A Year in Reading: Emily St. John Mandel


I follow a lot of booksellers on Twitter, and there was a time a few months ago when it seemed impossible to log in without stumbling across effusive praise for Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad. My bookselling friends were right: the book is incredible, and it was startling to me and many others that it wasn’t on the shortlist for the National Book Award. I’d never read Egan before, and I loved the book so much that I felt compelled to start reading her backlist.

coverHer 2001 novel Look at Me ranks easily among the best novels I’ve ever read. The book opens with a narrow focus: an aging model named Charlotte has been rendered unrecognizable by facial reconstruction surgery following a devastating car accident. She returns to Manhattan following her convalescence and finds herself unmoored, a ghost in her former life. The novel telescopes outward, weaving together the storylines of a wide cast of characters—an unstable scholar; Charlotte’s childhood friend Ellen, now a suburban mother in the town where they grew up; Ellen’s daughter, a geeky teenager searching for love and acceptance; Ellen’s son, a fragile young cancer survivor; a terrorist with dark dreams of wreaking havoc; an alcoholic private detective—into a brilliant and deeply moving meditation on identity, fame, and love.

More from a Year in Reading 2010

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

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is a staff writer for The Millions. Her most recent novel, Station Eleven, was a 2014 National Book Awards finalist. She is married and lives in Brooklyn. www.emilymandel.com.