Noah Hawley – Anthem

Noah Hawley – Anthem

All over the country, teenagers are committing suicide, leaving a note that says “A11” which does not make sense to the adults. While America sinks into chaos with violence ruling the streets, a group superrich enjoys their peaceful life. Some individuals still believe in the constitution, thinks that with the established structures, they can do something to turn the situation around, to make a change. Among them is Margot Burr-Nadir who is about to be appointed to the Supreme Court. She has strong convictions and is well-meaning but the disappearance of her daughter Story also occupies her mind. While some still hope for a future, it much rather seems as if the last day of mankind has arrived.

I was so looking forward to Noah Hawley’s next novel and “Anthem” sounded like a luring effigy of the world we are heading to. Now, in March 2022, I had to start the novel three times until I could finish it. Neither the author nor the book is to blame, reality which has overtaken Hawley’s imagination at a tearing pace is. This was simply not a good moment for me to read a dystopia in which single persons accept the destruction of countries, of lives, to reach their personal goals.

“Anthem” portrays the USA in a state not much different from reality, just a step further. I liked Hawley’s thoughts and direct addresses to the reader in the story, especially that moment where he ponders about how you can write a satirical text while reality is the best satire (referring to people complaining about how masks limit their personal liberty). Well, that was yesterday, if we thought that after two years of pandemic nothing could shock us anymore – surprise, surprise.

Stories of the deep state, a global conspiracy of the rich and the powerful, people living within and yet outside society captured in their own frame of belief built on bits and pieces gathered here and there – there is nothing unthinkable anymore. We have seen all of that wondering where it might lead ultimately – and how the next generation might react to it. The aspect of collective suicide since there is no hope, no future anymore is persuading: what has this world to offer them? News, fake news, alternating news – what can you believe? Bombings, attacks, wars, violence – when is your turn to be hit? There is a small group of teenagers, courageously following their ideals, showing empathy and thus bringing some hope to the plot. Unfortunately, I cannot imagine this happening right now.

There is so much in the novel to ponder about. Noah Hawley without a doubt greatly developed aspects of the present into his dystopian future, showing how closely he observes the world he lives in and touching sensitive issues which should lead us to react before it is too late. Unfortunately, the novel did not come at the right moment for me to really enjoy it.

Jennifer Clement – Gun Love

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Jennifer Clement – Gun Love

Pearl weiß nicht, wie es sich anfühlt, in einem Haus zu leben. Seit ihrer Geburt wohnt sie mit ihrer Mutter auf dem Parkplatz eines Trailerparks in Florida in einem alten Auto. Viel zu früh war Margot schwanger geworden und ist dann mit ihrem Kind verschwunden. Die kleine Welt ist gut geordnet, Pearls beste Freundin April May lebt mit ihren Eltern dort, einen Kriegsveteranen, der für Ordnung sorgt und ihrer Mutter, die ihm selben Krankenhaus wie Pearls Mutter arbeitet. Daneben gibt es noch die verrückte Noelle mit ihrer Mutter und das mexikanische Pärchen Corazón und Ray. Pastor Rex sorgt sich um das Seelenheil der kleinen Gemeinschaft am Rande einer verseuchten Mülldeponie, zu deren gewohnten Gefahren die Alligatoren des nahen Flusses und die allgegenwärtigen Schusswaffen gehören. Als Eli Redmond auftaucht, gerät das fein austarierte Gleichgewicht ins Wanken, denn Margot verliebt sich in ihn und binnen kürzester Zeit hat der Unbekannte sie in seiner Hand.

Jennifer Clement greift in ihrem Roman gleich zwei ganz heiße Eisen der USA an: Obdachlosigkeit und Waffenbesitz. Beides wird in der Geschichte jedoch als so völlig normal dargestellt, dass es von den Figuren gar nicht hinterfragt wird. Dass Kinder zwischen giftigem Müll aufwachsen und den Umgang mit Waffen erlernen, scheint niemanden zu wundern. Sie haben ihr eigenes Konzept von Normalität entwickelt, aus dem sie weder versuchen zu fliehen noch es beklagen. Die Erzählperspektive durch die Augen des Mädchens, das nie etwas anderes gesehen hat, unterstützt diesen Eindruck nachhaltig.

