The Small Backs of Children

5 CDs. 5 hrs. HighBridge. 2015. ISBN 9781622319121. $24.99. digital download. F
OrangeReviewStar"This, reader, is a mother-daughter story," the American writer-who-is-also-the-mother insists in the latest from Yuknavitch (Dora: A Headcase). The mother-writer has battled debilitating bouts of depression but she's survived thus far, until her daughter's stillborn birth spirals her into silent withdrawal. In an effort to save her, the mother-writer's coterie of artists—including former and current husbands, an ex-lover, and friends—are charged with rescuing an Eastern European girl made world-famous by an iconic war photograph. The award-winning image captures the child midflight, leaping from an explosion that destroyed her family, her home, her identity. "Every novel is a lie that hides the self," the writer warns, and yet the truth proves even more difficult to comprehend. That the characters remain nameless—they're referred to only by their jobs/relationships—adds an oxymoronic layer of immediacy, as if the writer, photojournalist, playwright could be any mother, lover, brother we know. Narrator Amanda Dolan's measured, exacting voice heightens the recognition, making Yuknavitch's prose that much more chilling, alarming, and ultimately unforgettable.
VERDICT A sparse, jarring, can't-turn-away experience. ["Gorgeous, scary, and a breathtaking rush to read, this book is less a meditation than a provocation on the power and dangers of art": LJ 5/15/15 starred review of the Harper hc.]

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