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“Like Denis Johnson in ‘Jesus’ Son,’ Kushner is on the lookout for bent moments of comic grace…The Mars Room is a major novel.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Kushner uses the novel as a place to be flamboyant and funny, and to tell propulsive stories, but mainly as a capacious arena for thinking.”
—The New Yorker
“[Rachel Kushner is] one of the most gifted novelists of her generation—on the same tier as Jennifer Egan and the two Jonathans, Franzen and Lethem…[The Mars Room is] a page turner… blackly comic…It’s one of those books that enrage you even as they break your heart.”
—Charles McGrath, The New York Times Book Review (Cover Review)
“The Mars Room affirms Rachel Kushner as one of our best novelists…her stories slink in the margins, but they have the feel of something iconic.”
—Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
“Kushner is a woman with the chops, ambition and killer instinct to rub shoulders with all those big, swinging male egos who routinely get worshipped as geniuses.”
—John Powers, Fresh Air
“[A] tough, prismatic and quite gripping novel…wholly authentic…profound…surprisingly luminous.”
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
"A disturbing and atmospheric book...Ms Kushner makes the prison, and the world beyond its walls, vivid."
"A searing, tragic look at life in the prison-industrial complex, covering poverty, sex work, mass incarceration, education, trauma, suffering, love, and redemption. Somehow, Kushner's rapid-fire, imaginative prose makes it seems effortless.”
“Potent…an incendiary examination of flawed justice and the stacked deck of a system that entraps women who were born into poverty…The Mars Room is more than a novel; it’s an investigation, an exercise in empathy, an eyes-wide-open work of art.”
—Kelly Luce, Oprah
“[An] electrifying take on the chaos of 1980s San Francisco.”
—Sloane Crosley, Vanity Fair
—Megan O’Grady, T Magazine
“Superb and gritty… Kushner has an exceptional ability to be in the heads of her character."
—Eve MacSweeney, Vogue
"A powerful undertow pulls the reader through the book. I didn’t consume it so much as it consumed me, bite by bite..."
—Laura Miller, Slate
"Kushner's characters are so authentic and vividly drawn that with each new novel, it’s easy to assume she’s tapped out. Yet in The Mars Room, she brings to life another remarkable heroine."
“Kushner is a masterful world-creator, and her accomplishment here is unparalleled.”
“Kushner’s writing and thinking are always invigorating, urgent, and painterly precise.”
“Stunning… a gorgeously written depiction of survival and the absurd and violent facets of life in prison.”
“Gorgeous…The Mars Room sings.”
—Sasha Frere-Jones, Bookforum
“A revelatory novel about women on the margins of society…it’s a true feat of Kushner’s extraordinary writing that such profound ugliness can result in such tumultuous beauty.”
—Maris Kreizman, Vulture
“Stunning…Heartbreaking and wholly original.”
“A probing portrait of contemporary America.”
“Kushner’s great gift is for the evocation of a scene, a time and place.”
“Reading The Mars Room is a profoundly affecting experience, very nearly overwhelming, and yet it absolutely must be read. Kushner’s first two novels (Telex from Cuba, The Flamethrowers) were National Book Award finalists. It would be baffling if The Mars Room does not win this year’s.”
—Cory Oldweiler, amNewYork
“[A] stunning new book… Kushner deploys the masterful storytelling she’s known for…an unmistakable voice. “
—Town and Country
“Brilliant and devastating…Kushner doesn't make a false move in her third novel; she writes with an intelligence and a ferocity that sets her apart from most others in her cohort. She's a remarkably original and compassionate author, and The Mars Room is a heartbreaking, true and nearly flawless novel.”
—Michael Schaub, NPR.org
“An essential novel...Kushner is a bit of a magician, exploring bleak territory with pathos and urgency that makes it nearly impossible to stop reading.”
—AM New York
“Kushner is both tough and darkly funny in writing about her characters’ situations, and she writes not so much for us to empathize with them, but rather to understand them. The Mars Room is a captivating and beautiful novel.”
“Kushner's writing is clipped and sharp, as she tells the story of [Romy's] adjustment to life behind bars — and how she got there.”
“An enormously ambitious project profoundly rooted in a particular time and place… Kushner’s greatest achievement in this unique work of brilliance and rigor is to urge us all to take responsibility for the unconscionable state of the world in which we operate blithely every single day.”
—Jennifer Croft, The Los Angeles Review of Books
“Rachel Kushner cements her place as the most vital and interesting American novelist working today...The Mars Room makes most other contemporary fiction seem timid and predictable."
—Michael Lindgren, The Millions
“Absorbing…The Mars Room is impeccably researched without ever seeming dry or preachy… insightful…authoritative…haunting.”
