Archives For Novel


[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1623650461″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”208″ alt=”Mikhail Shishkin” ]Over the Depths of the Sea


A Review of

The Light and the Dark: A Novel
Mikhail Shishkin

Hardback: Quercus Books, 2014
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Reviewed by Meghan Florian


Those readers who appreciate the great Russian novelists of the past cannot, I would argue, deny that these author’s works are often a vast undertaking. In length, number of characters, variations of names, depth of thought, and reflection on the human condition as the writer understands it — authors such as Fyodor Dostoevsky ask a great deal of their readers (just as they did of themselves as writers, it seems to me). Those who are willing to sit with such works, to read slowly and ponder the narrative long after they’ve gone cover to cover with the book itself, can never quite be sure what they’ll find.

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1594486107″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”221″ alt=”Chang-rae Lee”  ]A Dystopia… Or Not?

A Feature Review of

On Such a Full Sea: A Novel

Chang-rae Lee

Hardback: Riverhead, 2014
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Reviewed by Philip Zoutendam

Dystopian. That’s what got me to the bookstore for this novel. Good novel, very good novel, even excellent novel, and I can wait for second-hand or maybe even a library copy. But a dystopian novel—some future world falling apart for being too tightly held together—will get hardcover price from me. (Which is why I have a hardcover box set of The Hunger Games, though I couldn’t bear to finish them.)


A curious thing about this particular “dystopian novel”: there is no doubt, from the first chapter, that it is an excellent novel, but there is a lot of room to question whether it actually is a dystopian one.

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20th Century Fiction

This is the latest post in a series that will, in effect, create a library of classics that are available as free ebooks.

Most recent post: [ Science ]
1st post in this series: [ Classics of Ancient History ]

This week we focus on 20th Century Fiction. We have selected the following books as recommended reading.

We are encouraging our readers to mix up their reading habits, and read (or re-read) classics in addition to new books, such as the ones we review here in the ERB.

Broadly speaking, a classic is any book that is not a new book, or in other words that is worth reading five, ten or even one hundred years after its initial publication. ERB Editor Chris Smith has an article on The Huffington Post website arguing for reading a mix of classics and new books in 2013.

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”0307265749″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”225″ alt=”Jhumpa Lahiri” ]Coming to Terms with our Alienation

 A Feature Review of

The Lowland: A Novel

Jhumpa Lahiri

Hardback: Knopf, 2013
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Reviewed by D.L. Mayfield


Remember that the revolution is the important thing, and that each one of us alone is worth nothing—Che Guevara, in a last letter to his children


Lahiri quotes Che near the end of her book, the long and quiet and powerful novel The Lowland. It is a shocking sentence, written by severe and resolute revolutionary, and the reader feels the sorrow of the intended recipients, the children of the soon-to-be-lost-forever father. By this time, at the end of the story of two brothers and the women in their lives, we are apt to spot the sorrow lurking everywhere. As the novel elegantly slides back and forth between perspectives, time marching on and then doubling back on itself, we slowly start to understand these basic ideologies that drive and fail the characters. Revolutionary actions are born out of the pain of inequality; duty and obligation are seen as a means to transcend the chaos of life; people become inward and closed-off, unable to count their blessing still they are almost all gone. It is a novel about separate lives, coming together and crashing apart.

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Here is our list of 2013′s Englewood Honor Books, the Best Books of the year for the life and flourishing of the Church.

Our criterion both for selecting books to review and for honoring the year’s best books is to choose books that are “for the life and flourishing of the Church” – i.e., books that energize us to be the local community of God’s people that God has called us to be and that nurture our mission of following in the way of God’s reconciliation of all things (in all its broadness!)
This list originally appeared in our Advent 2013 print issue.  For this issue, our Art Editor, Brent Aldrich depicted the covers of the year’s very best books as Christmas cookies. We are delighted to share pictures of those cookies here.

2013 Book of the Year:

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1620326582″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”214″ alt=”Paula Huston” ]An excerpt from the new  book…

A Land Without Sin: A Novel

Paula Huston

Hardback: Slant Books, 2013.
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Read Meghan Florian’s wonderful review
of this novel in our current print issue

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(CLICK HERE to Download the full chapter as a PDF!)
Tikal, Guatemala, 1993
I was looking for my brother. Whether or not Stefan even wanted to be found, I did not know. By now he could be the neo-Che of the Lacandon jungle, or lying in his own filth in a Chiapan jail, or even dead. Because of the way our family is, we’d only been in the same
country at the same time on a very sporadic basis for the past sixteen years, the most recent occasion being his priestly ordination, so it was hard to say what was going on with him. But I was ready for anything.
In my clothes were sewn a false passport bearing a two-year-old photo of him, the best I could do, and a one-way ticket out of Mexico, in case we had to scramble. And because I didn’t know whose list he might be on, I had a fake passport of my own, one of several made for me when I dated a USIA man stationed in Burma. This USIA man’s theory was that no American female could be overly prepared for extended stays in international hotspots, and since it looked like that’s where I would be spending most of my time, I took him up on his offer. A helpful fellow indeed, he also taught me how to throw a knife, a handy trick he no doubt picked up in CIA school, even though he would never admit he’d been.
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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”0316769029″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”218″ alt=”J.D. Salinger” ]Nectar to an Aching Soul

