The Walrus

Walrus Reads


Books by Adam Sternbergh, Sarah Meehan Sirk, and Hillary Rodham Clinton

The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh

in adam sternbergh’s third novel, the journalist plays with a chilling question: What if you couldn’t remember the worst thing you ever did? The thriller unfolds in the town of Caesura — “rhymes with tempura” — located at an unknown point in Texas. The dozens of residents have all had their memories altered and are told that they agreed to the procedure for one of two reasons: either they committed a horrific crime, or they were witness to one. Nobody knows which group they fall in, and, with limited access to the outside world, they have no way to find out. Hence the town’s nickname: the Blinds. But a community full of sleeper criminals is unlikely to stay calm for long. First, there’s a murder — a shooting in a town that isn’t supposed to have any guns. Then, soon after, there’s chaos. The mystery unfolds over five days, and Sternbergh tells the story with verve and wit. However, what makes The Blinds worth reading is not its admirable twists and turns but its rumination­s on self-image and redemption.

— Lauren Mckeon

The Dead Husband Project by Sarah Meehan Sirk

the short stories in Sarah Meehan Sirk’s The Dead Husband Project are not happy ones. “Moonman” explores the end of the world, simultaneo­usly eerie and comforting. “Barbados”contrasts a young couple’s tropical vacation with the spectre of an HIV scare. Some of the stories can feel trite — brash doom and gloom, not enough complexity. But the collection still shines, thanks to the titular story. In it, Sirk looks at the relationsh­ip between two artists, Joe and Maureen, a husband and wife. The former is a star of the art world, the latter saw her career flash and be replaced by motherhood. But when Joe is diagnosed with a terminal illness, Maureen makes plans to use his death for her own ends: his body will be preserved and placed in a gallery, the corpse becoming the perfect artistic medium to resurrect a dead career. Then Joe goes into remission, and Maureen’s plans are shot. “She’d felt it crowning. She could already see the front pages of the arts section, the cover of Artforum. She’d practiced her expression,” Sirk writes. “She should feel like a monster for thinking it. But fuck it if it wasn’t true.” And it’s here — in the picture of a woman utterly callous yet completely relatable — where we see the author’stremendou­s promise.

— Daniel Viola

What Happened by Hillary rodham Clinton

one year after the election of Donald Trump, we don’t need any more reminders that the president is a buffoon. The evidence is constantly in our faces — and Twitter feeds — and focusing on the mess is far less helpful than having a discussion about how best to fix the current political climate. Hillary Rodham Clinton does some of the latter in her new book, What Happened, but it largely broaches only the expected topics: there’s an entire chapter dedicated to her emails, and other sections are devoted to rants about Bernie Sanders and former FBI director James Comey. Where Clinton starts to revisit her own mistakes, she falls back on jabs at her rival (Trump “hardly went a single day on the campaign without saying something offensive”). In its best moments, the memoir depicts a Clinton who is emotionall­y open and introspect­ive — a side few of us have seen (“For the record, it hurts to be torn apart,” she writes). But what is surprising is the idea that someone with a staggering amount of political experience — and who embodies a contempora­ry ideal for what a powerful woman should be — still struggles to find her footing. Ultimately, What Happened shows us that, even at the highest levels of success, gender remains an issue.

— Allison Baker

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