There are two things that I really loved about this book. First, the narrator's voice is completely unlike any that I've ever read before. She's a sucThere are two things that I really loved about this book. First, the narrator's voice is completely unlike any that I've ever read before. She's a successful writer living in New York City and yet seems to be uncultured, almost like a folk artist. And she seems to lack any close relationships but she expresses strong affection for people she interacts with. It's such a treat to spend time with and inside her head as she tells the story of a time many years ago when she was stuck in the hospital while recovering.
Second, although the book sets up as one of those slender books where there's a significant trauma from the past that will be revealed near the end of the book, the full revelation never happens. There's certainly enough revealed that you're not left hanging but the point of the story is not the trauma so the narrator doesn't retell it, which means the emotional experience is much subtler--and, again, more unusual than that created by most novels. ...more
This novel put me off balance right from the start. Shortly after giving birth to her daughter, a young woman living in Alaska starts to experience stThis novel put me off balance right from the start. Shortly after giving birth to her daughter, a young woman living in Alaska starts to experience strange things that no one around her seems to notice. Are they the effects of a higher power? something supernatural? or is the book some kind of science fiction? All of these and more seem possible as the novel unfolds, and I liked that careening between the possibilities kept me unsettled throughout my reading.
Along the way, the novel gets into questions about the nature of language, and specifically how human language sets us apart from other kinds of life, for better and for worse. None of this material comes across as an academic distraction; instead, it heightens what's at stake for the main character.
David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks provides a great point of comparison. Sweet Lamb is much more compact and focused, but it also lacks the dramatic showdown of Mitchell's novel. It would be exceedingly hard for any single ending to be a fitting conclusion to a novel that has as a chief strength its ability to juggle many different possible explanations for what's happening. So if it doesn't quite stick the landing, Sweet Lamb still does something very unusual and thrilling to read. ...more
Eerie novel made of three tightly linked novelas about the members of Korean family struggling to find their places in the world. The level of depressEerie novel made of three tightly linked novelas about the members of Korean family struggling to find their places in the world. The level of depression here is off the charts, but the novel has some striking imagery, particularly in the hypersexual middle section, in which a video maker tries to find a way to bring an artistic vision to fruition. I didn't love this, but it does dramatizate in a stark way how wanting the best for someone else can get in the way of truly understanding what it is they want for themselves. ...more
Reminded me of Then We Came to the End as a group portrait in which the group emerges clearly and the individuals blur together, although here it's doReminded me of Then We Came to the End as a group portrait in which the group emerges clearly and the individuals blur together, although here it's done in third person rather than first-person plural. The Throwback Special has the imaginative genius to create a fantasy sports league that doesn't draft current-year players to compare their stats but instead every year reenacts a singular moment in sports history. As someone who's been in a fantasy league for more than 20 years and who gets together with his group every few years, this was a missive from a parallel universe that struck me right in the lower leg. It's taut, funny, poignant and unique. ...more