Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken

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The soul is liquid, and slow to evaporate.  The body’s a bucket and liable to slosh.

A 2014 National Book Award finalist, Thunderstruck has certainly earned its place among competing titles.  Comprised of 9 short stories, Elizabeth McCracken’s collection is nothing short of haunting – and I’m not just saying that because we’re getting close to Halloween.  These unforgettable tales are mesmerizing and devastating as McCracken explores aspects of love, grief, family, death, companionship and loneliness.

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Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones

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…if this life is constantly ending, then it’s constantly beginning

From the author of Daniel Fights a Hurricane and Light Boxes, Crystal Eaters is another dark and deeply metaphorical tale that explores death, fear, obsession, and the consequences of modernity.  In an unnamed village on the outskirts of a metropolis, the inhabitants believe that life is be measured by the number of “crystals” one possesses.  Born with 100, crystals diminish over time through aging, illness, and injury.  Obsessed with a finding a way to increase their crystal count and extend life, the villagers consume crystal rocks that are locally mined.

They come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes – and some are crystals believed to be more valuable than others.  Red and yellow are most common, but some believe in the existence of black crystals – the most rare and powerful crystal of all, which may contain the ability to raise one’s internal crystal count.  At the center of this curious backdrop is Remy, a young girl with a very sick mother, a depressed father, and an incarcerated older brother.

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Talking to Ourselves by Andres Neuman

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Fight to the beginning of the end

Are we honest when we’re talking to ourselves? What do our constantly speaking inner voices reveal about the way in which we perceive the world around us and those closest to us? In Andrés Neuman’s (Traveller of the Century) stunning fifth novel Talking to Ourselves, a father, mother, and child collectively embark on a difficult final journey together, while individually they each travel down very different paths alone.

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A Man in Love With Himself: My Struggles with Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle

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Over the past few weeks we’ve been talking nonstop about this year’s crop of Best Translated Book Award nominated authors, translators, and publishers. Now it’s time for us to take a deeper dive into what this award really celebrates: the beauty of storytelling and the art of translation. Over the next few days, leading up to the announcement of the winner on the 28th, we’ll take a closer look at different aspects of several of the nominated titles.

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The Child by Pascale Kramer

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The voices in my head are shadows

A former gym-teacher now disgraced by scandal, Claude is slowing dying of Cancer.  The father of two children from previous relationships – one of which is full grown with a daughter of his own, the other an 11-year-old boy he’s never met – Claude has been married to a woman named Simone for many years now.  This relationship, at least in her eyes, has seen better days.  She thinks, “We weren’t carefree, but we were happy all the same, mostly because we respected each other… From now on, we’re going to lie to each other.”

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