This first novel by Atticus Lish blew my socks off! It tells the story, a modern day love story, if you will, of illegal immigrant Zou Lei and Iraq war veteran Brad Skinner, who meet in New York – not the New York Frank Sinatra sings about, but a grimy, harsh, bitter underside of New York. This book is all about people living on the margins of a cruel society which chews up and spits those unlucky enough to have fallen through the ever widening gaps.
Skinner is a young veteran returned from his third tour of Iraq where he has witnessed unspeakable acts of violence. Clearly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and utterly alone, he meets Zou Lei, half-Uighur, half-Han Chinese woman who has been smuggled into the US in a truck. Each seeking solace and refuge they begin an unlikely relationship.
Now it is clear from the beginning that this book is not going to deliver any fairy tale ending. In fact Preparation for the Next Life goes hurtling onwards towards its devastating conclusion and I could not put it down even though at times I had to remember to breathe.
Lish writes with an impressive rawness and lack of sentimentality which shows us the ugly process of illegal immigration and the utter destruction of war on the young men who serve and are then abandoned. This book hasn’t left me since I picked it up. What a debut novel but not one for the fainthearted.
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.