Sarah Fay

  • culture July 09, 2009

    Night Navigation by Ginnah Howard

    Ginnah Howard’s first novel opens on a cold March night in upstate New York with a woman and her 37-year-old son en route to a detox facility. Del is an anxious person who would prefer not to drive, a “worry-bird,” as her son, Mark, says, “120 pounds of nervous coming at you.” In her rush to get to the hospital on time, she misses the exit to the Thruway and ends up on icy Route 5. When Mark takes over the driving, Del suddenly feels the car slide off the road, “but no impact, no impact,” and “for a few seconds they sit and are grateful.” This is the only moment Del and Mark will be at rest.

  • Men of Steel

    Philipp Meyer’s debut novel, American Rust, is set amid the decaying industrial landscape of Mon Valley, Pennsylvania. The fictional town of Buell, once dependent on a steel mill that now stands “like some ancient ruin,” is home to retirees and the young: those who have no choice but to stay and those who haven’t mustered the courage to leave. The story focuses on two of the town’s marooned youth: Isaac English, a skinny twenty-year-old whiz kid who hopes to study astrophysics at UC Berkeley, and Billy Poe, an ex-high-school-football star proud of having “given the entire town the middle finger”

  • A Manuscript of Ashes by Antonio Muñoz Molina

    A Manuscript of Ashes, Antonio Muñoz Molina’s debut novel (though not his first translated into English), reads as a primer on his work. Published in the author’s native Spain in 1986, it demonstrates his early postmodernist tendencies—particularly a predilection for narratives that shift in time and for shadowy narrators who destabilize the story. It also reveals the moral and philosophical issues that appear in his later novels, including the way in which the present embodies the past.

    Minaya, a university student with literary ambitions, has been detained by the police during the terrors

  • The Life Room, Jill Bialosky’s second novel, reimagines Tolstoy’s societydriven epic, Anna Karenina, as a bildungsroman. Though the plot parallels the sordid events surrounding the affair between the troubled Anna and the dashing Count Vronsky, the best moments in Bialosky’s book concern the interior life of Eleanor Cahn, a literature professor, wife, and mother in her late thirties who has yet to grow up. Her existence may seem like a privileged mix of office hours, dinner parties, and Central Park playdates, but “her true desires,” Bialosky writes, have remained “locked up in a suitcase.”