McSweeney's

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

“She wanted to die and I wanted her to live and we were enemies who loved each other.” If you’re looking for a one-sentence synopsis of All My Puny Sorrows, Miriam Toews’ latest novel, you could do far worse than that brief excerpt from the book. Shortlisted for the 2015 Folio Prize, which is to be awarded on March 23, this story of those two enemies—sisters caught in a struggle with death, life and each other—takes on a daunting list of weighty issues: love, mental illness, the damage done as well as the support offered by family, and, ultimately, the dark attractions of suicide. But what really gives this book its sense of life and its emotional power is the way in which Toews leavens those heavy issues with an oddball quirkiness and sense of humor that makes its sometimes-grim events bearable and pulls the reader inexorably into her story.

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My Documents by Alejandro Zambra

My Documents by Alejandro Zambra

Alejandro Zambra has been called a major successor to Roberto Bolaño, and it’s easy to see why. The Chilean compatriots share a gnomic bookishness, a kaleidoscopic storytelling style, and an ability to leaven the seriousness of their themes with an impish sense of humor. Plumbing the fault lines of Chile’s landscape and society, both authors capture the shifting emotional valence of a country gone slightly out of whack, and bring a strong sense of moralism to a world in which morals seem to be in short supply.

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