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Claire-Louise Bennett. Riverhead, $26 (208p) ISBN 978-0-399-57589-1

Bennett's debut is a fascinating slim volume that eschews traditional narrative conventions to offer 20 mostly linked sections%E2%80%94it's impossible to classify them strictly as chapters or stories%E2%80%94narrated by a nameless woman living in a small cottage in rural Ireland. The sections vary in length, with some as short as a few sentences, and each offers the reader insight into the rather quiet life of Bennett's narrator. Instead of telling straightforward stories, she wanders in a stream of consciousness manner from one ordeal to the next: lamenting the broken knobs on her kitchen's mini-stove leads to an explanation of a novel about the last woman on Earth; deliberating over the best breakfast meals digresses into a story about gardening. The reader lives in the narrator's head, learning tangentially through her words about her failed attempt at a doctorate, her romantic life, and her unwavering fear of strangers. Yet, despite these revelations, the empty spaces of the narrator's life, left for the reader to fill in, are what make the book captivating. Never do we glean her name, or occupation, or appearance. She is a physical blank slate, there for the reader's imagination to round out. Bennett has achieved something strange, unique, and undeniably wonderful. (July)