Briefly Noted Book Reviews | The New Yorker

Briefly Noted Book Reviews | The New Yorker

Poor Deer, by Claire Oshetsky (Ecco). This novel follows a sixteen-year-old-girl named Margaret and her attempts to reckon with the death of her best friend in childhood, for which she was partly responsible. In time, Margaret’s role in the tragedy was relegated to rumor; when she confessed, her mother told her, “Never repeat that awful lie again.” Now, in adolescence, Margaret attempts to document the incident honestly, accompanied by Poor Deer, the physical embodiment of her guilt, who intervenes whenever Margaret begins to gloss over the truth. The author renders the four-year-old Margaret’s inner life with sensitive complexity, depicting an alert child logic that defies adults’ view of her as slow and unfeeling. In the present day, the novel considers whether its narrator’s tendency to reimagine the past might be repurposed to envision her future.

Nonfiction, by Julie Myerson (Tin House). The narrator of this raw-nerved and plangent novel, a fiction writer who goes unnamed, addresses much of the book to her drug-addicted and intermittently violent adolescent daughter. Woven throughout her ruminations on her daughter’s struggles are the writer’s cascading reminiscences of her own fragmented childhood and the romance she rekindled with a married ex-lover when her daughter was young. Set in and around a muted London, the novel is a sustained meditation on the trials of family, marriage, and creativity. Writing is an act “of insane self-belief,” the narrator says. “The moment you listen to the opinions of others . . . you risk breaking the spell and, if you’re not careful, sanity creeps in.”

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