Preparation for the Next Life

Atticus Lish


This book, which won the 2015 PEN/Faulkner award for fiction, is Lish’s debut novel. A profoundly sad story of a young Muslim illegal immigrant from China and a veteran the Afghanistan war suffering from PTSD, it leaves the reader with no hope of a happy ending.

Happy endings are sometimes overrated, and as the book wends its way to the inevitable sad ending, it leaves the reader with a sense of satisfaction and hope. Zou Lei is the stronger of the two lovers. A member of a Muslim sect in China, she is used to being on the fringes. Nevertheless, a core of steel will not allow her to give up. In spite of everything she continues to struggle. Skinner, the war vet, has had his core destroyed by the war. The two unlikely lovers struggle to keep their love alive in the face of overwhelming odds.

The writing is luminous, and that is what kept me reading to the end, long past the time I had given up hope for the couple. The world is against them, and they simply lack the skills to cope with the challenges they face.


Little Bee

Chris Cleave


This was a well-written thoughtful story of a young girl fleeing violence. Terrified for her life, she manages to reach the only people she knows in Great Britain. Accidentally released from a detainment center, she becomes part of the family, which includes a very annoying child. I could do without the plot moppet. YMMV.

Her insights and opinions of lifeĀ  in Great Britain form the most enjoyable aspect of the book. The author has chosen an ambiguous ending, which seems fitting for someone who doesn’t fit in where she came from nor where she is. A good book club choice, I think.