Coventry by Rachel Cusk
Coventry (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27) proves my long-held suspicion that the essay is the ideal vehicle for the glittering, merciless omniscience of Rachel Cusk. You never know where Cusk will lead you in her novels, and her essays are no different; thank god it’s possible to hold your breath for the couple of minutes it takes to read one. In her revolutionary Outline trilogy Cusk immersed the reader in the dialogue and stories of the characters that Faye, the protagonist, interacted with in her journeys. But in the tight coil of Cusk’s essays there is no escape into other characters, and as a reader, I was ecstatic to stay in her company for once. The strongest pieces excavate her personal life, and her tone, though never sentimental, is ferociously protective of what she considers valuable. Her essay on raising teenagers, “Lions on Leashes,” is one of her best, Cusk at her most Cuskian; vulnerable, dry, unrelenting and singular.