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Book Review :: The Lonely Stories edited by Natalie Eve Garrett

The Lonely Stories edited by Natalie Eve Garrett book cover image

Guest Post by Sam Tarr

The Lonely Stories: 22 Celebrated Writers on the Joys & Struggles of Being Alone is a collection of distinguished and diverse writers gathered in a volume of unifying isolation narratives, a wonderful contradiction illustrating the affliction or privilege of solitude. Editor Natalie Eve Garrett aimed “to summon cathartic personal essays illuminating the experience of being alone” to challenge the shame and the taboo aspect of discussing one’s loneliness. Collected and crafted before and during the worst of pandemic lockdowns, the stories act upon the hard-learned lessons of the times, showing our isolation was not some passing phase.

Writing can be a punishingly lonely craft, so it’s the writers themselves that tie this collection together best. Each entry is a mosaic showing the complex solidarity of feeling alone. It’s in the “utter brownness” of Claire Dederer’s West Texas landscape and in the silenced pain of Yiyun Li, who “disowned [her] native tongue.” We feel the despair of it in Imani Perry’s hospital room, described as “a funhouse of refracted and repeated loneliness,” and the “different texture” of loneliness in the pre-internet era of Lev Grossman’s “Maine Man.”

Each contribution is a flare sent out of the darkness. In their glare, we see the individual reflections of loneliness. In their glow, we bask in the rebuttal.


The Lonely Stories edited by Natalie Eve Garret. Catapult, April 2022.

Reviewer bio: Sam Tarr is a graduate student at Bridgewater State University and writer living in Weymouth, MA. His work has appeared in 86 Logic and The Bridge

Book Review :: Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo

Sankofa a novel by Chibundu Onuzo published by Catapult Press book cover image

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

Chibundu Onuzo’s novel Sankofa follows Anna Graham—a middle-aged British woman who goes to Bamana, a fictional African country, to find her father—as she tries to understand her mixed-race heritage. Raised by her single white mother, Anna always struggled with her identity, as she knew almost nothing of her Bamanian father. Anna lived a sheltered life with a husband (from whom she is now separated because of his recent affair) who took care of everything for her, so he and their daughter are surprised when she travels to Bamana alone. I have two minor complaints: first, the ending is a bit too neatly tied together in terms of Anna’s understanding of her identity; second, some plot developments similarly seemed too easy to predict, though Anna’s naivete prevents her from seeing what has happened. However, Anna’s grappling with her identity is a useful metaphor for a postcolonial Africa still coming to terms with the multiple strands of cultural history that make the countries what they have become. The novel serves as a healthy reminder to Americans and Europeans that African countries’ histories are more complex than they seem to those on the outside.

Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo. Catapult, October 2021.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.

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Book Review :: Scary Monsters by Michelle de Kretser

Scary Monsters: A Novel in Two Parts by Michelle de Krester book cover image

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

Michelle de Kretser’s novel tells two stories, one narrated by Lyle, the other by Lili; which one you read first depends on which side of the book you begin with. Neither story has an intricate plot: Lili’s follows her year as a teacher at a high school in France, while Lyle’s tells about his experience in an Australia in the not-too-distant future. While the two narratives seemingly have nothing to do with one another, they are held together by the question of who or what the scary monsters are. Both main characters are not native Australians, having relocated from what sounds like a Southeast Asian country, Lili when she was younger and Lyle as an adult. These monsters could simply be those who look down on them for their racial and ethnic difference. De Krester explores that idea, but she has broader concerns. Lili struggles with the daily fears of being a woman in a patriarchal society; though nothing violent happens to her, she knows it could. Lyle’s skin is slowly changing to white, a representation of the sacrifices he’s made to assimilate, possibly becoming a monster himself. Ultimately, the systems of power that go unnoticed are the monsters underneath the proverbial beds of the main characters and perhaps the readers, as well.


Scary Monsters: A Novel in Two Parts by Michelle de Kretser. Catapult, April 2022.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.