Doxology
Pam, Daniel, and Joe might be the worst punk band on the Lower East Side. Struggling to scrape together enough cash and musical talent to make it, they are waylaid by surprising arrivals—a daughter for Pam and Daniel, a solo hit single for Joe. As the ‘90s wane, the three friends share in one another’s successes, working together to elevate Joe’s superstardom and raise baby Flora.On September 11, 2001, the city’s unfathomable devastation coincides with a shattering personal loss for the trio. In the aftermath, Flora comes of age, navigating a charged political landscape and discovering a love of the natural world. Joining the ranks of those fighting for ecological conservation, Flora works to bridge the wide gap between powerful strategists and ordinary Americans, becoming entangled ever more intimately with her fellow activists along the way. And when the country faces an astonishing new threat, Flora’s family will have no choice but to look to the past—both to examine wounds that have never healed, and to rediscover strengths they have long forgotten.At once an elegiac takedown of today’s political climate and a touching invocation of humanity’s goodness, Doxology offers daring revelations about America’s past and possible future that could only come from Nell Zink, one of the sharpest novelists of our time.

Doxology Details

TitleDoxology
Author
ReleaseAug 27th, 2019
PublisherEcco
ISBN-139780062877819
Rating
GenreFiction, The United States Of America, New York

Doxology Review

  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    It’s an achievement in itself to write a political/family novel that features strange lo-fi anti-folk nerd bands from lower Manhattan and that I still don’t like: This meandering tale introduces us to an American family where the parents have roots in the musical counterculture, but then flourish in the tech upper middle class, while their millennial daughter tries to help save the environment by becoming a political activist. So yes, Zink apparently tries to reflect society and changing attitud It’s an achievement in itself to write a political/family novel that features strange lo-fi anti-folk nerd bands from lower Manhattan and that I still don’t like: This meandering tale introduces us to an American family where the parents have roots in the musical counterculture, but then flourish in the tech upper middle class, while their millennial daughter tries to help save the environment by becoming a political activist. So yes, Zink apparently tries to reflect society and changing attitudes by describing different generations (including the grandparents) over time, but nevertheless, the book has pretty much nothing to say: If you look for a stringent narrative concept, a message, surprising twists and thoughts or elegant prose, this is not your book. It is very readable and it’s not like I had to force myself to finish it, but the world did not need this novel – sorry, Nell Zink. The main structural element of the book is a cut: 9/11 divides the text in two halves, one focusing on the parents and their friend, weirdo rock star Joe, the other one centering around on Flora, the daughter. We all know by now that I just hate meandering stories, and this is no exception, but what makes it worse is that I did not care for the detached, wordy, overly descriptive storytelling which in large parts consists of character descriptions and boooooring theoretical reflections on current events – listen, I am a PoliSci nerd with an unhealthy news addiction who usually loves to spend whole nights discussing current events, but with their pseudo-critical sermons, Zink’s characters are jumping the shark, even for me. Zink is a member of the German Green Party, which is not comparable to the American Green Party – it is much more influential and important, a real force to be reckoned with. So when her character Flora joins the American Green Party and becomes a campaign staffer for Jill “1 %” Stein, you should expect some fascinating takes that might derive from the author’s personal knowledge of environmental politics, but: Nope. Everything is predictable, and the laments re the two party system and the never-ending beef between the Democrats are the same ones you’ve already read numerous times in case you’ve picked up a newspaper in the last four years. As the protagonists remain flat, there is also no personal angle that might shine a new light on an old story - Zink is no Jonathan Franzen. Whenever a new character appears, Zink gives us some paragraphs with their backstories à la “tell, don’t show” – it’s clumsy, lazy and it upset me quite a bit. So at the core, Zink juxtaposes the generation of the hedonistic 90's with their plaid shirts and ultimately pragmatic approach to the politicized millennials, and the whole thing doesn’t live up to its potential. There is also a cynical streak in this book that I did not enjoy. This is not my kind of writing.
