The City & The City is billed as a fantasy novel, but, once read, there is no inherent reason to believe these are other than two wholly real cities pieced and parceled out in strips—often even with citizens walking along the same roads and sidewalks, studiously not noticing one
Violence is rationalized, often via the expectation of sympathy and understanding from the very people who are most harmed by it.
In the Japan of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, hard-working Korean people are barred from decent jobs, safe housing, and access to protection from crime, forcing characters down non-ideal paths. Lee’s message seems to be that such paths can become honorable.
“To them, we were complete aliens.” So begins the first attempt by the unnamed protagonist of Kenzaburo Oe’s Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids to define himself and his fellow reformatory boys in wartime Japan. His last attempt is this: “I was only a child, tired, insanely angry, tearful,
In The Vegetarian, a collection of three linked novellas, author Han Kang creates and then protects an open moral space between Yeong-hye’s sudden conversion to vegetarianism and her family’s perception of it.
In a book that promises by its very title and opening lines that many characters will be expected to die, the author has to do some coaxing to convince readers that they can invest emotionally in the story.
Garth Greenwell’s debut novel What Belongs to You is a beautiful and heartbreaking meditation on how we learn to fill the emotional space between ourselves and others.
Louise Erdrich’s most recent triptych of novels—The Plague of Doves (2008), The Round House (2012), and LaRose (2016)—all feature children more prominently than adults. Children are confronted with a many-layered moral question that their experiences over the course of the novel will help them to process.
Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, about the nuclear reactor meltdown at Chernobyl on April 26, 1986, opens with Lyudmilla Ignatenko, whose husband Vasily was one of the first firefighters to respond to the scene.