Pew
In a small unnamed town in the American South, a church congregation arrives to a service and finds a figure asleep on a pew. The person is genderless, racially ambiguous, and refuses to speak. One family takes the strange visitor in and nicknames them Pew.As the town spends the week preparing for a mysterious Forgiveness Festival, Pew is shuttled from one household to the next. The earnest and seemingly well-meaning townspeople see conflicting identities in Pew, and many confess their fears and secrets to them in one-sided conversations. Pew listens and observes while experiencing brief flashes of past lives or clues about their origins. As days pass, the void around Pew’s presence begins to unnerve the community, whose generosity erodes into menace and suspicion. Yet by the time Pew’s story reaches a shattering and unsettling climax at the Forgiveness Festival, the secret of their true nature—as a devil or an angel or something else entirely—is dwarfed by even larger truths.Pew, Catherine Lacey’s third novel, is a foreboding, provocative, and amorphous fable about the world today: its contradictions, its flimsy morality, and the limits of judging others based on their appearance. With precision and restraint, one of our most beloved and boundary-pushing writers holds up a mirror to her characters’ true selves, revealing something about forgiveness, perception, and the faulty tools society uses to categorize human complexity.

Pew Details

TitlePew
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 21st, 2020
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN-139780374230920
Rating
GenreFiction, Literary Fiction, Novels

Pew Review

  • Amalia Gavea
    January 1, 1970
    ''These people go out into the street, and walk down the street alone. They keep walking, and walk straight out of the city of Omelas, through the beautiful gates. They keep walking across the farmlands of Omelas. Each one goes alone, youth or girl, man or woman. Night falls;''''The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas'', Ursula K. Le Guin In a church of a sleepy town, somewhere in the American South, a being is found. And I use the word ''being'' because no one can determine whether the stranger i ''These people go out into the street, and walk down the street alone. They keep walking, and walk straight out of the city of Omelas, through the beautiful gates. They keep walking across the farmlands of Omelas. Each one goes alone, youth or girl, man or woman. Night falls;''''The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas'', Ursula K. Le Guin In a church of a sleepy town, somewhere in the American South, a being is found. And I use the word ''being'' because no one can determine whether the stranger is a boy or a girl. They are named ''Pew'', after the pew they were found on. The residents of the town seem to be fascinated by the unexpected visitor, they offer hospitality and ''protection'', believing that the silent Pew is the perfect listened to accept their confessions. Pew listens and watches but rarely speaks, only nods. When someone doesn't speak, judgement and condemnation stay away for the ones who confess their sins. But their ''confessions'' are meaningless and things are bound to change when Pew doesn't behave exactly as they expect... ''I do wish they bloomed this time of year. It would give me some relief. But you can tell a tree whatever you like - it won't even listen.'' ''All this bitterness. Everyone wants to be the one who's right.'' Pew is an innocent bystander, a silent watcher, an unwilling listener and confidante because of their silence. What initially appears as a confession of wrong choices and guilt, quickly turns into the worst form of patronization and manipulation behind the facade of ''innocent'' curiosity and kindness. Pew hasn't asked for their ''help''. These people aren't driven by kindness and generosity but by a frightening urge to alter the ''different'', the one they cannot understand, the one who doesn't fall into their precious, perfect tags. If you don't like to talk, you are strange, dangerous. We live in societies where everyone wants to ''talk'' and ends up saying nothing at all.Act nice, look nice. Everyone's watching you. What would the neighbours say? The plague of all small communities. Wealth dictates whether you will be ''respected'' or not, as Hilda demonstrates. Hilda. Hideous Hilda, the epitome of the uneducated housewife. Mr. Kercher, young Annie and Roger are tiny dots of light on a map filled with vicious people. ''After all the moon was here, calm night, warm and easy air, and all of it was ours.'' The frail body and the pale moon echo Pew's presence. Who is Pew? An archangel? A spirit? Pew, ethereal and earthy. Pew, led from one resident to another, first as if they were an exhibition item. Then, carried away like Jesus from Caiaphas to Herod to Pontius Pilate. And once more, religion is distorted to justify the rot in people's souls, their horrible actions, their ''morality'' of stupidity and hatred.Lacey creates a modern classic. Classics mirror our societies' wrongdoings and Lacey excels. Think of all those American sects, the charlatans, the hysteric so-called ''priests'' that scream and pretend to ''heal'' people who are desperate, uneducated and stupid enough to believe them. There isn't an ounce of forgiveness in this awful lot, in this god-forsaken town, somewhere in the American South. In a society where crying children are psychologically abused for disturbing the peace and upsetting the others. No one gives a damn about their feelings.And the mob will always hold a trial about things they cannot understand. The mob will always believe they have the right to decide what is true and what is not. And there is nothing Christian in this behaviour. White people, black people...They all treat Pew in the same horrible way. Narrow-mindedness doesn't discriminate. It concerns every race, every religion, every individual.Needless to say, this novel made me furious. Needless to say, every reader should choose Pew as their next read. ''Some years, but gone now. They had ended and would never return and would never end. They were mine, or had been mine, but now they were somewhere else, somewhere near and far from me. They didn't belong to anyone, those untouchable years. All that was left of them was their imprint, the empty field they'd left in me.'' Many thanks to Granta Publications and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...
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  • Adam Dalva
    January 1, 1970
    It’s like a sequence of Rachel Cusk scenes inside a William Gass novel, with a cathartic, wild climax. Excited to talk about this one - more when it comes out. A ferociously 2020 novel and somehow, timeless.