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  • Neil
    January 1, 1970
    The book blurb gives most of the details of what happens in Doxology. Joe, Pam and Daniel meet and form a band, Pam and Daniel have a baby (Flora) and Joe’s music career takes off. We follow the three of them (four when Flora arrives) until 11 September 2001 when tragedy strikes both New York and the trio on the same day. Getting to this point is effectively the first third of the book and is, in truth, much like many of the other novels that track groups of friends living in New York. I feel li The book blurb gives most of the details of what happens in Doxology. Joe, Pam and Daniel meet and form a band, Pam and Daniel have a baby (Flora) and Joe’s music career takes off. We follow the three of them (four when Flora arrives) until 11 September 2001 when tragedy strikes both New York and the trio on the same day. Getting to this point is effectively the first third of the book and is, in truth, much like many of the other novels that track groups of friends living in New York. I feel like I have read a large number of these novels (it’s a great city full of interesting characters, so it is hardly surprising so many authors have set a book there).After 9/11, the focus gradually changes. Flora grows up and we alternate between her story and that of her parents/grandparents, with Flora gradually coming to the fore. Once Flora joins the activists fighting for ecological conservation and/or against Donald Trump, she comes to dominate the story.I think it probably helps to be American (which I am not) when reading this book. Firstly, I found myself (in the UK) having to look up a large number of words that turned out to start their definition by saying “(North American)…”. They were new words for me, but would be perfectly normal, I imagine, for any North American reading the book. The story is also very much embedded in North American culture referencing a lot of trade names etc. that will be very familiar to American readers but less so to those in other countries (I didn’t know what a BoltBus is until I read this book). Finally, once the story turns political as it follows Flora, then a good understanding of American politics would be very useful, especially an awareness of some of the issues raised and people involved during Trump’s ultimately successful campaign. For a non-American reader, some of this becomes a bit confusing. During Flora’s political activity, the story telling takes a bit of a back seat with both narrative and conversational passages making political points. This is the “elegiac takedown of today’s political climate” referred to in the blurb.Reading this book felt very much like a game of two halves. In the first part, the story of friends in New York dominates. This fades in the second part, although not completely, to be dominated by commentary on American politics. There is a lot about green issues and a quite a bit about Trump (or, at least, about people trying to stop him from becoming president).Despite my lack of knowledge of things North American, this was an enjoyable book to read. Zink seems to have a penchant for mathematically impossible descriptions (“exponentially more wonderful”, for example, which I am told is a thing but which I have never personally heard anyone say - and also she at one point says that Joe can play more instruments than Joe, Pam and Daniel can added together, which I guess is for humour but which made my headache for a few minutes), but she also writes in a very readable way. The narratives switches focus from one protagonist to another and the third person narration seems to switch in style subtly to reflect the person whose viewpoint we are currently seeing (and I think this explains some of the slightly unusual narrative phrases that I had to read a few times, such as those above).Overall, an interesting book to read although I am not quite sure how well some of it works outside of the United States.My thanks to 4th Estate and William Collins for an ARC via NetGalley. I will be interested to see what reviews from North Americans have to say when the book is more widely available.
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  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    Nell Zink has proved herself to be one heck of a writer in the past, but I must admit that Doxology, her fourth novel, was not as compelling as I had anticipated. That said, it still very much packs a punch it just isn't as original an idea as her other books. It's really a tale of two halves with the first half detailing Joe, Dan and Pam's lives and the time in which they grew up. The second half focuses on Pam and Dan's daughter Flora and her coming of age in a divided America. Joe, Dan and Pa Nell Zink has proved herself to be one heck of a writer in the past, but I must admit that Doxology, her fourth novel, was not as compelling as I had anticipated. That said, it still very much packs a punch it just isn't as original an idea as her other books. It's really a tale of two halves with the first half detailing Joe, Dan and Pam's lives and the time in which they grew up. The second half focuses on Pam and Dan's daughter Flora and her coming of age in a divided America. Joe, Dan and Pam's family dramas primarily take place in the first section of the novel and then two key events take place - 9/11 and a family tragedy followed by Flora in her formative years and an exploration of current politics, environmental and ecological issues. There is quite a bit of commentary on American politics, popularism (including Trump) and activism.This is another eminently readable, humorous and moving book from Ms Zink which covers the 1990s right through to the 2016 elections. I must admit that I found myself feeling overcome with nostalgia after some of the references to the 90s. However, the constant interruption of the narrative flow by a particular character to highlight a certain political or cultural development from the past decades spoiled the immersion at times. Despite this Zink's prowess is on show as the characterisation is astonishing (the cast felt like friends I had known forever by the end) and the richly evoked sense of time and place was impressive. This is an ambitious novel with, at times, a huge amount going on within its pages, but Zink manages to pull it off with considerable aplomb. Many thanks to Fourth Estate for an ARC.
