Her mother is terminally ill. His father, a mystery.

THE WAR FOR GLORIA By Atticus Lish There is a brilliant polish to so much early-career contemporary American fiction, the feeling that ...


THE WAR FOR GLORIA
By Atticus Lish

There is a brilliant polish to so much early-career contemporary American fiction, the feeling that behind the authoring talents that created these novels and stories, there is also a well-meaning production team of editors and faculty. creative writing and various helpers along the way. who passed the rules of what can and cannot be done on the page. And so one often has the hollow feeling that these carefully crafted books are now part of a smoothly running machine whose ultimate goal seems to be less art than commerce. This isn’t even remotely the case with Atticus Lish’s deeply moving novel “The War for Gloria”.

From its first hypnotic pages, we find ourselves in the safe hands of a wandering omniscient narrator, one who intimately knows the heartbeats of his two central characters: Gloria, a young single mother, and Corey, her only child, a boy. who shows a passion for sailing by studying books. “Corey showed his mother the islands on the map, Boa Vista and Santiago off the coast of Senegal, telling her that he would sail here someday when he grew up and went out to sea,” Lish writes. “He had learned the concept of a ship while living in his mother’s car. He had become attached to the concept very early on. Maybe it was still in his head, one of the basic concepts he was born with: woman, sun, land, boat.

He was also born, it soon becomes clear, with a deep and lasting love for his mother, an aspiring writer and intellectual who struggles to pay the bills and is forced to constantly move, a woman her young son considers her. lawyer. times, despite the vagaries of the world: “He considered her to have a jaw of glass which she kept putting in place and which kept cracking. But when it came to him, she was loyal.

Set in and around the working-class neighborhoods of Boston during Obama’s presidency, the novel takes a dark turn when Gloria suffers from a terminal illness and Corey’s father Leonard, a man he did not have. never known, returns to the front of the stage. Leonard works as a security guard at MIT and claims to be a largely self-taught physicist writing his own groundbreaking thesis, which Gloria has compared “more than once” to the guy from “Good Will Hunting”. He is also obsessed with one of his neighbors, a man who got away with killing a woman. Leonard’s presence quickly becomes grim, but he’s a fully realized character, just one of many here. There’s Adrian Thomas Reinhardt, Corey’s new friend who has been accepted to MIT, a boy with a sculpted physique who lifts weights and hits a heavy sack that he hangs from a tree in his affluent Cambridge neighborhood, who wears a leather jacket and a plastic groin cup at all times and Nietzsche bed for recreation. There’s Tom Hibbard, a “tin knocker,” and his daughter, Molly, one of Corey’s classmates, whom he longs for. When we meet her, we’re not given so much a portrait as a sense of what her appearance prompts Corey:

“He would always remember the sight of Molly standing in front of his house in the summer light when he was 13 and she was wearing cropped shorts. The sun had fallen on the grass of the rutted yard, making it a verdant electric green. A blue beach sky rose above the tips of the treetops. Below the cliff and beyond the trees is the sparkling ocean.

Immediately after that light touch comes a full rendition of New England blue collar culture:

“Coal smoke permeated the air. Pickup trucks were parked everywhere, on the street and on the grass. Rock was playing on the radio – hits from the ’80s.… A group of older male construction workers lined up, staring contentedly down the street, silent. … Many were heavily tattooed, like bikers or ex-convicts, their skin armored by the sun and work. You could see an invisible responsibility hanging over them – payments for vehicles and houses, children and women. Stabilized by the weight, they were even more constrained by a common sense of the right way to act; they had to work together. There was no savagery; they were ships with ballast and keels.

Lish’s substantial gifts, first shown in her acclaimed debut novel, “Preparation for the next life“, are extensively exposed here and throughout this beautifully written book – its ability to render cityscapes, weather and its subtle effects on the emotions of its characters, the textural experience of poverty and class stratification. in our America at the start of the 21st century, the physical labor, as well as the physical and psychological violence. All of this is captured by a passionate narrative voice that clearly existed, a voice that intimately knows not only the rigors of a combat confined within a cage fight, but also the bruised and hungry heart of a woman aspiring to realize her potential before she dies. But at the heart of “The War for Gloria” is the unforgettable character of Corey, a young man who must caring alone for his dying mother, a boy who is thrown through the rough streets to find his lonely path.

With this, only his second novel, Lish not only created a lasting work of art, he distinguished himself as one of our best writers.

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