Nobody Is Ever Missing: A Novel

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June Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month)

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We wouldn’t dream of abandoning our vast semi–annual Most Anticipated Book Previews, but we thought a monthly reminder would be helpful (and give us a chance to note titles we missed the first time around).  Here’s what we’re looking out for this month. Stay tuned for next month’s huge Second-Half Preview, and let us know what you’re looking forward to in the comments.

Hunger by Roxane Gay: A few years ago, Gay wrote Tumblr posts on cooking and her complex relationship with food that were honest yet meditative. It was on the cusp of her breakthrough essay collection Bad Feminist. Now she may be a household name, but her second nonfiction book delves into the long-running topic of the role food plays in her family, societal, and personal outlook with the same candor and empathy. (Tess M.)

The Changeling by Victor LaValle: A book that somehow manages to be a fairy tale, an agonizing parenting story, a wrenching metaphor for America’s foundational racist ills, and a gripping page-turner to usher in the summer. It’s got internet trolls, forest trolls, intergenerational evil, a magical island commune of traumatized warrior women, and antiquarian book dealers. Read it. (Lydia)

The Accomplished Guest by Ann Beattie: 1976 was a good year for Beattie: she published her first story collection, Distortions, as well as her debut novel, Chilly Scenes of Winter. Forty years and roughly 20 books later, Beattie has a new collection of stories, closely following last year’s The State We’re In, linked stories set in Maine. One defining trait of Beattie’s short fiction is her fondness for quirks: “However well you write, you can become your own worst enemy by shaping it so highly that the reader can relate to it only on its own terms. Whereas if you have some little oddities of everyday life that aren’t there to be cracked, it seems to me that people can identify with it.” (Nick R.)

So Much Blue by Percival Everett: In Everett’s 30th book, an artist toils away in solitude, painting what may be his masterpiece. Alone in his workspace, secluded from his children, best friend, and wife, the artist recalls memories of past affairs, past adventures, and all he’s sacrificed for his craft. (Nick M.)

The Last Kid Left by Rosecrans Baldwin: The Morning News cofounder and author of Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down returns with a murder mystery/romance/coming-of-age story set in New Hampshire. (Lydia)

The Answers by Catherine Lacey: Granta Young American and author of Nobody is Ever Missing delivers her second novel to just about the best review one could hope for, from Dwight Garner, who says Lacey is “the real thing” and now “takes full command of her powers.” A somewhat dystopian social novel about “the neurobiology of love,” The Answers follows a woman who signs up to be part of a sinister scientific “income-generating experience.” (Lydia)

The Windfall by Diksha Basu: A class commentary cum comedy of manners about a middle-aged, middle-class Indian family’s dizzying rise to nouveau riche status following the sale of a website. Karan Mahajan says Basu’s debut “has a gentleness that belies its furious subject: money.” (Lydia)

Blind Spot by Teju Cole: A strange, sumptuous collection of text and images by the virtuoso essayist, novelist, and photo critic. Kirkus calls it a “cerebral and very beautiful journey.” (Lydia)

Dear Cyborgs by Eugene Lim: Lim has long been publisher of the small, avant-garde Ellipsis Press, whose authors, including Joanna Ruocco, Evelyn Hampton, Jeremy M. Davies, and Lim himself, are remarkable for their unique voices, their attention to language and experimentation. Together they make a significant if lesser-known body of work. Dear Cyborg, Lim’s third novel, will be his first with a major press (FSG). Tobias Carroll has said, “Lim’s novels tread the line between the hypnotically familiar and the surreptitiously terrifying.” With comparisons to Tom McCarthy and Valeria Luiselli and praise from Gary Lutz and Renee Gladman, Lim’s work is worth seeking out. (Anne)

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal: A ne’er-do-well law school dropout and bartender signs up to teach a writing course for her west London Sikh Community Association. While a local morality police lurks, she leads a workshop on erotic storytelling for a group of the titular Punjabi widows, discovering the many currents that shape women’s lives. (Lydia)

The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro: In this follow-up to Cutting Teeth, about a zeitgeisty group portrait of Brooklyn hipster moms, Fierro turns back the clock to the summer of 1992 when a plague of gypsy moths infests Avalon, an islet off the coast of Long Island, setting in motion a complex tale of interracial love, class conflict, and possible industrial poisoning at the local aircraft factory. Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year, says Fierro, director of Brooklyn’s Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, has written “a novel to slowly savor, settling in with her characters as you would old friends.” (Michael B.)

The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton: A debut novel about the Egyptian revolution from filmmaker and activist Hamilton, who has written about the events of Tahrir square for The Guardian and elsewhere.  (Lydia)

Whiting Award Recipients 2016

This year’s Whiting Award winners have been announced. The award recognizes “ten emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry, and are based on the criteria of early-career achievement and the promise of superior work to come.” The winners include Catherine Lacey (of Nobody Is Ever Missing); Alice Sola Kim (of Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters Because They Are Terrifying); and Ocean Vuong (of Night Sky with Exit Wounds, among other books).

A Year in Reading: Rachel Cantor

I divide this year’s shortlist into three categories: Tales Well Told, Fun Stuff, and Miracles of Voice.

Tales Well Told includes books with stories that captivated. In some cases I wasn’t sure why I liked the book, but I just wanted to keep reading. More, more! These were the books I left parties early to go home to read (or for which, more likely, I skipped the party), the ones that might have caused me to miss my subway stop had I read them on the subway, but I usually didn’t because I had already read them through the night before. Gripping stories, unexpected turns of plot, I have to know what happens next! More, more, more! Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, which I picked up having been entranced by her reading at last year’s Brooklyn Book Festival; Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, every bit as wonderful as Wolf Hall; two impressive and chilling debut novels: The Kept by James Scott and Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You; Robin Black’s Life Drawing, which I read in one sitting; Elizabeth Kadetsky’s transporting The Poison that Purifies You; Jay Cantor’s Forgiving the Angel: Four Stories for Franz Kafka, hand-sold to me by a very smart bookseller; and Richard Yates’s The Easter Parade, recommended to me by some wise person on Facebook when I said I was looking for something sad — what that man does with dialogue!

I tend to read a lot of Fun Stuff — by which I mean lively work that makes me laugh, enjoyable books, playful books, entertaining and absurd books. Among the best I read this year were Steve Stern’s The Frozen Rabbi; Jeremy Bushnell’s The Weirdness; Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life; and the brilliant, moving, and otherwise-perfect-in-every-way How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe by Charles Yu.

The largest group of loved books this year and probably every year are Miracles of Voice, almost all of which, perhaps because of their eccentricities, are small press books: Alissa Nutting’s riveting collection Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls; Lore Segal’s witty and sad Half the Kingdom; Jeff Jackson’s startling Mira Corpora; Submergence, J.M. Ledgard’s gorgeous tour de force; Catherine Lacey’s stunning Nobody Is Ever Missing; Kevin Barry’s captivating City of Bohane; and, perhaps above all, Patrick McCabe’s heartbreaking The Butcher Boy, the voice of which stayed in my head for many inconvenient days when I was trying to write my own original pages.

More from A Year in Reading 2014

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

The good stuff: The Millions’ Notable articles

The motherlode: The Millions’ Books and Reviews

Like what you see? Learn about 5 insanely easy ways to Support The Millions, and follow The Millions on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr.

A Year in Reading: Michele Filgate

It’s no surprise that I’m drawn to books about loneliness and solitude.  I did write an essay for The Rumpus, after all, about being a melancholic person. This year was no exception. There are certain novels, essays, or poems that have made me realize this utmost truth: I am not alone in my loneliness. So many people are just trying to be heard and seen, and so much of great literature is centered around this strange and vast world we live in where we often need help finding ourselves. I look for books in which I can relate to the longings of others; a fictional or nonfictional universe that the writer creates where the beauty of existence is in our ability to articulate it in all of its complexities.

Catherine Lacey’s Nobody is Ever Missing offered a particularly powerful reading experience. Lacey writes about a woman named Elyria who leaves her New York City life behind (including her husband) in order to go to New Zealand. She has no concrete plans, really, and the uncertainty that follows her from her home country to a foreign one becomes a way in which to explore the anxiety of the human condition. Who are we, really, if not foreigners in our own bodies — trying to become some version of our selves that we can understand?
We’re all twins and clones and remakes of each other; we’re all pairs unpaired; we’re all speaking the same repeated syllable at each other and why is it that I have to go running off into a twinless solitude? What is inside this solitude but me, saying the same syllable to myself over and over and over, trying to make sense of it, trying to rearrange it.
I read this book in July, right after moving in with my boyfriend. Something held me back from leaving my windowless bedroom I had lived in for 2.5 years (we called it “the book cave”) — and yes, it was mostly the vast quantity of books. For the longest time, literature has been my identity. Who am I without other peoples words? I was existing in my “twinless solitude,” telling myself again and again that I was nothing without my personal library. I was building a fortress of books; shielding myself from the outside world. It wasn’t until my boyfriend gently reminded me (for the seventh or eighth time) that I couldn’t fit all of my books into our shared apartment that I decided it was time to winnow down the collection from 3,000 to a more reasonable number: 1,000. It wasn’t easy, at first, to select which ones would go in the giveaway pile. How could I possibly part with books I hadn’t even read yet? Maybe those would hold the answer to questions I didn’t even know I had. But as I pulled a couple of books off of the overflowing shelves, it became easier. I was freeing myself up, “rearranging” myself, making room for the books I really wanted to read.

I thought, foolishly enough, that my stubbornness and my willingness to self-identify over and over again as the kind of person who would hoard as many books as possible meant that I was special and even charming in some semi-romantic way. I questioned who I was without 1,500 unread books in my home. Who would I be without being myself?

But I am still myself, uncertainties and all. I’ve accumulated more books, and given away others. I read and I write notes in the margins and I know I’ll always be the type of person to interact with text like I’m having a conversation with it. But I don’t know where those conversations will always lead me.

Elyria is a patron saint of uncertainty; a woman who rips herself out of the straight form of her life and analyzes the zigzag shapes of identity around her and inside her. Reading this book right after reassessing my life and the things I had accumulated reminded me of why I spend most of my waking life reading or thinking about words. I like sentences that attempt to “make sense of it;” prose that exposes our deceptively solitary hearts as something more universal.

Another book worth checking out: Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey — a dark and atmospheric examination of female friendship, betrayal, and love. There are even Proustian moments in the book:
There is freedom there; there is always freedom in the past. The self you left behind lives in endless possibility. The older you get, the bigger and wilder the past becomes, a place that can never again be tended and which is therefore prone to that loveliness that happens on wastelands and wildernesses, where grass has grown over scrap metal and wheat has sprung up in cracks between concrete and there is no regular shape for the light to fall flat on, so it vaults and multiplies and you want to go there. You want to go there like you want to go to a lover.
More from A Year in Reading 2014

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

The good stuff: The Millions’ Notable articles

The motherlode: The Millions’ Books and Reviews

Like what you see? Learn about 5 insanely easy ways to Support The Millions, and follow The Millions on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr.

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