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  • Maarten Hepp
    January 1, 1970
    Totally loved this book!I felt very connected to Pam, the main character, who is my age and with whom I share quite some (musical) interests, as well as to her daughter Flora.I am strongly recommending this!
  • Sophie
    January 1, 1970
    Στο πρότυπο του The Goldfinch, το μυθιστόρημα της Zink αφορά τη δυναμική μιας οικογένειας-καθρέφτη της αμερικάνικης κοινωνίας, πριν και μετά τα γεγονότα της 9/11, χρησιμοποιώντας τη συγκεκριμένη τραγωδία ως καταλύτη, θεματικά και δομικά· βασική θεματολογία αποτελούν το χάσμα των γενεών, à la manière de Turgenev, και η κοινωνική, πολιτισμική και προσωπική φθορά που συνεπάγεται μιας τέτοιου διαμετρήματος καταστροφής. Η έμφαση, στο δεύτερο κυρίως μέρος του έργου, δίνεται στους σύγχρονους προβληματι Στο πρότυπο του The Goldfinch, το μυθιστόρημα της Zink αφορά τη δυναμική μιας οικογένειας-καθρέφτη της αμερικάνικης κοινωνίας, πριν και μετά τα γεγονότα της 9/11, χρησιμοποιώντας τη συγκεκριμένη τραγωδία ως καταλύτη, θεματικά και δομικά· βασική θεματολογία αποτελούν το χάσμα των γενεών, à la manière de Turgenev, και η κοινωνική, πολιτισμική και προσωπική φθορά που συνεπάγεται μιας τέτοιου διαμετρήματος καταστροφής. Η έμφαση, στο δεύτερο κυρίως μέρος του έργου, δίνεται στους σύγχρονους προβληματισμούς περί της κλιματικής αλλαγής, με την πολιτική της ίδιας της συγγραφέως να παρεισφρέει στο κείμενο και να αντανακλάται στη συμπεριφορά της ηρωίδας.The copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley.
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  • Chris Haak
    January 1, 1970
    I loved Mislaid and Nicotine by Zink, and even though I did like the first half of Doxology, in the second half it all got out of control. There were two different novels in one here really and I definitely preferred the first one (the story of Pam, Daniel and Joe and their music and friendship). The second part had way too many themes (Trump/politics, the environment/climate change, pregnancy/abortion/fatherhood/relationships, rich vs poor) and these were just ticked off (and on with the next.. I loved Mislaid and Nicotine by Zink, and even though I did like the first half of Doxology, in the second half it all got out of control. There were two different novels in one here really and I definitely preferred the first one (the story of Pam, Daniel and Joe and their music and friendship). The second part had way too many themes (Trump/politics, the environment/climate change, pregnancy/abortion/fatherhood/relationships, rich vs poor) and these were just ticked off (and on with the next...) and too superficially dealt with. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with this Zink novel. Thank you Harper Collins and Edelweiss for the ARC.
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  • Chris Roberts
    January 1, 1970
    9/11 isn't a sacred, digit based religion, it's an X on the calendar, an X marks the spot where you died, four Xs in the sky, descending miles high. #poemChris Roberts, God Incontrovertible
  • Matt
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars
  • Vix Standen
    January 1, 1970
    It’s hard to follow a complex family like this over such a huge time span, and their tales were tricky to keep up with at times. But I enjoyed the ride & appreciated being to relate to many current events, such as Trump’s presidency and, further back, 9/11.
