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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Monday, March 7, 2016

The overlooked and the forsaken - Atticus Lish's incredibly sad novel

Such a sad novel - truly one of the best-written novels I've read in years, but I recommend it with caution as there is little about it that is uplifting or encouraging, it's about as dark as they come, from the opening section right down to the bitter and dramatic conclusion (I won't give anything away, but I think readers who start Atticus Lish's Preparation for the Next Life will have a pretty good sense of where this novel is headed). A few notes in conclusion: I have posted on the difficulty in seeing what draws these characters, Skinner and Zou Lei, together, particularly why she is so devoted to him, with his overwhelming problems and his occasional cruelty and violence toward her - but of course as you read along and look back you can see that these are two very lonely and needy people. They are both marginalized, the typical outsiders of much American fiction, and they are both "below the radar," - she's one of millions of struggling immigrants, working endless hours at cash-only service jobs, and it seems that she has no friends, meets few people, can trust almost no one - with the exception of Skinner. In a perfect world, she could do better - but in this world she is the detritus of society, and Skinner alone treats her as a woman and as a friend. By the time I finished, I kept thinking about how people like these two - an "illegal" immigrant and a suffering war veteran - are everywhere, where we eat and shop, at thousands of highway intersections - and we just ignore them, look through them - and these are the people whom so many of our politicians either rail against (build a wall, send 'em home) or pay lip service to (our brave soldiers!) without doing a damn thing to help. Sure, let's have less government, let everyone fend for himself (herself), and lower taxes for corporations (they're people, too, after all) and less regulation - and see where they gets us, or them. An incredible book, hard to read and hard not to read, about the overlooked and forsaken Americans.

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