  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    A small Southern town. A church loving community that prides itself on doing the right thing, raising their children the right way. Going about their lives in a predictable fashion, until something unpredictable happens. Attending church, they are confronted by a stranger, a young person sleeping in one of the pews. They can't tell what sex the person is, his old he is, they even disagree on his color. Who is it, where did this person come from? No one knows and this person won't or can't speak. A small Southern town. A church loving community that prides itself on doing the right thing, raising their children the right way. Going about their lives in a predictable fashion, until something unpredictable happens. Attending church, they are confronted by a stranger, a young person sleeping in one of the pews. They can't tell what sex the person is, his old he is, they even disagree on his color. Who is it, where did this person come from? No one knows and this person won't or can't speak. Doing the right thing, a family takes him home. Christian charity, opening their house, and hoping they can get some answers. They name the person Pew, after the place where he/she was found.What happens after this as Pew goes from family to family, is the story. How he is treated, what people say and since this is a firstPerson narration, we learn thoughts directly from Pew.All this leads up to the Churches forgivness festival, a strange ceremony indeed. The denoument, the ending I will leave up to future readers. Strange days indeed.Beautifully written, with universal themes, Judging a person by the way one looks, and how someone that cannot be defined can cause discomfort and suspicion. I liked this, a very different type of story. One that makes the reader think.ARC from Edelweiss.
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  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    This short novel cleverly explores compassion, religion and the human longing to categorize others in order to feel safe and comfortable. The title-giving Pew is a young person of indeterminate gender, race, class and birthplace who mostly refuses to speak, thus not giving their surroundings the possibility to easily ascribe certain qualities and traits to them. Reminiscient of Bartleby the Scrivener, they refuse to participate in society the way they are expected to - this act of resistance is This short novel cleverly explores compassion, religion and the human longing to categorize others in order to feel safe and comfortable. The title-giving Pew is a young person of indeterminate gender, race, class and birthplace who mostly refuses to speak, thus not giving their surroundings the possibility to easily ascribe certain qualities and traits to them. Reminiscient of Bartleby the Scrivener, they refuse to participate in society the way they are expected to - this act of resistance is both rooted in their belief that people should not be judged by superficial categories, and the conviction that language is ultimately failing to properly capture and express thoughts ("a word is put down as a place holder for something that cannot be communicated, no matter what anyone tries"). At the beginning of the novel, our protagonist is discovered sleeping in a church pew, and a family offers them to stay in their home. The small community names the visitor Pew after the place where they were found, and the church members try to find out who Pew is and what happened to them. As Pew mostly does not respond, people just go on talking -some because they are unsettled by the silence, some because they enjoy that someone is listening without judging or interrupting. Pew becomes both a confessor and a source of contention, as for many people, Pew's refusal to explain themselves is hard to bear. The villager who becomes closest to Pew is a young refugee from a war-torn country who does speak, but, as a brown-skinned foreigner from a poor and ravaged region, is not taken seriously by most inhabitants. As the date for the enigmatic "forgiveness festival" approaches (hello, The Lottery), the reader starts to question which role Pew is supposed to play there...Told over the course of one week, this compact text offers insights into the minds of various characters who speak about love, loss, racism, faith, family, guilt, and loneliness - Lacey just lets them talk, sometimes rambling, sometimes painfully, sometimes insincerely. As we listen from Pew's point of view, their open and often child-like outlook exposes faults and insecurities without ridiculing them. The novel is dedicated to Jesse Ball, and not only is Ball's classic theme of human compassion vs. human cruelty at the center of the story (see Ball's Census), some of Pew's observations are directly linked to Sleep, Death's Brother, and the festival is reminiscent of the ritual in Ball's The Divers' Game. Pew himself sounds like they could be related to the young protagonist in How to Set a Fire and Why, although they take a different approach to counter human shortcomings. Pew knows that people and their words can be dangerous: "A person has to be careful about the voices they listen to, the faces they let themselves see." This novel is full of poetic sensibilty and finds a unusual voice that highlights the everyday absurdity of human behavior. Intelligent and compassionate, this text is a real treat.
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  • Marchpane
    January 1, 1970
    In a small insular and religious town, a stranger is found asleep in the church. The young person, of ambiguous gender and race, refuses to speak, and so is named ‘Pew’ after the place they were found.That description hooked me enough to pick up Catherine Lacey’s Pew. As I began to read, I found to my delight that it also blends the influence of Carson McCullers and Jesse Ball with Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Ursula K Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas”.This slim novel is se In a small insular and religious town, a stranger is found asleep in the church. The young person, of ambiguous gender and race, refuses to speak, and so is named ‘Pew’ after the place they were found.That description hooked me enough to pick up Catherine Lacey’s Pew. As I began to read, I found to my delight that it also blends the influence of Carson McCullers and Jesse Ball with Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Ursula K Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas”.This slim novel is sensitive and thoughtful, written in a simple, poetic but unfussy style. I enjoyed reading it quite a lot, as it follows Pew over the course of a week leading up to the town’s ‘Forgiveness Festival’. Pew’s refusal to speak allows the townspeople to open up in order to fill the void; one by one, they pour their stories out as Pew becomes almost a confessor. It is a terrific way to structure a novel. As an homage, it is rather lovely and skilfully done. But by the end, I felt that it followed in the tradition of its predecessors a little too closely. Perhaps ironically, I wanted Pew to be its own unique self just a tiny bit more. 3.5 stars.
