cover image The Small Backs of Children

The Small Backs of Children

Lidia Yuknavitch. Harper, $24.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-238324-2

In this daring novel, Yuknavitch (The Chronology of Water) takes a provocative look at the intimate relationship among love, art, and sex in a group of emotionally scarred artists who want to save one of their own. Written in the voices of characters without first names—photographer, writer, poet, performance artist, playwright, filmmaker, and painter—the novel begins in modern Eastern Europe (likely Lithuania), occupied by an unseen force, where a photojournalist captures an award-winning shot: a young girl running from her exploding home, in which the rest of her family dies. The girl escapes into the woods, making her way to a widow’s home; the widow teaches her about art, and the girl begins to paint. Meanwhile, an American writer who is friends with the photographer, is hospitalized with severe depression. The writer’s best friend, a poet, believes she can help the writer; she enters the war zone to bring the orphaned girl to the United States. Yuknavitch’s novel is disturbing and challenging, but undoubtedly leaves its mark. (July)