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Preparation for the Next Life    by Atticus Lish order for
Preparation for the Next Life
by Atticus Lish
Order:  USA  Can
Tyrant, 2014 (2014)
Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Two wounded people find and lose each other while going through the lowest life New York City can offer. Zou Lei is an illegal immigrant - from China, but not of it, since she is a Muslim Uighur. Skinner is an Iraqi vet, damaged in body and soul. Their desperation knows no end. She is in fear of being found out and deported. He cannot seem to make the worlds of his past and present work independently, and medication and booze are not helping.

Author Lish's sharp eye for atmospheric detail - sometimes rather much of it - does not keep us from caring deeply about these two. Their love and innate goodness feel very real, and when their hearts are broken so are ours. But what surroundings! The story is dense with trash and rot and rust. Every possible corner of dirt and contamination is examined and described. The multiple ethnic and religious parts of the city are shown at their lowest level. This is definitely the underbelly of New York. Page after page of detail grows in mass until we feel that we live under those railroad tracks and behind those dilapidated buildings.

The author has a remarkable ear and eye. The dialog is sharp and well caught, especially Zou's broken English. The characters, even those with brief appearances, all stand out as distinct individuals. And the world he presents is our homeland. It is not an idealized version; it is real: the American Dream as nightmare. When will we wake up?

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