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  • miss.mesmerized mesmerized
    January 1, 1970
    New York pre-9/11. Pam, Daniel and Joe lead the life of a more or less successful punk band. They live their dream, not much money coming in, but they can do what they like to. They are happy and luck is on their side when Pam accidentally falls pregnant and Joe has a hit single. Despite his success, Joe spends most of his time with young Flora, his simple but caring mind is the best that could happen to the girl. With the attacks on the World Trade Center, everything changes for this small comm New York pre-9/11. Pam, Daniel and Joe lead the life of a more or less successful punk band. They live their dream, not much money coming in, but they can do what they like to. They are happy and luck is on their side when Pam accidentally falls pregnant and Joe has a hit single. Despite his success, Joe spends most of his time with young Flora, his simple but caring mind is the best that could happen to the girl. With the attacks on the World Trade Center, everything changes for this small community. Daniel brings his family away from the Big Apple to his wife’s parents in Washington where Flora will then grow up. She does not become a dreamer like her parents but is a strong activist for environmental matters and has the strong conviction that things can be changed. Doxology - an expression of praise to God. There are different kinds of god in Nell Zink’s novel who are worshipped. From the punk rock gods who are idolised by their groupies to politicians who promise their voters more than the world to lovers for whom they are ready to give up their ideals. Yet, none of them can fulfil the promises made and at last, the characters have to fend for themselves. I find it especially hard to write a review on the novel since I still don’t know what to think of it. I certainly admire her style of writing, it is lively and witty and her characters are authentic and powerful. However, it is hard to determine what the novel is about and what the author wants to point at. There is the (not so) easy-going time of the 1990s punk rock scene in New York, where life outside the bubble can be ignored. Family strings are cut and the musicians submerge totally in their artistic bath. 9/11 not only ends carefree life in New York but also their punk rock dream and the story shifts to Flora and her growing-up in Washington. In her early 20s, she could hardly be more different from what her parents were at that age. Her focus is totally different – well, she belongs to another generation with other topics. Flora is the product of her grandparents’ and parents’ decisions – and she herself has to make some major choices that will impact her existence. Maybe this is what the book is about after all: life as a chain of decisive moments that lead you in one or the other direction. Quite often there is no actual “right” or “wrong”, much more, the real implications only reveal themselves later. Does it help to ponder about past decisions? No, life goes on and you have to face it anyhow. A wonderfully written family history which is nevertheless not easy to grasp.
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  • Alan
    January 1, 1970
    Nell Zink’s new novel is a multi-generational, time-expansive novel covering the last 40 years or so of American history, music and politics. The first ‘part’ covers the period up to the September 11th attacks, as three friends - Pam, Daniel and Joe - get involved in the music/punk scene in New York and Joe, a simple soul really, somehow contrives to become a music superstar. The second ‘part’ of the book – it’s not really divided as such, but the enormity of the 9/11 events makes it obvious the Nell Zink’s new novel is a multi-generational, time-expansive novel covering the last 40 years or so of American history, music and politics. The first ‘part’ covers the period up to the September 11th attacks, as three friends - Pam, Daniel and Joe - get involved in the music/punk scene in New York and Joe, a simple soul really, somehow contrives to become a music superstar. The second ‘part’ of the book – it’s not really divided as such, but the enormity of the 9/11 events makes it obvious there is a before and after feel to the outlook of the characters – concentrates on Flora, daughter of Pam and Daniel. We see her growing up, going to school and university, then finding her eco conscience and working in politics.It’s almost impossible not to compare this to a writer such as Jonathan Franzen or others in the ‘state of the nation’ school of fiction that is so prevalent nowadays. Maybe it’s a cultural backlash to Trump, or the general crappiness of everything right now; anyway, whilst I thought the book was a reasonable story, it was just so theme-heavy – and not in a subtle way either – that it felt more like a diatribe at times, and less like a novel. There is no attempt to hide a political bias here (towards the end Trump’s presidency is described as ‘America’s inept new administration’), and as readers we are bombarded with concerns about the environment, the financial crisis, racial tensions, and pretty much everything bar the kitchen sink.There are moments of humour, for sure, but the narrative style of the book stopped me from actually caring about the characters. They felt distanced, not entirely natural in the way they behave or talk, and that proved too much for me to actually fully engage with the book. Zink is clearly a good writer, but maybe I’ve just read too many books like this for it felt a little obvious, a little too tub-thumping. A decent read, but not one to blow me away, I’m afraid. 3 stars for the quality of the writing, and the occasional genuinely funny moments.