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  • Blair
    January 1, 1970
    The premise of Catherine Lacey's third novel is simple and interesting. In a small town, in an uncertain time period, a homeless drifter wanders into a church and spends the night there. The next morning, they're discovered beneath the pew by a family of churchgoers. It's difficult for anyone to figure out anything about this person: they do not speak, and their gender, race and even age are indeterminate. They're given the nickname 'Pew', and the community takes on the task of caring for them, The premise of Catherine Lacey's third novel is simple and interesting. In a small town, in an uncertain time period, a homeless drifter wanders into a church and spends the night there. The next morning, they're discovered beneath the pew by a family of churchgoers. It's difficult for anyone to figure out anything about this person: they do not speak, and their gender, race and even age are indeterminate. They're given the nickname 'Pew', and the community takes on the task of caring for them, shuffling them from household to household. Pew's silence often encourages people to tell their stories, and Pew listens. But in time, their refusal to reveal anything about themself – their seeming inability to do so – provokes the ire of the townspeople. Acceptance turns to resentment.I hadn't expected that the book would be narrated by the character of Pew – I wouldn't have thought such a thing could work, since we have to accept that they know so little about their own identity. In fact, the uncertainty is beautifully managed, and the disconnect between body and being – Pew's, but also people's in general – becomes a central principle of the novel.I took off my clothes... I looked over at the water, then down at this body. Did everyone feel this vacillating, animal loneliness after removing clothes? How could I still be in this thing, answering to its endless needs and betrayals?Through snatches of overheard news reports, we become aware of a spate of disappearances across the United States. Is Pew one of 'the missing'? There are also ominous references to a festival that takes place in the town, an event, one woman says, that 'outsiders don't always understand'. There's something strange at work here, it seems – something a little outside reality. The result is tension, a tension that mounts throughout the book; I feared for Pew, though I didn't know why.I loved Lacey's last book, The Answers, and I was intrigued by this one: I thought it sounded a little like Tiffany McDaniel's The Summer That Melted Everything, in which a boy who claims to be the Devil appears in a small Ohio town and becomes an avatar for the locals' fears. I wasn't entirely wrong about this; there is a similar Southern Gothic vibe to Pew. But the style is something different altogether. Lacey's writing here is clean and precise, and she leans into the Shirley Jackson parallels already suggested by the plot.The story reaches its crescendo on the day of the 'Forgiveness Festival'. The ending is both anticlimactic and revelatory – not what I expected, yet absolutely perfect for the book. Pew is a brief, effective, haunting fable. It's a little unsettling and somehow also comforting. It confirms Lacey as a fascinating and unpredictable novelist.I received an advance review copy of Pew from the publisher through Edelweiss.TinyLetter
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  • Eric Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    I've always been a quiet person. Even when I feel like I'm just as present and chatty as everyone else around me, people have always remarked on how quiet I am. But one of the interesting things this has allowed me to notice is how much people reveal about themselves - not so much in the content of their speech but the way they say things shows a lot about their preoccupations, insecurities, desires and fears. The very quiet narrator at the centre of Catherine Lacey's novel “Pew” is suddenly dis I've always been a quiet person. Even when I feel like I'm just as present and chatty as everyone else around me, people have always remarked on how quiet I am. But one of the interesting things this has allowed me to notice is how much people reveal about themselves - not so much in the content of their speech but the way they say things shows a lot about their preoccupations, insecurities, desires and fears. The very quiet narrator at the centre of Catherine Lacey's novel “Pew” is suddenly discovered sleeping in the church of a small American town and because the narrator is found on a pew the locals call this anonymous individual Pew. Even though we the readers are privy to Pew's thoughts we don't know any details about their past or identity. Pew is an adolescent of indeterminate age, indeterminate race and indeterminate gender because their appearance is so ambiguous. No matter how much the town's inhabitants enquire Pew barely ever responds and certainly provides no answers. As the community tries to determine what to do with this mysterious young vagabond, many individuals have private one-sided conversations with Pew where they confess their emotions and unintentionally reveal many of their prejudices. We follow Pew's many encounters over the course of a week leading up to a strange ritualised local ceremony. This novel's simple premise grants a lot of space to ask teasing sociological and psychological questions about the nature of community and identity. Read my full review of Pew by Catherine Lacey on LonesomeReader
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  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    As others have pointed out, there is a lot to chew on in these few pages. Although Catherine Lacey employs the first person, we really don't learn very much more about the enigmatic Pew than the curious church members who take her/him in. Reactions by these townfolk don't vary much -- when in Pew's company they tend to feel compelled to spew their secrets and fears. It is a well known fact that a stranger is the most receptive of confessors, and the ageless, genderless, impossible to quantify Pe As others have pointed out, there is a lot to chew on in these few pages. Although Catherine Lacey employs the first person, we really don't learn very much more about the enigmatic Pew than the curious church members who take her/him in. Reactions by these townfolk don't vary much -- when in Pew's company they tend to feel compelled to spew their secrets and fears. It is a well known fact that a stranger is the most receptive of confessors, and the ageless, genderless, impossible to quantify Pew is the perfect receptacle who mainly seems to have an affinity with nature more than with human beings. Imbued with some lovely language, this is a gem.
