256 pages; Europa Editions
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In Thad Ziolkowski's aptly named first novel, Wichita, Lewis Chopik, a recent graduate from Columbia University, leaves New York City for his hometown of Wichita, Kansas. He's escaping the pain from a recent breakup with his girlfriend, Victoria, who left him for a Rhodes scholar, and he's avoiding the Ivy League future of his professor father, Virgil. Lewis quickly settles into the home of his New Age mother, Abby, whose house functions as a sort of commune, housing his bipolar brother, Seth; Abby's two boyfriends (earnest Donald lives inside, while eccentric Bishop sleeps in a tent in the yard and operates the basement drug lab); and a bevy of drifters who float in and out. Abby's latest venture is a feminist Ponzi scheme called the Birthday Party, the cash from which funds her career of the moment—storm chasing. Her business, Grateful Gaia Storm Tours, brings tourists into the eyes of tornadoes, and when Lewis and Seth accompany their mother on her first storm tour, everything gets blown open in ways you'll never expect. What ties this book together, however, is Ziolkowski's honest and raw look at brotherhood and what it means to rediscover your family.
— By Leigh Newman