Skip to main content

Cities I've Never Lived In

By Sara Majka, Graywolf, 192 pages, $18.50

In a living organism every element has multiple functions, such that describing each element as separate from the others in a sense obscures it. Words are alive or dead only metaphorically, but fiction that seems alive shares this characteristic with living things. In living fiction, character is also structure is also style is also setting is also theme. Cities I've Never Lived In lives in this way. The word I returned to while reading these interconnected stories was "drift": the narrator, a recent divorcée, is emotionally unmoored; the stories are about people moving without destination, though mostly they stay around Portland, Me., or somewhere else by the water. But the main drift is structural. Sentences, paragraphs, stories drift seemingly without trajectory, but on analysis this is by design. It makes for uncertain reading that allows for brushes with the uncanny and a larger story about attempts to restore a shattered life.

Story continues below advertisement

Shelter

By Jung Yun, Picador, 336 pages, $29.99

On the cusp of Kyung and his wife Gillian renting out their house to pay off their debts, Gillian spots out their back window a naked woman who appears to be Kyung's mother. While we later learn his parents suffered a traumatic home invasion, in his rush to help, Kyung translates his mother's Korean as "Your father hurt me" – words that set off a series of painful memories and a chain of unforeseeable tragic events. Shelter is a novel that's difficult to categorize. It's an immigrant story – about a 36-year-old Korean-American man trying to make space for his mixed-race family – but also an abuse one; which aspect takes precedence is likely a matter of perspective. In other hands, this material could fall apart or lose steam, but Jung Yun keeps it together through pitch-perfect but flawed narrator Kyung and a high-tension storyline. Such a thoughtful, emotional literary work is an unexpected page-turner.

Girl Through Glass

By Sari Wilson, Harper, 304 pages, $23.33

Summer, 1977: New York is burning. Within the dirt, the dark, the hardness of the city are bubbles of light and delicate things – ribbon and tulle – but this is a world of only seeming softness, because the girls of the city's ballet schools have muscles, and resolve, of steel. Mira is only 11, but she is fast becoming one such girl when she enters the spotlight, and with it the gaze of a man four times her age. Jump to the present: Kate is a visiting professor of dance history at a Midwestern university. Having spent an anxious number of years as an itinerant teacher, she's quick to apply when a permanent position comes up. Then she makes a disastrous mistake. Often in novels that weave past and present, the present drags, but not so here. A dramatic, evocative novel about a girl under glass and a woman breaking through.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter