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Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish
A couple of months ago, an agent friend of mine came to lunch with a handsome paperback novel "I think you'll like this," she said. This agent is one of the very best, and though I've known her for years, she doesn't pitch me easily or often, preferring, I guess, to see what books (represented by her or not) organically rise to the top.
Anyway, I took this novel home and have been reading it in fits and starts. It's already been published by a tiny press (and, though I didn't realize it, reviewed in lots of places, too) and I've got loads of forthcoming titles vying for my attention, so I haven't had the sustained time to finish it. And yet, the story here "“ it's called Preparation for the Next Life "“ keeps calling to me, especially as I read other novels about soldiers; it's interesting that the book that comes up right after this on Amazon.com is the National Book Award Winning Redeployment, also about war and its bare-survivors. And then there's the racial element, and the story of immigrant experience: an illegal Chinese immigrant/dishwasher falls in love with an Iraq war veteran who may have PTSD but may also be something of a prophet.
But apparently, I am very late to the party. This novel, by the wonderfully named Atticus Lish "“ he is the son of the legendary editor Gordon Lish, with whom he has publicly collided; did his father have a particular connection to the ever-just Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird? "“ has been on several Best of lists in 2014. And today, he won the George Plimpton prize from the esteemed Paris Review for an excerpt from the novel. It has, as of this writing, 61 reviews on Amazon, half of which are 5 stars.
I've been meaning to talk to the editorial team about this book for weeks, and to write about it here in this space. I like to be first, or at least early, with these things. So I kinda blew it, I guess, but at least I can add my voice to the chorus: Preparation for the Next Life is the book you want to read, and to talk to your smarter friends about. Atticus Lish clearly has a dark side "“ oh, and now I see on his author's page that Lish and I both put the dark and gritty true crime tale, People Who Eat Darkness on our favorites list! "“ and no sane person would call his fiction debut a light read. But it's an important one. And more important, it's a gritty, compelling, unputdownable one for anybody who cares about humanity and survival.