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  • Pamela
    January 1, 1970
    This is a generational book, that covers the late 1980's to today. Pam is the main focus, for the first part, a young rebellion who leaves her hometown of Washington DC as a senior in high school to do "art" in New York City. Along the way she stumbles into a coding job and two life-long male friends for life. One, Daniel, becomes the father of her child. It's years before she reunites with her parents, but they end up being important . The child Flora becomes the focus of the later part of the This is a generational book, that covers the late 1980's to today. Pam is the main focus, for the first part, a young rebellion who leaves her hometown of Washington DC as a senior in high school to do "art" in New York City. Along the way she stumbles into a coding job and two life-long male friends for life. One, Daniel, becomes the father of her child. It's years before she reunites with her parents, but they end up being important . The child Flora becomes the focus of the later part of the novel.A lot of ideas are pumped into this novel, and symbolism as well. Look at the title of the book; Doxology: a liturgical formula of praise to God. Then you have Daniel's last name of Svoboda which is a political party in the Ukrainian and also means "freedom". Anyway, undertones abound in this book. At first the art project is music, then it shifts and perhaps the daughter is the ultimate project. Yet she doesn't live her life like theirs.There's a lot to like and enjoy in this book, the focus on music then on climate change and resting on politics, particularly the Greens. Yet...I think it's the writing style that gets me, makes me reluctant to wholeheartedly embrace this book. I'm not a fan of the writing style. The sentences are short and clipped, and somehow it reminds me of Neal Stephenson. It feels more like a bunch telling and not much showing. I think there's a lot missing, that could have made it better.Thanks to the publisher Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. I received a free copy of this book at a library conference. I was not required to write a review, but felt like it and, of course, the above opinions are my own.
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  • CC
    January 1, 1970
    Doxology has a lot going on- possibly too much at times. Following a single family across generations is a big job but handled with some degree of skill by the author tying things together with music, politics and world events. Having an interest in all of these subjects I found this book very enjoyable but did feel that it could get bogged down in socio- and political commentaries. Even the family surname, perhaps as a tongue in cheek joke, translates to 'freedom'. As the country and so too the Doxology has a lot going on- possibly too much at times. Following a single family across generations is a big job but handled with some degree of skill by the author tying things together with music, politics and world events. Having an interest in all of these subjects I found this book very enjoyable but did feel that it could get bogged down in socio- and political commentaries. Even the family surname, perhaps as a tongue in cheek joke, translates to 'freedom'. As the country and so too the narrative begins to fracture things do start to buckle under the strain. Flora as an adult character seems more of a thinkpiece than a human being which makes her chapters a bit more frustrating as a reader. Everyone is privileged, witty, white and surprised by how rich they are in a 'Friends' version of New York, Washington and other stops along the way. Despite finding it difficult sometimes to sympathise with very class divided problems I did still feel a kinship with these very flawed people. Zink writes with authority about moments that so many of us will never forget. Disasters like 9/11 and Trump's election night, for example. Fittingly it ends just as it begins, and time marches on.