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  • Paris (parisperusing)
    January 1, 1970
    "I don't know how it is I can sometimes see all these things in people—see these silent things in people—and though it has been helpful, I think, at times, so often it feels like an affliction, to see through those masks meant to protect a person's wants and unmet needs. People wear those masks for a reason, like river dams and jar lids have a reason."Catherine Lacey's latest novel, Pew, is a gallant examination into the many ways identity can splice or splinter a community, and become the metri "I don't know how it is I can sometimes see all these things in people—see these silent things in people—and though it has been helpful, I think, at times, so often it feels like an affliction, to see through those masks meant to protect a person's wants and unmet needs. People wear those masks for a reason, like river dams and jar lids have a reason."Catherine Lacey's latest novel, Pew, is a gallant examination into the many ways identity can splice or splinter a community, and become the metric by which a society decides to impose itself upon harmless strangers. Such is the predicament of a mute, racially-ambiguous and genderless newcomer called Pew, who gets their name after being discovered sleeping on the benches of a small-town church until a pious family offers to provide them shelter. In so many ways, there becomes a growing interest in knowing from who, what, and where Pew has come, so much that it begins to coil the town with concern: Are they a boy or a girl? What race is she/he/it? Why doesn't it speak? All queries our watchful protagonist responds to with serenity and silence, a deafening calm that endangers a patient town in the days leading up to an ominous festival of great importance to its tradition. Every town has its past, but as the occupants attempt to atone for their sins under the merciful blindfold of forgiveness, it is not long before they receive Pew's presence as the mirror that unveils the soul. Wandering as both a specter and spectator of few words, various people entrust Pew with their confessions, with their most heartfelt desires to escape the unholiness of an existence that continues to haunt them.Written with bleeding, breathless love, I cannot think of another writer more proficient than Lacey to helm the story of Pew. I devoured this book over a single night, and what an earnest, open-hearted experience it was. One that siphons from the soul with an unvarnished look at the carnivorousness of white guilt, the sanctuary of one's silence and consent, and lays bare the implications of identity and our mortal capacity to surpass it. This is a book with fangs, one that mounts Lacey's enduring legacy as a luminary of pure innovation.If you liked my review, feel free to follow me @parisperusing on Instagram.
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  • Jordan
    January 1, 1970
    wow. i could not put this book down. Catherine Lacey again with the incredibly beautiful writing. a story that asks so many questions. a must read! 5/5 ☆
  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    4.5/5A brilliantly tense and rather strange book. I can't wait to discuss it with someone!!
  • Drew
    January 1, 1970
    5+ out of 5. It's telling that Lacey uses an epigram from Ursula K. Le Guin for this book. This is, far and away, her.... strangest? Most speculative-adjacent? I think that's the word I want, I think strangest is right -- her strangest book so far. In many ways.An unnamed stranger comes to a small Southern town. They are of indeterminate race and gender and age, to the point that everyone seems to perceive them somewhat differently. They call this person Pew and offer to support them, in the spi 5+ out of 5. It's telling that Lacey uses an epigram from Ursula K. Le Guin for this book. This is, far and away, her.... strangest? Most speculative-adjacent? I think that's the word I want, I think strangest is right -- her strangest book so far. In many ways.An unnamed stranger comes to a small Southern town. They are of indeterminate race and gender and age, to the point that everyone seems to perceive them somewhat differently. They call this person Pew and offer to support them, in the spirit of Christian charity.But Pew does not speak, and the community grows more uncomfortable with their presence. And the Forgiveness Festival is coming. I couldn't help thinking of Jesse Ball, particularly his latest (THE DIVERS' GAME), when I read this. PEW has a similar feel, a similar observatory intensity, a similar "is this our world?" strangeness. But PEW focuses on people, on the ways that people delude themselves and one another. The ways in which it is far easier to fight against insecurity and instability and unknowingness, to get angry in the face of not knowing a thing or being confronted with a thing that forces us to question our beliefs/understandings. This book is a furious look at the fucked up American South, at the fucked up American religious mind, at the fucked up America -- but it does so through a sickly, nerve-shredding tension that never entirely goes away even as it never entirely resolves. I'll be thinking about this book for a while.
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  • Isaac
    January 1, 1970
    This is an incredible book, filled with insights about perception, bodies, God, and the South. I read it all in a single night, and am going to have to go back and reread later to get more out of it. Catherine Lacey really nails the experience of having an ambiguous gender in the South, and some of the complications it can bring. "Pew" has no clear ending the way you might expect it to, but by the end of the book, you realize the questions you had (like, who/what is Pew?) aren't actually the mos This is an incredible book, filled with insights about perception, bodies, God, and the South. I read it all in a single night, and am going to have to go back and reread later to get more out of it. Catherine Lacey really nails the experience of having an ambiguous gender in the South, and some of the complications it can bring. "Pew" has no clear ending the way you might expect it to, but by the end of the book, you realize the questions you had (like, who/what is Pew?) aren't actually the most important ones. I'll be thinking about this book for a long time.
