WCSU

Lily Meyer

Like many Franco-Algerians, the novelist Kaouther Adimi has spent much of her life moving between Algiers, where she was born, and Paris, where she now lives. Thanks to France's 132-year colonization of Algeria, the two countries are thoroughly intertwined — a relationship Adimi explores with nuance and determination in her third novel, Our Riches, newly translated by the excellent Chris Andrews.

Rebecca Dinerstein Knight's strange and delightful second novel, Hex, opens with its protagonist in crisis. Nell Barber is an ex-doctoral student at Columbia; her lab, which studied toxins, has been disbanded after a student accidentally poisons herself, and now Nell is floating through New York, grief-stricken and in need of work. She's also profoundly lovesick for her dissertation advisor, a magnetic young botanist named Dr. Joan Kallas. Without Joan's "absolutely necessary nearness," Nell is undone.

The writer Elizabeth Tallent released her first story collection in 1983. Over the following decade, she joined Stanford's prestigious creative writing faculty and published a novel and two story collections, all well-received.

Calling a novel The Gimmicks is a big risk. The title promises charm and entertaining contrivance, perhaps a certain fun boardwalk-prize tackiness. But too much charm becomes phony, and a too-contrived plotline wrecks a reader's suspension of disbelief. As for tackiness — that depends on the novel itself.

In Nicole Krauss's 2017 novel Forest Dark, an Israeli scholar asks a Jewish-American writer, "'You think your writing belongs to you?'" The writer, whose name is Nicole, responds, "'Who else?'" and the professor shoots back, "'To the Jews.'" This scene springs from Krauss's own life. Like the fictional Nicole, Krauss struggles often against readers' desire for her to speak not for herself, but — somehow — for her entire religion.

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