Preparation for the Next Life

7 of 7
Preparation for the Next Life
424 pages; Tyrant Books

The winner that is a love story—and so much more

A bare-knuckled tale about two lost souls, Atticus Lish's debut novel follows Zou Lei, a poor Chinese immigrant, and Brad, an American soldier whose psyche has been ravaged by three tours in Iraq. As the two connect in New York City, Lish delivers a love story with the sentimentality scraped off and the grit kept in—we feel for the two without losing sight of just how difficult their lives are. The winner of the PEN/Faulkner award, which honors the best work of fiction by an American, Preparation for the Next Life pays tribute not just to first-time novelists and small presses, but to the haunted and lyrical prose that evokes the sand in Iraq and the concrete in Queens. ("The explosion leaped out of the road and rose like batwings," he writes of an IED bombing.) Lish captivatingly reminds us how much fiction can speak for those who rarely get opportunities to speak for themselves.
— Mark Athitakis