cover image The Light Room

The Light Room

Kate Zambreno. Riverhead, $27.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-42106-2

In this poignant memoir, novelist and critic Zambreno (How to Write as If Already Dead) reflects on caring for her two young children during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Organizing her narrative seasonally, Zambreno considers the trials and triumphs of raising a family amid that cultural tumult while staving off fears of additional crises, including ecological collapse. Her meditations traverse such topics as the demands of teaching at home, concern for her daughters’ development, and her delight in sharing time with them outdoors. Throughout, Zambreno turns to influences including writer Natalia Ginzburg and visual artist Joseph Cornell for guidance and inspiration, pulling ideas for crafts and inspirations for journaling from their work. Though Zambreno’s repeated complaints about nursing, sleep deprivation, and a problematic radiator may prove tedious even to empathetic readers, her frustration is relatable: “Sometimes mommies have tantrums, too,” she admits. Her mastery of imagery—particularly as it pertains to light and nature—provides welcome moments of transcendence: “Sometimes the sky had clouds like putty, other times it was unimaginably clear, tinted blue, with an almost overbearing noon sun.” It adds up to an arresting snapshot of caregiving in a time of uncertainty. Agent: Harriet Moore, David Higham Assoc. (July)