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    Pew wakes up in the pew of a church, with no memory of how he/she got there, or any memory of anything about themselves. Pew is taken in by Steven and Hilda, and named after the church pew in which they were found. Throughout the novel, Pew rarely utters a word, despite the best efforts of those around her/him. Instead, those around Pew find themselves talking about their own past. The neighbours tell Pew about many things. They talk about their regrets, their desires and things that they wish t Pew wakes up in the pew of a church, with no memory of how he/she got there, or any memory of anything about themselves. Pew is taken in by Steven and Hilda, and named after the church pew in which they were found. Throughout the novel, Pew rarely utters a word, despite the best efforts of those around her/him. Instead, those around Pew find themselves talking about their own past. The neighbours tell Pew about many things. They talk about their regrets, their desires and things that they wish they had done differently. They reveal their biases and flaws. Pew is able to see that, despite the ideal that every member of society holds themselves up to, none of them is perfect. But Pew also recognises that this is not a bad thing. It is much worse, the reader realises, that these members of society pretend to be something they’re not. Their reluctance to be judged by their peers ensures that they are willing to do almost anything to maintain the illusion. Pew is a delightful little book, beautifully written and engaging. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick read that also provides thought-provoking ideas about the world we live in. I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks to #NetGalley and #Granta for the opportunity to read this book.
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  • Vincent Scarpa
    January 1, 1970
    “Something about him gave me the feeling he’d just realized something dear and lost to him was never coming back — a sadness, a freedom in that sadness. He held a complicated privacy, his own slow wind. I don’t know how it is I can sometimes see all these things in people — see these silent things in people — and though it has been helpful, I think, at times, so often it feels like an affliction, to see through those masks meant to protect a person’s wants and unmet needs. People wear those mask “Something about him gave me the feeling he’d just realized something dear and lost to him was never coming back — a sadness, a freedom in that sadness. He held a complicated privacy, his own slow wind. I don’t know how it is I can sometimes see all these things in people — see these silent things in people — and though it has been helpful, I think, at times, so often it feels like an affliction, to see through those masks meant to protect a person’s wants and unmet needs. People wear those masks for a reason, like river dams and jar lids have a reason.”
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  • Chris Haak
    January 1, 1970
    I love this quirky little novel about identity and religion! If this doesn't make the Booker longlist, I don't know what will and the judges will have made a big mistake. It's so subtle, so beautifully written, with excellent characters, and so imaginative. Definitely a 5* novel.Thank you Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Edelweiss for the ARC.
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  • Molly
    January 1, 1970
    hard to believe a book this perfect exists.
  • Donita
    January 1, 1970
    I just finished this short book and I am not quite certain what I read. Pew, named for where he/she was found sleeping, rarely speaks in this novel, which seems to encourage those around him/her to share their stores. Some are stories they have never spoken of before and won’t ever again. They seem compelled to fill the silence. Pew’s gender, age, racial ethnicity, name are never revealed. As the Forgiveness Ceremony approaches, the townspeople seem to become more and more uncomfortable around P I just finished this short book and I am not quite certain what I read. Pew, named for where he/she was found sleeping, rarely speaks in this novel, which seems to encourage those around him/her to share their stores. Some are stories they have never spoken of before and won’t ever again. They seem compelled to fill the silence. Pew’s gender, age, racial ethnicity, name are never revealed. As the Forgiveness Ceremony approaches, the townspeople seem to become more and more uncomfortable around Pew. This is a religious ceremony, unlike none I have ever heard of before. While Pew is never fully described, the descriptions in the book are detailed and very picturesque. I will be thinking about this book often in the days to come.Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar. Straus, and Giroux for the ARC to read and review.
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  • dbirdan
    January 1, 1970
    Reading this at a time when we face an existential, molecular threat felt v fitting: it captures the body poised between biology/physiology and politics, the body as multiple/changing/becoming; haunting, clamouring, full of tensions whilst unerringly cool. “The ground is silent. I am uncertain. The sky is quiet. It’s never known any of us from the other. We speak with borrowed air. I wonder if you have yet allowed yourself to sleep in a church. The sky only seems to be blue and have an edge.”“I Reading this at a time when we face an existential, molecular threat felt v fitting: it captures the body poised between biology/physiology and politics, the body as multiple/changing/becoming; haunting, clamouring, full of tensions whilst unerringly cool. “The ground is silent. I am uncertain. The sky is quiet. It’s never known any of us from the other. We speak with borrowed air. I wonder if you have yet allowed yourself to sleep in a church. The sky only seems to be blue and have an edge.”“I took off my clothes. Steam wafted from the water and the water moved below, exerting the steam. I looked over at the water, then down at this body. Did everyone feel this vacillating, animal loneliness after removing clothes? How could I still be in this thing, answering to its endless needs and betrayals? The room was all white and gray tiles and the air warm and wet. It hung on me and I hung in this flesh that all those unknown centuries of blood had brought into being. Yet I was to tend to this flesh as if it were an honest gift, as if it had all been worth it. How was it that living always feels so invisibly brief and unbearably long at once?”“did all this human trouble begin in our bodies, these failing things, weaker or stronger, lighter or darker, taller or shorter? Why did they cause so much trouble for us? Why did we use them against one another? Why did we draw our conclusions based on the body when the body is so inconclusive, so mercurial?”“Everyone moves through time at precisely the same rate. It may be the only natural form of justice. Maybe.”“It’s easier to be certain of things then — and the older you get, the more you see how certainty depends on one blindness or another.”