—Alexis Burling, San Francisco Chronicle
"Kushner’s got the talent to justify the hype…The Mars Room builds to a redemption that comes from hard truth, sharp and broken and shaped by an author of exceptional power and grace.”
—Jeff Baker, The Seattle Times
“The book is beautifully written, without sentimentality or agenda, and at times even [with] a sly and dark humor.”
—Holly Silva, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Readers will savor every detail of Ms. Kushner’s descriptive passages, which bring ferocious beauty to even the ugliest surroundings."
—Leigh Anne Focareta, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette
“[Kushner is] an exceptionally talented and philosophically minded writer.”
—Jessica Zack, The San Francisco Chronicle
“Heartbreaking and unforgettable… [The Mars Room] deserves to be read with the same level of pathos, love, and humanity with which it clearly was written.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Kushner, an acclaimed writer of exhilarating skills, has created a seductive narrator of tigerish intensity… This is a gorgeously eviscerating novel of incarceration writ large."
—Booklist, Starred Review
“A searing look at life on the margins…This is, fundamentally, a novel about poverty and how our structures of power do not work for the poor, and Kushner does not flinch…gripping."
“Kushner is back with another stunner…without a shred of sentimentality, Kushner makes us see these characters as humans who are survivors, getting through life the only way they are able given their circumstances.”
About the Author
- File Size : 2485 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 353 pages
- Publication Date : May 1, 2018
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B075RX1YLM
- Publisher : Scribner; Reprint Edition (May 1, 2018)
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #93,307 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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To say that Kushner is a master storyteller would be the understatement of 2018. To tell you that her characters, each with a life story so intriguing, how they walk and talk to the point that you forget you’re reading because it feels like they are in front of you. Well, I just told you. She wrote it and you ought to read it.
Romy, the protagonist, is on a prison bus with her soon to be prison mates, headed to a new location. The ride and these people alone are an indication of how bleak things are going to get as she is in for one brutal two life sentences with no parole situation.
There are codes, rules between inmates, and ways to keep yourself alive within prison. Romy can play this game. She was doing it long before she was behind bars. But by no means is it easy. The struggle is real.
A literary light is kindled for Romy when she meets a prison teacher who takes note of her interest and feeds her curiosity with great books. This is just one of many layers to the story.
There is an overriding sense of sadness that I felt for each of these women. Even though they are fictional, and each ended up incarcerated of their own doing, some for unthinkable crimes, I could not help but think of their circumstances and how their endgame was inevitable. One takeaway for me is that people are no different whether they have freedom or not. Alliances are formed, stereotypes are prevalent, the weak do not survive, bigotry and hatred abound, a keen sense of intellect is learned quickly inside, and the ignorant are loud.
Ooh wee, THE MARS ROOM is one fine, entertaining, and knock-out book. I can’t get enough of Kushner’s writing. What’s next.
in OITNB. There’s valid male perspective, also. And several questions are offered, about the inevitability of life, once choices are made. This all may sound moralistic and dry...it’s NOT! The characters presented will make you want to mother them- or wish you could have, back when they were kids. Plus: we’re given a crash course in the really seamy part of San Francisco!
Top reviews from other countries
“The Mars Room” is as much a tale about the experience of being female and living in poverty as it is about prison life in America. Kushner spent time in prisons and displays an extraordinary knowledge of life inside – told honestly and with no prettification.
Shattering masterpiece, tragic and funny and nothing like you’ve read before.
Kushner does not attempt to show us the prisoners are nice people. Many are killers and one even killed her own child. That said, the prison staff too are brutalized by a regime which ignores everyone’s humanity. Prisoners’ families are subjected to a humiliating series of petty rules when they visit, even down to being told what items of clothing they should and should not wear.
Many years ago I worked for an organisation which helped the families of prisoners. As part of the job I took volunteers on prison visits, to give them an idea of how the system works. In the UK life prisoners are not routinely shackled and I met prison officers who had very good relationships with long term prisoners and were happy to eat meals prepared by them (as I and my volunteer colleagues did). I met others in a different prison who distrusted even short term prisoners who were incarcerated for short periods. The ‘open’ prison system in the late 1990s was clearly very different from the ‘closed’ one at Barlinnie (Glasgow) where, as late as 1997 prisoners were ‘slopping out’ and closed visits were routine. The staff themselves undoubtedly had a harder job because of the constraints of the building and the lack of facilities (Barlinnie was so overcrowded prisoners could only watch thirty minutes of television at any one time, no matter when the programme ended, causing a lot of disgruntlement). All this seems as nothing compared with the picture Kushner paints of US prisons.
I found Kushner’s prison novel compelling yet utterly bleak. Kushner is a novelist, not a politician or prison reformer but I cannot help but think the novel has to be saying something – and something very bad – about the state of prisons in the US in the twenty first century.