Monday, November 3, 2014

The Given World by Marian Palaia

I found this book through and decided to give it a try. I wasn't sure if it would actually be something I could read and enjoy, but I was intrigued. 

Marian Palaia has given us a gift with "The Given World." A heartbreaking, but extraordinarily beautiful gift. We follow and get to know Riley over 25 years of strength and vulnerability as she moves from Montana to San Francisco to Saigon. 

We see pieces of an American culture many of us lived through, but usually lived through at a distance. Riley puts us in the middle of it and has us wanting so badly to protect her from it. And if we can't, we're going to stick with her all the way to the end.

It's hard for me to believe this is Marian Palaia's debut novel.  It's as perfectly written as anything I've ever read.  Lyrical, strong, devasting, uplifting and enthralling.

"The Given World" will more than likely live on my Top Five list forever

Here's what Goodreads has to say about it -

Spanning twenty-five years of cultural upheaval, moving from Montana to San Francisco to Saigon, The Given World is a major debut novel about the effects of war on those left at home, by an author who is strong, soulful, and deeply gifted (Lorrie Moore, New York Times bestselling author of Birds of America).

When Riley and her parents get the news that her big brother, Mick, is missing in action in Vietnam, it blows a hole in the family bigger than any landmine could. Riley takes refuge in isolation and drugs but a few years later falls in love with Darrell, a boy from the local reservation who tells her of his induction into the Army just as Riley discovers she's pregnant, at seventeen. Left behind again, Riley begins a journey that takes her to San Francisco, Saigon, the haunted tunnels of Cu Chi, and finally back to Montana. Maybe she is searching for her brother, but mostly she is searching for a way to be in the world without him, a way to trust love again.

The Given World introduces an extraordinary cast of characters; including Primo, the big-hearted, half-blind vet; Lu, a cab-driving addict with an artist's eye; and Grace, a banjo-playing girl on a train carrying her grandmother's ashes; all are members of a lost generation coming of age too quickly as they struggle to put together lives interrupted by loss. At center stage is Riley, a masterpiece of vulnerability and tenacity, wondering if she'll ever have the courage to go home again.

Marian Palaia is a writer of startling grace and sensuous lyricism; reading her, you feel as if you've never heard language this beautiful and this true. The Given World deserves a place on the shelf beside the pantheon of extraordinary war novels of our time, such as Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms and Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried; (Jonis Agee, author of The River Wife).

Disclaimer:  an electronic arc of this book was provided by  No review was promised and the above is my unbiased opinion.

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