Wenn man die letzten Seiten gelesen hat, bleibt man ratlos zurück. Die Ereignisse, die in die Katastrophe führen, hat man kommen sehen, nicht ernsthaft erwartet man, dass es anders ausgehen könnte. Es ist die Emotionslosigkeit, mit der alles hingenommen wird, die einem verzweifeln lässt. So ist der Lauf der Dinge nun einmal und hin und wieder kostet es eben auch ein Leben oder zwei. Aus westeuropäischer Sicht ist vieles, was geschildert wird, schier unglaublich, im Land der unbegrenzten Möglichkeiten hingegen ist eben auch ein solches Leben möglich.

Besonders herausfordernd bleibt dabei, dass es Zuneigung und Fürsorge zwischen den Menschen gibt und man gar nicht mal den Eindruck hat, dass die kleine Pearl wirklich vernachlässigt ist, auch wenn die Rahmenbedingungen ihres Lebens kaum ärger sein könnten.

Die Autorin erlaubt den Blick in eine Welt von Außenseitern, die am Rande der Gesellschaft stehen und die man gerne verdrängt. Sie schildert ihre Existenz aus der Innensicht und schafft es so, ganz gemischte Emotionen beim Leser hervorzurufen ohne auch nur die geringste Wertung vorzunehmen. Ein außergewöhnliches Buch, das hart in der Thematik, aber geradezu poetisch in der Sprache ist.

James Aylott – Tales from The Beach House

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James Aylott -Tales from The Beach House

The Beach House is a rundown motel in Delray Beach Florida where quite a unique set of inhabitants have come together. From the former and now broke tennis coach to a young forensic examiner at the local morgue, from a paparazzi fotographer to the always making trouble couple, from a Rod Steward double to an secretive business woman – you‘ll find everything life has to offer, especially when it comes to unfulfilled dreams. This strange and bizarre assortment of characters seems not to have much in common, but when their little island of happiness is threatened, they need to stand side by side to save this precious save haven.

I fell immediately for James Aylott‘s residents of The Beach House. They all had their high hopes and also seen the downs of life but nevertheless, they are loveable – maybe except for Gabriel and Bessie Garlech from apartment # 5 – and you simply have to feel pity for what is going to happen to them. Yet, not only the characters have an immediate appeal, it is much more the author‘s style of writing that got me immediately. He masterly puts his story into words and thus makes you laugh out loud more than once.

A wonderful read that is satirical and funny as well as bittersweet at the same time. The individual stories are smoothy linked to add up to a story even though I found the presentation of their backstories much more interesting and entertaining than the actual plot. I also loved the news stories at the beginning of each chapter which highlighted that Florida creates news that surely surpass any imagination.

 

Maria Kuznetsova – Oksana, Behave!

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Maria Kuznetsova – OKsana, Behave!

Ukraine is not what it was anymore and therefore, Oksana’s family decides to leave the country for America. Yet, life is not easy there. The father, a former physicist, does not find an adequate job and therefore delivers pizza; the mother is depressed after having lost another child early in her pregnancy; for the eccentric grandmother things are even worse. And Oksana? She is the strange kid in school. Due to her frequent misunderstandings, she gets herself constantly in trouble and behaves in a very bizarre way in her classmates’ opinion. However, while growing up, life in this strange country gets easier for her, but there is a Ukrainian part in Oksana that still lings for another side of per personality and in Roman, also of Russian decent, she finds a man with whom she can share the undefined longing.

Maria Kuznetsova herself knows what Oksana goes through when being moved from an eastern European country to the US, since she herself had to leave Kiev as a child to emigrate. Her debut is hard to sum up in just a couple of words: it is hilariously funny at the beginning when the family arrives in Florida, throughout the plot, however, they superficial amusement turns into a more thoughtful narrative that focuses on the sincerer aspects of migration and its impact on the development of a young person.

Oksana surely is a very unique character, very naive and trusting at first, she quite naturally falls prey to masses of misunderstandings and is bullied by the other children. Throughout the novel, it is not the relationships with the outside world that are interesting, but first and foremost, those within the family. Especially between Oksana and her father who is fighting hard to succeed and offer the best to his family. As a young girl, Oksana cannot really understand her mother, it takes some years until she finally realises what makes her depressed and cry so much. However, it is especially the grandmother who has a big impact on her, even though the full extent of their love and commitment will only show at the very end.

“Oksana, Behave!” is an exceptional novel in several respects. What I appreciated most is the comical tone with which the story is told and the way in which Maria Kuznetsova showed the girl’s growing up as a process which does not go without trouble but is also heart-warming.