A Buzz Book of Fall at Publishers Lunch * A WIRED Ultimate Summer Reading pick
National Book Award finalist Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's highly anticipated return weaves together like and unlike, mythic and modern
In nine stories that range from the real to the unreal, strange to familiar, funny to frightening, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum reminds us why her wildly original debut, Madeleine Is Sleeping , and her masterful Ms. Hempel Chronicles have become contemporary classics--celebrated and beloved.
In a nimble dance of lightness and gravity, Likes explores the full range and contradictions of our contemporary moment. Through unexpected visitors, Waldorf school fairs, aging indie-film stars, the struggle to gain a foothold in the capitalist shell-game of work, the Instagram posts of a twelve-year-old--these stories of friendship and parenthood, celebrity and obsession, race and class and the passage of time, form an engrossing collection that is both otherworldly and suffused with the deceitful humdrum of everyday life.
For readers of Joy Williams, George Saunders, Lauren Groff, and Deborah Eisenberg, Likes helps us see into our unacknowledged desires and, in quick, artful, nearly invisible cuts, exposes the roots of our abiding terrors and delights.
"Bynum's (Ms. Hempel Chronicles, 2008) prowess here lies in her ingenious ability to elevate seemingly minor moments into the pivotal crux of a narrative. Take, for example, in "Julia and Sunny," perhaps the most affecting of Bynum's nine stories, "a small square of silky, pale blue material" that is mistakenly left behind by one child, found by another, then neglected by the adults who should have been more responsible. Into that single blue square, Bynum deftly, remarkably, weaves the dissolution of a marriage, a family, and an intensely long friendship between two couples. In other standouts, an unexpected message addressed to a long-unused nickname reveals the complicated history of three childhood friends in "Many a Little Makes"; in the titular "Likes," a father considers that his tween daughter's Instagram account is more revealing than his actual child; in "The Burglar," a scheduled pest extermination appointment becomes the converging point for an intruder, his victims, and a fictional criminal a screenwriter is loath to create. Although the collection proves uneven, Bynum's more dazzling tales surpass the less memorable for ultimately rewarding results"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Bynum's sparkling, transcendent latest (after Ms. Hempel Chronicles) follows the big decisions and minutiae that make up the messy lives of her characters. Each story is delicate and dazzling in its own way--this is the rare collection where each entry is as good as the one that came before it. The title story follows a father's desperate attempts to understand his young daughter through the lens of her pink-hued Instagram feed. In "The Bears," a writer attends a rural residency while recovering from the trauma of a miscarriage; there, she doesn't write, and on her long walks becomes obsessed with a gorgeous nearby house and its mysterious occupant. "Julia and Sunny" chronicles the dissolution of a once-solid marriage from the biased perspective of the couple's closest friends, another married couple. And in the sublime "Many a Little Makes," three school friends explore their differences in race, body type, and varying degrees of sexual experimentation. The stories hum with thrilling detail and are touched here and there by small hints of magic, such as a young girl imagining a stranger at a party will give her a gift ("A surprise that is small and very delicate, like a music box, but when you open it, it goes down and down, like a rabbit hole, and inside there is everything"). With the exuberance of the best Elizabeth McCracken stories and the insights of Tessa Hadley, these tales are at once gorgeously rendered and empathetic. This has the feel of an instant classic. Agent: Bill Clegg, the Clegg Agency. (Sept.)"
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