cover image Relief Map

Relief Map

Rosalie Knecht. Tin House (Norton, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (296p) ISBN 978-1941040-22-5

Part languid thriller, part coming-of-age tale, Knecht’s atmospheric debut deftly follows the doubts of teenage self-discovery into larger uncertainties about personal safety, the specter of terrorism, and the role of authority. A hazy summer of babysitting, listlessness, and ambiguous flirtation with her best friend, Nelson, stretches ahead for 16-year-old Livy Markos, navigating adolescence in the enervated rust belt town of Lomoth, Pa. But sudden catastrophe ruptures her ritualized ennui: FBI agents cordon off the town, suspecting it harbors a fugitive from the republic of Georgia. Choked by heat and fear, the community disintegrates. Relationships fracture and long-buried secrets surface, while the shutdown kindles teenage restlessness into a desperate excursion that entangles Livy in dark ethical and legal consequences. Knecht’s teenagers speak authentically: at once self-aggrandizing and curious, wary and naive, torn between the need to belong and the drive to differentiate. Readers will be immersed in the vision of America drawn by this bracing, uneasy account of a fading small town seized in a modern state of emergency. (Mar.)