If you’re a fan of magical realism, fairy tales, or complicated love stories, this is the story for you. The narrative focuses on Pavla, a girl born a dwarf to peasant parents at the beginning of the 1900’s, and weaves in stories of the people who have known and loved her (often despite themselves). The story weaves ideas about superstition, magic, and the human capacity to commit and receive brutality into an allegorical narrative about transformation and strength. Historical clues throughout the text help the reader to contextualize Pavla’s shifting, sometimes illusive story.
Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You is a brutal psychological portrait of a family at a crisis point. Set primarily in small-town Ohio in the 1970’s, it tells the story of professor James Lee, a first-generation Chinese-American who wants nothing more than to blend in; Marilyn, his pretty blond wife who once dreamed of becoming a doctor; and their children. The narrative circles the untimely death of their middle child, Lydia, deftly discussing the impact that race, gender, and thwarted aspirations can have on the emotional well-being of individual people. Combined with delving into the extraordinary tensions that arise when too much goes unsaid, Everything I Never Told You is a haunting and ultimately redemptive tale.
Louisa Hall’s timely novel, Speak, is Isaac Asimov for the Siri/Alexa/self-driving car generation. With seven core narrative voices–a puritan girl named Mary, a epistolic Alan Turing dreaming of computers that think, a computer programmer-turned-activist who created a conversation bot, an incarcerated AI developer, a girl paralyzed by her inability to connect to humans, and a doll-like robot on the brink of demise–Hall ruminates on questions about what it means to be human in an age of computers, the malleability of memory, and the difficulty of using language as a tool of connection. Artfully written, it appeals even to readers who are not particularly interested in the ethical quandaries about artificial intelligence.
Marina reads and writes about poetry and nonfiction. When not staffing the reference desk, she is making terrible jokes, cooking, gardening, or riding her bicycle. If you have a suggestion for something that should be included in a future blog post, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.