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  • The Reader Ignites
    January 1, 1970
    Kind thanks to netgalley and Granta Publications for the arc. This was an interesting novel. I thought it was very well written and as you read it, you realise that lots of themes are being addressed here such as race, religion and what happens when someone refuses to conform to societal norms.Pew wakes up one day on a church bench on a Sunday and is taken in by a Christian family hoping to do good. Not learning whether Pew is male/female, black/white, missing etc., they become disappointed when Kind thanks to netgalley and Granta Publications for the arc. This was an interesting novel. I thought it was very well written and as you read it, you realise that lots of themes are being addressed here such as race, religion and what happens when someone refuses to conform to societal norms.Pew wakes up one day on a church bench on a Sunday and is taken in by a Christian family hoping to do good. Not learning whether Pew is male/female, black/white, missing etc., they become disappointed when they realise Pew won’t speak or reveal anything. As the week goes on, many different people in the community want to meet Pew. To fill the void, they end up speaking when Pew doesn’t answer, revealing much about themselves and those within the community. Surrounding this is a mysterious community festival which Pew is asked to attend at the end of the week.I liked this novel. There was such an air of the unknown around Pew and it keeps you reading. I felt it ended quite abruptly and I, like much of the community, would have liked many of the questions addressed but overall a good read.
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  • LittleSophie
    January 1, 1970
    It took me a while to trust this novel and initially I thought I knew what it was about: gender politics, religious fanaticism and small town racism. While these themes are certainly part of it, Lacey gradually and impressively opens up the sweep of her story. Each new narrative voice brings a new hurt and philosophy to the narration and while some of the characters are caricatures, other are genuinly moving. I'm not sure I completely grasped what Lacey was trying to accomplish with "Pew" but th It took me a while to trust this novel and initially I thought I knew what it was about: gender politics, religious fanaticism and small town racism. While these themes are certainly part of it, Lacey gradually and impressively opens up the sweep of her story. Each new narrative voice brings a new hurt and philosophy to the narration and while some of the characters are caricatures, other are genuinly moving. I'm not sure I completely grasped what Lacey was trying to accomplish with "Pew" but those are my shortcomings and despite that, I found it to be profound and thought-provoking.
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  • Sacha
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. I'll post that review upon publication.
  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    This book was positive and negative all at once. It had a good build with the push towards the festival and all the people Pew was introduced to. The end just fell flat for me.
  • Anneke
    January 1, 1970
    Book Review: PewAuthor: Catherine LaceyPublisher: Farrar, Straus and GirouxPublication Date: May 12, 2020Review Date: January 24, 2020I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the blurb:“One of Vogue's Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2020, one of BuzzFeed's Most Anticipated Books of 2020, one of Vulture's Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2020, and one of The Millions Most Anticipated Books of the First Half of 2020A figure with no discernible identity Book Review: PewAuthor: Catherine LaceyPublisher: Farrar, Straus and GirouxPublication Date: May 12, 2020Review Date: January 24, 2020I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the blurb:“One of Vogue's Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2020, one of BuzzFeed's Most Anticipated Books of 2020, one of Vulture's Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2020, and one of The Millions Most Anticipated Books of the First Half of 2020A figure with no discernible identity appears in a small, religious town, throwing its inhabitants into a frenzyIn a small unnamed town in the American South, a church congregation arrives to a service and finds a figure asleep on a pew. The person is genderless, racially ambiguous, and refuses to speak. One family takes the strange visitor in and nicknames them Pew.As the town spends the week preparing for a mysterious Forgiveness Festival, Pew is shuttled from one household to the next. The earnest and seemingly well-meaning townspeople see conflicting identities in Pew, and many confess their fears and secrets to them in one-sided conversations. Pew listens and observes while experiencing brief flashes of past lives or clues about their origins. As days pass, the void around Pew’s presence begins to unnerve the community, whose generosity erodes into menace and suspicion. Yet by the time Pew’s story reaches a shattering and unsettling climax at the Forgiveness Festival, the secret of their true nature—as a devil or an angel or something else entirely—is dwarfed by even larger truths.Pew, Catherine Lacey’s third novel, is a foreboding, provocative, and amorphous fable about the world today: its contradictions, its flimsy morality, and the limits of judging others based on their appearance. With precision and restraint, one of our most beloved and boundary-pushing writers holds up a mirror to her characters’ true selves, revealing something about forgiveness, perception, and the faulty tools society uses to categorize human complexity.”This was a totally weird, totally right brain book. I enjoyed reading it though I have no idea what I just read. That’s why I included so much of the blurb so that you could maybe get some idea what the book is like. Your mileage may vary. Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for allowing me access to this book. Good luck to the author with her careerThis review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon. #netgalley #farrarstrausandgiroux #pew #catherinelacey #rightbrainlit
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  • Sam Glatt
    January 1, 1970
    Catherine Lacey proves, once again, that she is simply one of our brashest, most insightful contemporary writers, especially when it comes to exposing and dissecting the toxicity that lingers deep within the need to define the most unknowable parts of others, and ourselves.
