Today, we are pleased to bring you reviews of two recent novels to add to your summer reading list, pronto! First, Laura Spence-Ash reviews What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons, a debut that just hit the shelves this week. In Spence-Ash’s words: “Clemmons has written a novel that doesn’t quite feel like a novel. She nicely plays with form to convey content; the book seems at times like a memoir and, at others, like a collection of minute essays. …The blurring of boundaries between genres does much to underscore this sense of never quite belonging to any one thing.”
Next, Kim Winternheimer reviews Gabe Habash’s debut novel Stephen Florida, which follows the mental workings of a college wrestler who is fiercely dedicated to his sport. Winternheimer writes: “Stephen grapples with his place in the world outside of wrestling and because we have so much access to his thoughts and feelings, what starts as the pursuit of a lofty sports goal is in equal measure a journey for sanity, for balance, and for a life filled with meaning.” Read on!
What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
Much of What We Lose, an innovative and engaging debut novel by Zinzi Clemmons, is about being stuck in the in-between. The protagonist, Thandi, is of mixed-race, with an American father and a South African mother. Although Thandi is brought up in Philadelphia, her mother’s ties to her home country are strong, and the family visits most summers. Over the course of the book, Thandi matures from a teenager to a young woman. And then Thandi’s mother dies from cancer, and she is a daughter without a mother before becoming a mother to a son. In all these instances, she interrogates each binary as well as the space in between as she tries to figure out who she is and how to move forward. Read more.
Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash
Gabe Habash’s confident debut, Stephen Florida, explores the single-minded intensity behind the pursuit of your goals. The result is a fast-paced novel about sacrifice and dedication, as it follows college senior and wrestling national championship hopeful Stephen Florida in his attempt to win the 133lb weight class.
Stephen Florida is a talented wrestler at an average college, but he is exceptional in his devotion to his sport. Willing to sacrifice beyond reasonable measure, Stephen makes his commitment to wrestling a credo. The novel reads like a manifesto, leading readers into the mind of a character filled with pain (“What will make my thoughts less ugly while I wait for my turn? I live in these little chambers of dissatisfaction like a frustrated prince. I’m constantly reminded that I’m not owed anything.”), humor (“I guess because sailboating and horse jumping, kite contests, golf, those aren’t sports. Anything that needs an object or water or an animal is not a sport. Wrestling is genuine and true and real.”), and extraordinary focus (“But I don’t need to be old to know that to look back and realize you didn’t push yourself for something you loved is the greatest regret you can have”). Read more.