cover image Motherest


Kristen Iskandrian. Twelve, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4555-9444-3

Iskandrian’s stellar first novel is set in the early ’90s, as college freshman Agnes, adjusting to life away from home, learns her mother has left her father. As a coping mechanism, she begins writing letters to the absent woman, though she has no idea where her mother is and cannot mail them. Each letter is a kind of journal entry that reveals her intimate moments: sexual encounters, drunken revelry, and lingering thoughts about her older brother, Simon, who committed suicide three years earlier. These letters continue after Agnes becomes pregnant by her Nirvana-obsessed ex and moves back home for the summer. Agnes and her father wade into the mystery of pregnancy together, complete with visits to the local clinic and meetings for single mothers, and their relationship wavers as Agnes’s due date approaches and they cope with the empty spaces left by Agnes’s mother and Simon. Iskandrian’s debut is sharp and honest, recounting Agnes’s journey in a crafty mix of first-person narration and epistolary forms, and Agnes’s voice charms with a subtle undercurrent of humor and sarcasm making this a delightful and satisfying reading experience. Iskandrian is a writer to watch. Agent: Emma Patterson, Brandt & Hochman Literary. (Aug.)