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  • Andreas
    January 1, 1970
    In ‘Pew’ by Catherine Lacey, a person wakes up in a church on a Sunday. They appear to have no substantial memories of their past or how they got there. The congregation decides to call that person ‘Pew’. A couple from the congregation invite Pew to stay with them. The novel is divided into chapters which are the days of the week: Sunday to Saturday and we follow Pew as they stay with the congregation in the days leading to the “Forgiveness Festival”. All the visual markers that would usually ma In ‘Pew’ by Catherine Lacey, a person wakes up in a church on a Sunday. They appear to have no substantial memories of their past or how they got there. The congregation decides to call that person ‘Pew’. A couple from the congregation invite Pew to stay with them. The novel is divided into chapters which are the days of the week: Sunday to Saturday and we follow Pew as they stay with the congregation in the days leading to the “Forgiveness Festival”. All the visual markers that would usually make up Pew’s identity are muddled: Pew’s gender presentation is unclear and so is their age and race/ethnicity. Pew does not speak and won’t/can’t answer questions about where they’ve come from and how old they are and what has happened to them. Pew, just by being Pew, unsettles this small congregation in this small town and what begins as charity turns into something menacing. Pew’s body becomes the focus of people who refuse to accept the fact that Pew cannot be clearly defined visually and Pew offers no explanations. Pew represents the Uncanny / Das Unheimliche, the one who disturbs through their indeterminancy. Pew destabilises the congregation by not confirming to identity boundaries. The novel also conveys Pew becoming abject, being rejected and even hated. This then shows the problematic nature of the Christian charity which Pew receives from the congregation. It’s a conditional form of charity: Pew is asked to give answers and will only be allowed to stay in someone’s home and be given food if Pew responds to questions, if they allow their body to be examined by a doctor, if they admit to some form of past harm. The congregation effectively tells Pew that if Pew is not able to give answers, then they must give up any form of ownership of their body to the congregation in order to continue receiving charity. Is conditional charity still charity? Can there be charity without mercy? And does Pew even want to stay? Is this a novel about Pew or is this a novel about the members of the congregation? Is a Church congregation a group of people defining itself as a group on the basis of the exclusion of others? “Everyone—every single one of us—everyone is born broken”, Pew is told at some point. A short passage recounts a biology lesson which mentions the asexuality of dandelions, creating an image of Pew as a dandelion, something fragile and easily scattered. Pew’s non-fixity is also about location: they move through actual geographical places, they wander. Is this an echo of the epic journey in the Old Testament, of wandering through the desert for 40 years? Maybe, but Pew lacks a destination and lacks any kind of purpose, other than mere survival. What begins as an unwilling quasi-baptism in a church then turns into a confession. Various members of the congregation tell Pew their secrets and confess their sins. In Pew being turned abject, the novel also shows an opposite process taking place: the apotheosis / deification of Pew by a few members of the congregation. Pew is believed to be an archangel (a genderless, race-less, ageless, undefinable being that is nonetheless more-than human) and even “our new jesus”. The novel poses a lot of questions and presents a lot of ideas. The Freudian Uncanny meets Julia Kristeva’s ‘abject’, meets Judith Butler’s ‘gender trouble’ meets queer theology. Lacey achieves all of that quite deftly and with what I thought was a gentleness towards the novel’s characters. I did feel at times that there was quite a lot of repetition of all the different confessions. The first confession makes you understand that it everyone has secrets to hide but reading about everyone’s secrets made it feel repetitive and the effect of each revelation progressively diminishes. The novel also ends quite abruptly and it leaves too many questions unanswered about the congregation and about Pew. I think that for this reason enjoyed the first part of the novel more than the second part. Overall, this was about a 3.5 star read for me, rounded up to 4.
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  • Pickle Farmer
    January 1, 1970
    How much harm did we cause without knowing it? How much harm did we cause when we were certain we were doing such good?What an interesting and strange book this is. It is definitely an 'arthouse' novel - like a Dogme 95 film (though it would have maybe benefited from a bit more more Dogme 95-style extremity...). Think Shirley Jackson, think "Midsommar", but with an icier, more academic/philosophical vibe. The novel is narrated in first-person by the titular character Pew. This in itself was a ve How much harm did we cause without knowing it? How much harm did we cause when we were certain we were doing such good?What an interesting and strange book this is. It is definitely an 'arthouse' novel - like a Dogme 95 film (though it would have maybe benefited from a bit more more Dogme 95-style extremity...). Think Shirley Jackson, think "Midsommar", but with an icier, more academic/philosophical vibe. The novel is narrated in first-person by the titular character Pew. This in itself was a very interesting and risky move (like if “A Luminous Republic” had been narrated by one of the feral children). Basically, Pew is named by the community after where they were found - a church pew. They have no discernible race or gender. They often refuse to speak. This causes the community to be irritated and annoyed.I read this book as a parable and commentary on many things. A commentary on the desire for the “good” immigrant/refugee. A commentary on the need that people have for labels, especially when it comes to the body. On the insistence that speaking aloud is the only path towards overcoming trauma. On how supposedly community-oriented small town life is actually quite repressive. What it means to actually “help.” The role of religion in U.S. culture (basically, it’s a bit shit). What it would really mean to authentically follow Jesus’ teachings - i.e., something a bit Buddhist - how you would have to give up everything and everyone, and become no one.It’s all really quite interesting to think about! But my main qualm with the novel is that as a work of fiction... it got a bit repetitive at times. Pew is a blank slate and is “talked” at by different characters, and this formula repeats until the end of the book. There are dark hints about the Shirley Jackson-esque Forgiveness Festival (which serves as the novel’s climax), but it’s not as juicy as a scene as I wanted it to be. I wanted more drama, basically. Ultimately the dialogue is not as distinct and memorable as it is in Rachel Cusk’s Outline series; here, it gets a bit numbing. That might be the point - everyone in this close-knit community thinks and sounds the same - but as a work of fiction, it started to drone a bit for me. I really, really like the ideas in this novel. I got a lot out of the brief afterword, in which the author mentions her influences (Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", David Buckel, Derek Parfit). There's definitely several scenes near the end that seems to be explicitly referring to LeGuin's short story (is Pew basically the child from LeGuin's story, years later?).I really like that this novel exists. I feel like it would lead to really interesting discussions. In a way, I like thinking about it and having read it more than the actual experience of reading it. I DEFINITELY prefer reading this kind of fiction about life under the Trump administration - something weird - as opposed to something more traditional and safe. I have a lot of respect for this author for writing something this risky and I will definitely read more of her work.My thanks to Granta for an ARC via NetGalley.
