The Recent East

Thomas Grattan. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-374-24793-5
Grattan’s striking and surprising debut traces the parallel fates of a town in the former East Germany and a mother and her two children who struggle to make it their home. Beate Haas’s parents defected from East Germany with the 12-year-old Beate, settling in upstate New York. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Beate receives the unexpected news that she’s inherited her family’s home in Kritzhagen, Germany. Recently divorced, Beate decides to move there along with her children, 13-year-old Michael and 12-year-old Adela. However, the Kritzhagen she returns to is not the one she left: it’s now a ghost town of graffiti, abandoned houses, and unreliable electricity. Beate flounders, sleeping all day and frequenting a bar at night, and her once inseparable children drift apart. Michael makes friends quickly and begins to explore his sexuality; Adela grows close with a cousin and buries herself in books about the Holocaust. As Beate and her children’s fortunes ebb and flow, so, too, do the conditions of the town, and Grattan shines in his depiction of Kritzhagen as it evolves over the years from a place of refugee encampments and neo-Nazis to a chic vacation town. At turns funny and frightening, this is a moving, memorable portrait of a family and town in turmoil. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 09/30/2020
Release date: 03/09/2021
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-1-250-82958-0
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