Preparation for the Next Life

by Atticus Lish

Paperback, 2014





Tyrant Books (2014), 424 pages


Zou Lei, a Chinese Muslim of the Uighur tribe, enters the U.S. via Mexico, and makes her way to New York City. Keeping a low profile and employed in a restaurant, she meets Skinner, a veteran of the Iraqi war, who's afflicted with PTSD.

User reviews

LibraryThing member byebyelibrary
Very good books have an emotional impact. Then there are rare books that are so powerful that you have emotional memories of the experience of reading them. "Preparations for the Next Life" is in the latter category. in telling the tragic love story of Skinner and Zou Lei, two lost humans, one a PTSD-suffering Iragi-War veteran, the other, a struggling undocumented Uiger immigrant, Atticus Lish has crafted something both startlingly original while at the same time recalling the heavyweights of American literature: Faulkner, Morrison, Flannery O'Conner, Cormac McCarthy.

Lish manages to touch so many hot button issues: race, religion, class, immigration without ever discussing them. He just tells a powerful story, a difficult story, a story in lesser hands would fall to pieces in cliche or stereotype. Lish accomplishes this through an attention to the details in the lives of his characters and the streets they wander with an attention to detail so intense it feels at times almost pathological. The portrayal of the city of New York, the neighborhood of Flushing in particular, is part Dickens, part Delillo.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Bibliofemmes
This was a difficult book to read about subjects we don't like to face or acknowledge, but needs to be read. The characters are not loveable, the plot and writing is jumpy and disjointed, but so is life. Our book club agreed that this was one of those titles that disturbs and effects the way we think. You can't walk away from this book uneffected.… (more)
LibraryThing member AmourFou
Compelling, raw, bleak and powerful. It is almost difficult to describe this tale as fiction because it feels so real when you are in it. Lish's narrative is stripped-down and unrelenting and holds you in his dystopian reality until the final page.
LibraryThing member pomo58
Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish is a difficult book to rate. This is not due to any flaws but to the fact that a book that presents some very ugly truths can also be a very beautiful book.

This is a dark and often depressing book about the illusion that is "The American Dream." Whether one is an undocumented foreigner who is working hard or an American born and raised war veteran with PTSD, there are more things working against you than for you. To say the descriptions are bleak is almost an understatement.

Having said all of that, this book is beautiful in it's rendering of hopelessness. Dreams for advancement and happiness easily become a simple desire to survive without hassle. People, all people, need someone(s) or we can go crazy in our struggles. This novel portrays that need and all of the difficulties inherent in having such a necessity in our life.

This should be read by everyone, in my opinion, simply so that we can all understand the difficulties our fellow human beings suffer daily. Aside from that sweeping statement, I think readers who don't mind bleak as long as it speaks to the human condition will enjoy this book. I am not sure those who read for entertainment only will want to read this, though they will be rewarded if they choose to tough it out.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via LibraryThing.
… (more)
LibraryThing member sharonstern
A well-written novel about a harsh subject. The grime, dirt and deep hopelessness of the main characters' lives leap off the page. The plot weakens a little towards the end. Overall, a compelling read that you may want to put down, but can't.
LibraryThing member novelcommentary
It was interesting to read that Atticus Lish, son of the famous editor, Gordon, never reached out to his father or even told him about this first novel. He must, however, have had some genetic influence on writing though because this is an impressive venture into the lives of a couple on the fringe of life. Zou Lei, an illegal immigrant from muslim China, has an incredible work ethic, but no papers. So she is constantly looking over her shoulder, fearing Homeland Security, while she takes jobs selling DVD's or working in a mall's fast food restaurant. She meets Brad Skinner, a three tour, Iraqi vet who suffers from PTSD and moods swings that even the cocktail of military supplied anti depressants can't control. They are both living in filthy, cheap lodgings in Flushing, existing day to day and at times enjoying working out together followed by love. When Skinner talks about marriage as a way to help Zou Lei become an American citizen, we start to think they may have a chance at a life together. However a third character, Jimmy Murphy, a newly released prisoner and general malcontent, becomes the catalyst for destroying this dream.
An interview with Lish indicated that he spent many years working in odd jobs on the periphery of life and he writes well about the city, the undercurrent of the poor. This is a point of view that is important to see, a category I call appreciation literature. It puts some elements of your life in perspective.
The New York Times review provides a nice line:
"This is an intense book with a low, flyspecked center of gravity. It’s about blinkered lives, scummy apartments, dismal food, bad options. At its knotty core, amazingly, is perhaps the finest and most unsentimental love story of the new decade. It’s one that builds slowly in intensity, like a shaft of sunlight into an anthracite mine."

I look forward to reading more from this new author.
… (more)


Original language

Page: 0.3081 seconds