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  • Zanny
    January 1, 1970
    This book begins with a quote from The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin. I would highly recommend reading that as a companion piece to this book, as there is more than a little inspiration. (view spoiler)["Almose", for the record, is an anagram of Omelas. Just thought that was a fun little detail. (hide spoiler)]This is a book about identity, or perhaps the deconstruction of it. It is about how identity is ever-changing, how identity is personal, private, how identity can be s This book begins with a quote from The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin. I would highly recommend reading that as a companion piece to this book, as there is more than a little inspiration. (view spoiler)["Almose", for the record, is an anagram of Omelas. Just thought that was a fun little detail. (hide spoiler)]This is a book about identity, or perhaps the deconstruction of it. It is about how identity is ever-changing, how identity is personal, private, how identity can be stolen or forced upon a person, how entitled people are to the identity of others, how fearful they are when the details of someone's identity are unknown. How, even the people who know they are someone else, may eventually resign to the identity that is forced upon them, if it is forced hard enough.(view spoiler)["Pew" never resigns to the constructs of identity, to their frustration of the community, and perhaps to the frustrations of an impatient reader. The truth is, we, as a gawking audience, are not entitled to the private knowledge of Pew's identity, just as the people of Almose County aren't, either. (hide spoiler)]Like Flannery O'Connor and Shirley Jackson before her, Lacey wades into the quietly insidious nature of small Southern towns. Acts of selfless charity unfold into self-righteous vanity projects. Generosity quickly unfolds into hostility. By the end of this book, we come to understand how much of their identity - their hidden identity - is tied to shame, guilt, "sins" that must be ritualistically forgiven. It is no wonder why they are so suspicious of Pew's silence.But while the Forgiveness Festival may be unique, the people of Almose County most certainly aren't. Their entitlement to Pew's identity, and their frustration at Pew's silence, reflects a larger societal failing in our own world - a failing that requires us to compartmentalize a person before deciding how to perceive them and how they must be treated.
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  • Julija
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you Netgalley and Granta Publications for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.Pew is an interesting story about Pew who got their name after a church pew they were found sleeping on.They were woken in the middle of Mass by a local family who later decided to help Pew and offered them a place in their home.Pew is unusual because no one knows Pew's gender,race,real name-nothing.And Pew aren't keen on telling that to anyone-they rarely talk and don't actually know their Thank you Netgalley and Granta Publications for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.Pew is an interesting story about Pew who got their name after a church pew they were found sleeping on.They were woken in the middle of Mass by a local family who later decided to help Pew and offered them a place in their home.Pew is unusual because no one knows Pew's gender,race,real name-nothing.And Pew aren't keen on telling that to anyone-they rarely talk and don't actually know their name,gender or race themselves.The local community wants to help Pew but when they don't cooperate the community decides to take it upon themselves to decide what to do with Pew without asking them anything which is what angered me most throughout the book.Pew was never asked whether they wanted help,whether they actually wanted to stay in strangers' homes and hang out with people they don't like.They were just taken from one place to another and expected to stay there and behave accordingly.The community was accustomed to everyone who lived in town and didn't get new visitors or tourists often and really,when Pew appeared,they just wanted to keep them under control and control what they were doing in town while making it seem like kind help. If they were kind,they would've treated Pew nicer and would've cared more about them and their feelings. Instead,no one offered to have a nice conversation with them and Hilda even locked them in the attic so they wouldn't come down when it wasn't appropriate to everyone else.The whole book was leading up to the Forgiveness Festival-a local ceremony for forgiveness of one's sins,no matter what they were. When the Festival came,and along with it the end of the book, I felt slightly disappointed. Maybe I didn't understand it the way it was intended but I feel like the ending wasn't enough.I would've liked to know what happened to Pew after the ceremony and sadly,I didn't get that closure.
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  • Donna
    January 1, 1970
    Pew / Catherine LaceyThis is a really intriguing read that manages to seem both timeless and timely in its parallels to contemporary western culture. Pew, named after the place they were found, is our virtually mute protagonist, of indistinguishable gender, race and age, taken in by a Christian community in the American South. The novel takes place over the week leading up to an ominous “festival”. It is reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery in this regard (although it is a quieter story Pew / Catherine LaceyThis is a really intriguing read that manages to seem both timeless and timely in its parallels to contemporary western culture. Pew, named after the place they were found, is our virtually mute protagonist, of indistinguishable gender, race and age, taken in by a Christian community in the American South. The novel takes place over the week leading up to an ominous “festival”. It is reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery in this regard (although it is a quieter story to Jackson’s, in many senses of the word). It is a thought-provoking consideration of identity: Who is Pew? Where have they come from? Why are they here? But the questioning reflects more on the God-fearing people Pew encounters along the way. Their need to know and desire for definitive answers presents them as shallow and lacking. The amnesiac Pew is the more enlightened figure, a wordless confidant for the community’s confessions. I wanted to hear more from Pew but perhaps that is the point; Pew is a character projected onto, their own thoughts and feelings marginalised. This is a novel that invites discussion and unpacking. I’ll certainly be seeking out the author’s other writings. Favourite line/passage. So many wonderfully composed passages, but a standout one for me:I am only one person, ruined by what I have and have not done. Many thanks to Granta and Netgalley for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. #Pew #NetGalley
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