, commitment, faith—the timeless mysteries that have defined humans—are under increasing pressure from a world where success demands “genetic editing,” regardless of the risks, and, in Ishiguro’s most chilling vision, where robots can “continue” the lives of the deceased. If there’s really no “human heart”—nothing “that makes each of us special and individual”—what does it mean to be human? Ishiguro leaves it for readers to ponder. 

Klara and the Sun: A novel Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780593318171
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Knopf - March 2nd, 2021

Life Among the Terranauts, by CAitlin Horrocks

Staff Pick

Horrocks bookends her masterful second collection of stories with contrasting visions of what a new kind of life on earth could be. In the first, “The Sleep,” a few families start hibernating to get through the difficult winters, entrusting their property and well-being to their waking neighbors. Rather than divide the community, the plan, built on mutual respect, builds unity. In the title story, however, the six pioneers of NovaTerra—an experimental project reminiscent of Biosphere 2—struggle to stay alive as crops fail and animals die; eventually, they turn on each other. Between these two poles, Horrocks vividly evokes ordinary life in places ranging from the Midwest to Prague to a Cuzco tourist resort. Writing with empathy and prose studded with striking, dynamic images (behind a ramshackle farmhouse “old acreage spread out…like a taunt”), she takes us inside the mind of an elderly widow falling into dementia, follows a young gay woman hoping to find a model for her own life in her grandmother’s, and charts a middle-aged man’s flailing efforts to build a new life in a foreign city. Throughout, Horrocks excels in rich portraits of both individuals and the larger communities they’re part of—however unsure these characters may be of their roles.

Life Among the Terranauts Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780316316972
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Little, Brown and Company - January 12th, 2021

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