Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Briefly Noted Book Reviews | The New Yorker

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Long Island, by Colm Tóibín (Scribner). Eilis Lacey, an Irish immigrant in New York whom Tóibín introduced in his novel “Brooklyn,” returns in this deeply felt but resolutely unsentimental sequel. The book, which takes place in the nineteen-seventies, two decades after the events of the earlier installment, opens with Eilis—now a mother of two living on Long Island—learning that her Italian American husband has impregnated another woman. The news sparks Eilis’s return to her home town, Enniscorthy, where she has not been for some twenty years, and where she reconnects with a man with whom she had a dalliance early on in her marriage. Tóibín uses masterly restraint to dramatize how lives can be destabilized by desire.

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Ask Me Again, by Clare Sestanovich (Knopf). This début novel, by a noted writer of short stories, begins as Eva, the self-conscious teen-age daughter of middle-class parents, befriends a boy named Jamie, an intellectual with a contrarian streak who comes from a wealthy family. In the next few years, Eva graduates from a prestigious college and gets a job at a newspaper while contending with romances, ambitions, a nascent political consciousness, and a changing relationship with her parents. Meanwhile, Jamie drops out to join a thinly veiled Occupy Wall Street. Throughout, the novel considers how a life’s trajectory takes shape, and how much it is influenced by other people: “Eva herself thought about impressions all the time. She liked picturing it literally: the mark that you left on someone or that someone left on you.”

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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