Books We Enjoyed in December
Braised Pork is the debut by 26-year-old Chinese writer An Yu that was acquired in a seven-way auction for six figures. So we expected big things. What we did not expect was this delicate and beguiling and slight novel. It begins when Jia Jia discovers her husband mysteriously dead in a bath one morning and evolves into a psychological odyssey that takes the young widow to Tibet in search of a hybrid fish-man creature. While the plot assumes the surreal, the prose is crisp. The effect is a bizarre and beautiful exploration of myth-making, loss, and a world beyond words. Very reminiscent of The Vegetarian for anyone who loved Han Kang's novel.
Kiley Reid's debut novel is a fast-paced, biting and nuanced examination of race, privilege, careers and parenthood in modern day America. Set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both, the book reads like schematic social satire. Not an altogether perfect novel but a very accessible one, a page-turner even, that illuminates many difficult truths about race, society, and power and does so with a good dose of charm and wit.
We know that a writer experiencing a breakdown and ending up in a psychiatric facility doesn't scream hilarious but in author Binnie Kirshenbaum's care it can be! Her first novel in 10 years, Rabbits for Food begins on New Year’s Eve when Bunny —an acerbic, mordantly witty, and clinically depressed writer— fully unravels. What's so impressive about this book is that the humour does not negate the gravity of the material nor does it trivialise it. Rather it shows Bunny in a raw light and crafts a compassionate portrait of what it's like to struggle to survive. Come for the fierce and funny writing and stay for the astute insights into psychiatry. A modern day, New York based One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.