Island, by Siri Ranva Hjelm Jacobsen

Staff Pick

This beautiful novel is several love stories at once: the lifelong one between the narrator’s Omma and Abbe—her Faroese grandparents—the Omma’s for another man, and, principally, the complicated affections each character feels for the windswept archipelago itself. Growing up in Copenhagen as the third generation of her Danish-Faroese family, the speaker is intimately familiar with a “pathological homesickness” that leads her to retrace her grandparents’ lives. In a series of vivid snapshots intercut with her own occasional island sojourns, she recreates their courtship, year-long separation, European reunion, and highlights from the Second and Cold Wars. The novel is less about history, however, than it is about shifting currents of home and exile. Just as, after a lifetime away, the islands her Abbe “longed for existed somewhere outside geography,” the place Jacobsen evokes in her lyrical, spare, and utterly magical prose exists primarily in language. Open to any page, and the images pop: “at the end of March, winter simply fell off like a scab”; the cherry tree “grew and muttered to itself sentences of white and pink”; coves are “nature’s own solitary confinement cells.” And perhaps most salient: “home is a toponym…a place name,” and in Jacobsen’s vivid articulation, the word is everything.

Island By Siri Ranva Hjelm Jacobsen, Caroline Waight (Translated by) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781782275800
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Pushkin Press - September 7th, 2021

Harrow, by Joy Williams

Staff Pick

After a career spent calling people out on their mistreatment of nature, Williams could hardly be blamed if she threw up her hands now and left the species to its deadly folly. One senses despair written all over Harrow, which is set in a “post-catastrophic” world, dying because “we are dead to its astonishments,” yet also struggling—like bombed-out Phoenix—to rise anew from its ashes, but the novel doesn’t quite succumb. Challenging, even alienating—do we cheer on the elderly eco-activists with their pathetic plots, laugh at them? Both?— And what of the final, nearly Biblical, vision, as the ten-year-old judge, Jeffrey, a follower of Kafka, changes his name to Enoch (who was “taken from Earth…without passing through death”), finds and loses his beloved Green Galena ? Featuring William’s fierce language, incomparable sharp wit, searing satire, and even admirable characters, this fiction makes a powerful statement from the unprecedented pressures currently at work in the world.             


Harrow: A novel By Joy Williams Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525657569
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - September 14th, 2021

Believers, by Lisa Wells

Staff Pick

Seeing the natural landscape she loved as a child succumb to the concrete of suburbia “radicalized” Wells at an early age; she understood “environment” not as an abstraction, but “where we lived,” and dropped out of school in tenth grade, unwilling to be complicit in civilization’s “unsustainable expansionist system.”  Her thought-provoking and capacious book examines how and why we let this system turn a paradise of natural abundance into a “near dead world.” But even as that process also kills something inside us, we don’t have to live lives as depleted as that of the places we’ve desertified. Surveying a range of art and literature including Gilgamesh, the Bible, and Salgado’s photos of Brazilian mines, she tracks the shifting relationship between humanity and nature; from this conceptual foundation she explores a range of alternatives to mainstream capitalist business as usual, from desert “outlaws” living off the grid to alternative spiritual communities to environmentalists rewilding devastated landscapes. Ultimately, her fascinating book leaves us hopeful: if we can stop dominating and imposing ourselves like colonizers and instead cooperate and adapt, like migrants, we can restore both ourselves and the planet.

Believers: Making a Life at the End of the World By Lisa Wells Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374110253
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - July 20th, 2021