Lars Pet­ter Sveen, Guy Puzey (trans­la­tor), Gray­wolf Press (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $16 (256pp) 978-1-55597-820-4

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight | Debut Fiction - LETI­TIA MONT­GOMERY-RODGERS

Lars Pet­ter Sveen’s Chil­dren of God col­lects sto­ries fea­tur­ing the New Tes­ta­ment’s mar­ginal peo­ple. On the edge of the Ro­man em­pire, a place where ev­ery­thing is “so mixed up, so con­fus­ing … that it [is] im­pos­si­ble to keep track of all the group­ings and all the fac­tions,” char­ac­ters’ lives in­ter­sect. The mirac­u­lous and the in­ex­pli­ca­ble fold into the mun­dane as a mat­ter of course. As char­ac­ters nav­i­gate the chaos within and without, each story bears wit­ness to hu­man na­ture and the fine­grained tex­ture of rev­e­la­tion, suf­fer­ing, and doubt.

There are Ro­man sol­diers and pros­ti­tutes, thieves and apos­tles, and whether they are fol­low­ing or­ders, rules, fam­ily ex­pec­ta­tions, or so­cial mores, the fa­mil­iar be­comes a po­tent trap for them. What­ever devil some­one knows proves more be­guil­ing than the light-bearer they don’t.

Je­sus—whether he is present or ab­sent, alive or dead—is the most im­por­tant cat­a­lyst. In coun­ter­point, there’s a per­sis­tent an­tag­o­nist in the form of a blind stranger who is “what stays in the shad­ows while the light falls else­where.” He of­fers a night­mar­ish fa­mil­iar­ity var­i­ously dis­guised as com­fort and am­bi­tion.

In the cen­tral con­test be­tween light and dark, each char­ac­ter’s jour­ney is in­tensely per­sonal, di­rected by mem­o­ries, hu­man con­nec­tions, and ex­pe­ri­ences. The im­pli­ca­tions echo, from “A Light Gone,” where the leader of a child gang lays down his life for his fol­low­ers, to “I Smell of Earth,” where no­tions of heaven and hell are turned on their ear.

Chil­dren of God ex­poses the tur­moil of il­lu­mi­na­tion, a striv­ing that ex­ists along­side what’s con­fus­ing, in­scrutable, and seem­ingly con­trary. Puzey’s im­pres­sive trans­la­tion de­liv­ers an as­tound­ing voice to English-lan­guage lit­er­a­ture.

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