Modern Lovers is the story of how people blink and twenty or thirty years have gone by, how people and friendships evolve, how our young selves can feel like alternate reality versions of our current selves, and how people can stay their course for twenty years, look up, and be lost, without knowing who they really are or how they got there. The they in Modern Lovers are three friends, Zoe, Elizabeth, and Andrew, who formed a band in college, and have been connected ever since. The there is Ditmas Park, a Brooklyn neighborhood Straub defines so clearly you can picture every street corner. It is a place where our characters have grown up, and where they find their pasts still lingering. It's a novel of such breezy insight and humanity; the kind of book you read too fast, and the whole time you are saying wait, stop, slow down, never end please.
Homegoing traces two branches of the same family tree: one half in Africa, the other in America, and we follow the descendants of the original sisters through many horrors on both continents, through hundreds of years, through slave ships, tribal war, Jim Crow, and much injustice. It's not easy reading, but feels necessary, as Gyasi's skills as a writer and storyteller introduce us to generation after generation, each character feeling as real in twenty pages as they would in one hundred. What's astonishing about this novel is the whole picture these individuals form by the end: like seeing an entire universe at once, in all its complicated awfulness, beauty, and intricacy.
I read so that every once in a while I'll get to read a book like this: one that stuns and challenges and alters. It's big in scope and length, but often so intimate I forgot everything around me that wasn't these characters. Malcolm, JB, Willem, and Jude, who feel so real I will keep with me for a long time. The novel begins when these four friends move to New York after college and grad school, and explores who they were before they met, and who they become, how they change and are changed by each other. Especially by Jude, whose story is at times terrible, but often transcendent. This novel is unsparing and achingly moving, and I feel lucky this story has been shared. Also: read with a box of kleenex. It's just so good.
This is the story of Cora and her escape northward from a plantation in Georgia. Her means is the Underground Railroad, a literal underground network of tunnels and rails. Each time she surfaces, Cora finds herself in a different cultural landscape, all strange and dangerous in their own ways. It is a narrative built on true horror, spun into a fascinating but awful dystopic alternate history. Completely brutal, ingenious, and powerful.
I never wanted to stop reading this. The writing, world, and characters felt somehow different from anything else--I kept losing myself. And the book is full of so many moments that make you stop and sigh and think "oh it is just so good."
I love this book. It's a slyly funny novel and will make you think about race in new ways while also reminding you why you love reading novels about love.
Some of these stories are sharp like a razor blade in a cupcake--so cute and sweet until they rip you to shreds. Some are lighter, with observations punchy enough to knock you out. The whole book, though, is zingy and mirthful and made me laugh more than any book I can remember. I loved it.