During quarantine, the social limits of home confinement can impose a surreal texture to simple everyday experiences. Many authors are great at conceptualizing the illusory nature of reality in odd circumstances: They build fluid worlds that fuse time, place, and perception.
Maisy Card’s multigenerational debut novel, These Ghosts Are Family, uses the spirits of Caribbean folklore to weave together unreckoned colonial history with the fractured identities of present-day characters. The novel Autumn by Ali Smith jumps back and forth between post-Brexit Britain and the World War II era. Smith sketches the life of the book’s protagonist and her much older friend partly through mystical dream sequences juxtaposed against historical events.
Short stories by Carmen Maria Machado use elements of fantasy to capture the mundane psychological horrors that many women face every day. The alienation of the characters in Yukiko Motoya’s short story collection, The Lonesome Bodybuilder, sparks flights of imagination that reveal their inner selves. Lesley Nneka Arimah’s “What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky”—the title story of her debut collection—takes place on a dystopian Earth where the remaining inhabitants are toying with the laws of nature in an attempt to reverse the post-apocalyptic state.
Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.
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An epic novel haunted by the ghosts of colonialism
“These Ghosts Are Family takes a wide-ranging approach to its depiction of undead spirits. The titular beings aren’t just malevolent boogeymen who show up to frighten the living, as in a Halloween tale. Rather, they drift in and out of the humans’ perception, shifting people’s relationship to the world around them by compelling overdue reckonings.”