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Farrar. Aug. 2020. 416p. ISBN 9780374277581. $27. MEMOIR
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As with his previous work, Imaginary Cities, Anderson’s personal and generational memoir eschews a straightforward narrative for a freer form of nonfiction. Each chapter uses a mundane object—a bird’s egg, fences, empty bottles—as pinpoints for reveries on his own working-class youth in Derry, Ireland, and the lives of his parents and grandparents, available to him only through stray photos and carefully edited family stories. Ever-present in both foreground and background is the Northern Ireland conflict and its effects, with the titular chapter simply presenting a six-page prose list of incidents of violence during the Troubles: kidnappings, bombings, murders; injuries and deaths, both deliberate and accidental; along with victims, whether military, paramilitary, or civilian. The effects of this sustained environment of conflict take their toll on each generation of the family, with depression, addiction, and suicide making appearances—but most grim is the culture of near-impermeable silence Anderson finds surrounding the tragedies of both family and country.
VERDICT A poetic and brutal reflection on the ways the unspoken past haunts the present, the construction of histories from fragments and secrets, and the physical, mental, and emotional traumas that result when violence becomes part of the daily landscape.

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