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  • Julesreads
    January 1, 1970
    Zink’s talent, to me, besides her clear-cut writing chops, is her earnest disillusionment. It opens her up to treating her characters both with genuine care and nuance, and to keep them at arm’s distance as the fictional characters they are. The difference in her various works is in her verve. Her “lesser” novels, such as her previous Nicotine, and now with her newest, Doxology, are simply her less exciting works. There is something missing, despite the entertainment value. Doxology is particula Zink’s talent, to me, besides her clear-cut writing chops, is her earnest disillusionment. It opens her up to treating her characters both with genuine care and nuance, and to keep them at arm’s distance as the fictional characters they are. The difference in her various works is in her verve. Her “lesser” novels, such as her previous Nicotine, and now with her newest, Doxology, are simply her less exciting works. There is something missing, despite the entertainment value. Doxology is particularly bold, because it deals with the current state of things (a.k.a, The Time of Trump) while naming names. It’s a good novel, but I’ll take Zink when she’s firing on all her cylinders of strangeness. That’s when she’s transcendent.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    A tale of a family, but also a city and a country. I enjoy Zink's direct turn of phrase, she does not beat around the bush and tells it as it is. The section dealing with 9/11 had a neat summation along the lines of the terrorists were from Saudi and were funded by Saudi, so it was imperative that the USA bombed Afghanistan and Iraq. The build up to the election of Trump was interesting - the political ad man pitched a negative ad about Trump, but the Democrats would not go there, partly because A tale of a family, but also a city and a country. I enjoy Zink's direct turn of phrase, she does not beat around the bush and tells it as it is. The section dealing with 9/11 had a neat summation along the lines of the terrorists were from Saudi and were funded by Saudi, so it was imperative that the USA bombed Afghanistan and Iraq. The build up to the election of Trump was interesting - the political ad man pitched a negative ad about Trump, but the Democrats would not go there, partly because they could not believe that he was a serious threat. And look at us now. This is more than your story of two generations in New York, there is commentary on the music industry, fame, and political mechanisms of the USA. A book to make you think.
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  • Ruth Klassert
    January 1, 1970
    this book completely wrecked me, in the best most unexpected way. it’s beautiful, it’s ugly often too & no one gets out alive. most don’t even get to 20 without experiencing some sort of reminder of mortality. I’m glad I went w this purchase. I wasn’t sure I’d like it bc I’ve been so focused on fantasy books but this was a good novel to break up genres a bit. 5/5 stars, have tissues at hand, though bc it is very emotional. I definitely want to visit it again for a more in-depth review becaus this book completely wrecked me, in the best most unexpected way. it’s beautiful, it’s ugly often too & no one gets out alive. most don’t even get to 20 without experiencing some sort of reminder of mortality. I’m glad I went w this purchase. I wasn’t sure I’d like it bc I’ve been so focused on fantasy books but this was a good novel to break up genres a bit. 5/5 stars, have tissues at hand, though bc it is very emotional. I definitely want to visit it again for a more in-depth review because honestly, the first time around it really really hit me too hard to process things with words.
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  • James Beggarly
    January 1, 1970
    A wonderful book. It’s amazing how she starts the book with three people who meet by chance to start a punk band and then takes you through thirty plus years of life so seamlessly. She’s such a charming writer. I feel like her characters are not only talking how I wish I talked, but in some ways, living the life I wish I was living.
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  • Kate Dansette
    January 1, 1970
    I raced through reading this book which traces 3 generations of an American family in New York (pre-9/11) and mainly DC (but also Pennsylvania and…Ethiopia) (post). Pre 9/11 it was more focussed on indie music and post, environmental and left politics. It’s so well written it was easy to forget that there are so many themes as I was so engrossed in the characters and their emotional ties to one hit wonder Joe and each other. I received an ARC in return for an honest review. I raced through reading this book which traces 3 ½ generations of an American family in New York (pre-9/11) and mainly DC (but also Pennsylvania and…Ethiopia) (post). Pre 9/11 it was more focussed on indie music and post, environmental and left politics. It’s so well written it was easy to forget that there are so many themes as I was so engrossed in the characters and their emotional ties to one hit wonder Joe and each other. I received an ARC in return for an honest review.
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  • Jamie Klingler
    January 1, 1970
    Just finished it and am frustrated and annoyed. I hate books that are clever for clever’s sake. It also skips like 15 years in the middle without explanation. I agree with the politics espoused but felt like the novel was just a vehicle to share them.
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  • Katy
    January 1, 1970
    Buzzfeed Book List, “29 Summer Books to Get Excited About,” June 2019 (listed in the "Also Check Out" section)
  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    very enjoyable, love her ironic black humoursurprised how quickly I read it to be honest.
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