Reviewed by Jennifer Spiegel
(Spiegel & Grau, 2018)
This debut short story collection is hypnotizing, lovely, and a relief. As a reader, I found myself exhaling slowly, sucking in air comfortably, trusting in Sachdeva’s authorial control.
The stories are original, unusual (Kelly Link is oft mentioned in comparison). There’s weird stuff: women alone on the range or the prairie or wherever that is, struggling with winter and food and underground crystalline worlds; explorers of ancient ruins—part Indiana Jones and part Old Maid Daughter; girls kidnapped from their African villages and made into sex slaves in the name of Allah; a fisherman mesmerized by a shark-loving mermaid; snot glob-like aliens who replace human limbs with forks. Each one is beautifully written.
Here’s a lovely quote in a book of many lovely quotes: “The shark was a solid whip of muscle, carelessly lethal, and his presence transformed the drab green of the northern sea into a place she longed for even though she could not properly recall it. He dove deeper; the water changed from green to gray to nearly black, and eventually the mermaid left him and spiraled away on her own.”
Sachdeva’s imagery was the big draw for me, though her originality is also notable. Anthony Doerr, who wrote his own super beautiful book (All The Light We Cannot See) blurbs that he looks forward to reading her future stuff. I’d definitely second that.
Jennifer Spiegel is the author of three books, The Freak Chronicles (stories), Love Slave (a novel), and And So We Die, Having First Slept (forthcoming from Five Oaks Press). She’s also half of the book-reviewing gig, Snotty Literati.
1st Place Winner for Fiction in the Wordwrite Book Awards 2016
Reviewed by Amalia Cabral
Fomite Press, 2015
A Free, Unsullied Land is a fully-fleshed rendering of a historic period, 1927-1933, a time of Jim Crow racism, a virulent form of panic about communism, Prohibition, and the Great Depression. Kast does not use the period as mere window dressing but instead recreates the uncertainty, fear and rather fraught exploration of the freedoms of the time – like a franker expression of sexuality, experimenting with roles of women, political activism.
The main character, Henriette Greenberg, is a perfect vehicle for channeling the stresses and opportunities of the era. She is a puzzled seeker, a restless and dissatisfied young woman from Oak Park, Illinois finding her way through parlous times. She is a reluctant academic, a confused sexual seeker, an untried political activist. One of the strongest parts of the novel is her naïve journey to Scottsboro to protest the conviction of innocent black men accused of rape, a journey that frightens her more than she’d expected yet at the same time anneals her growing interest in fighting injustice and oppression.
Reviewed by Jennifer Spiegel
Back Bay Books, 2016
I waited till the very end of 2016 to read it, though I picked up the paperback in January (it came out in hardback in 2015). I don’t know why. Nestled on my shelf between must-reads and supposed-to-reads, Delicious Foods remained unread throughout the year: missing the havoc of the election, skipping the annual list-making season in which readers formulate their Top Ten Books of 2016. My own book-reviewing gig, Snotty Literati, made its list. And, well, Delicious Foods is not on it.
It should’ve been. While not necessarily as large in its philosophy or cultural commentary as my 2016 pick for Best Book (which remains my first pick)—Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad—this one was among my favorite novels of the year. Delicious Foods is a great book. It’s an original story with a—dare I say?—suspenseful plot, soulful characters, and amazing language.
Start with the cover. Such a lovely cover. I love that cover.
Review by Jennifer Spiegel
When was the Summer of Love again?
I don’t really know what’s going on with me, but I seem to be hovering in my bookish ways around a certain era. I found myself listening to Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. West Coast hippie-splendor. Some Joan Baez, a little Haight-Ashbury. Right now, I’m into Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which is but one step ahead, but on the East Coast. Andy Warhol, the Chelsea Hotel, punk rock.
I took a fictional reprieve with Emma Cline’s The Girls (published this year), which takes place mostly in Northern California in 1969. After the Summer of Love, we had Charles Manson. Irony, yes? What’s going on there? This debut—Cline’s first novel!—imagines the girls in a Manson-like cult, moving towards murder. Though the cult, with its creepy/sexy leader, is fascinating, Cline’s girls are the real focus. An exploration of girlhood, of females on the brink of being women. Vulnerability on the brink. Continue reading