An essay on the classic novel

Franny and Zooey
J.D. Salinger

Paperback: Back Bay Books
Buy now:  [ [easyazon-link asin=”0316769029″ locale=”us”]Amazon[/easyazon-link] ]

By Craig D. Katzenmiller


“I’m so horribly conditioned to accept everybody else’s values, and just because I like applause and people to rave about me. I’m ashamed of it. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody. I’m sick of myself and everybody else that wants to make some kind of splash.”

These are the words that Salinger puts on the lips of Franny Glass, a young university student who is rebelling against university life and one of the main characters in Franny and Zooey.
I was introduced to this book by a friend, who sent the above five sentence quote to me in an email. A D.Phil student in a German university at the time, I was growing frustrated with the whole academia scene, and these words were nectar to my aching soul. I sat with them as my wife and I made the decision to return to America in order to find fulfilling work. Upon my return to the States, Franny and Zooey was the first book I picked up.

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1616952539″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”222″ alt=”Matt Bell” ]The Fabric of our Lives

A Review of

In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods: A Novel
Matt Bell

Hardback: SoHo Press, 2013
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Reviewed by Timothy Stege
I remember an episode of the sitcom The Rules of Engagement where one of the main characters, a young man, just got engaged to and moved in with his girlfriend. Throughout the first part of the show the newly-engaged man is bubbling over with excitement as he anticipates this new life before him. His fiancée has already registered for their wedding shower and compiled the list of gifts she wants, including a cake plate that sets the young groom off to dream about cake. Ignoring the warnings of his jaded long-married friend who tells him that a cake plate does not mean cake, he goes off to the store to make his cake dreams come true. He gets back from the store and while his fiancée sits on the couch, he shares his hopes of cake with her and with a flourish sets out on the table a mixing bowl, spoon, flour, frosting, and other ingredients and with a sort of “ta-da” he calls her attention to the ingredients and utensils. She wastes no time in letting him know that she wanted a cake plate, but has no desire to bake a cake. While this sets him off on a journey of disappointment and questioning and rediscovery of his love for her, it is a journey crammed into a brief 22 minutes and the resolution is quick and clear.

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1620400065″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”220″ alt=”Ken Kalfus” ]Of Martians and Men.

A Feature Review of

Equilateral: A Novel
Ken Kalfus

Hardback: Bloomsbury, 2013
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Reviewed by Erin Zoutendam


Ken Kalfus’s Equilateral is a weird and excellent little novel. The premise alone is enough to pique those with even the slightest native curiosity: After spotting what appear to be canals on the surface of Mars, late-nineteenth-century astronomer Sanford Thayer becomes convinced of the need to signal “incontrovertible proof of terrestrial intelligence” to the planet’s inhabitants (14). Thayer persuades the world’s investors, monarchs, and even schoolchildren to fund the project that he then pursues with Ahabian fury—the digging of a perfect equilateral triangle, over three hundred miles on a side, in the middle of the Egyptian desert. After hundreds of thousands of Arab peasants excavate the five-mile-wide trenches, they will be paved with pitch and filled with petroleum.
Then, sometime before dawn on June 17, 1894, at the moment of Earth’s most favorable position in the Martian sky, the petroleum pooled in the trenches on each side of the Equilateral will be ignited simultaneously, launching a Flare from the Earth’s darkened limb that across millions of miles of empty space will petition for man’s membership in the fraternity of planetary civilizations. (14)

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[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”0062255657″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”222″ alt=”Neil Gaiman” ]Deeper Than it Seems

A Review of

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel
Neil Gaiman

Hardback: Morrow, 2013
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Reviewed by Gary Wake

Neil Gaiman doesn’t feel the need to explain the rules that guide the worlds he creates in his stories. The ocean from The Ocean at the End of the Lane is only the size of a pond, and like the father in the novel, readers know that oceans can’t be the size of a pond. After all, “Ponds are pond-sized, lakes are lake-sized. Seas are seas and oceans are oceans.” Of course, in Gaiman’s novel, nothing is really as simple as that.


The main action of The Ocean at the End of the Lane takes place around this ocean that looks like a pond. The story starts with the main character, an unnamed man, going back to this place where he spent part of his childhood. He has been at a funeral, he has delivered a eulogy, and he is in a suit, “wearing the right clothes for a hard day.” He stands at the pond and thinks back on the events that took place decades before.

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