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Idra Novey Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Ways to Disappear (2016) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Those Who Knew (2018) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Collections

The Next Country (2008) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Clarice: The Visitor (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Idra Novey is an American translator, poet and author of literary fiction best known for her novels, Ways to Disappear and Those Who Knew. She was born and raised in Johnstown, Pennsylvania with three siblings. She is a graduate of Columbia University and Barnard College. Her debut novel Ways to Disappear won the 2016 Brooklyn Eagles Prize, 2017 Sami Rohr Prize and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction.

Those Who Knew

Books are written to fit into specific cultural moments often feel dated as early as they hit bookstores. However, some books become relevant by accident and end up being relevant and timeless and Idra Novey’s novel Those Who Knew is such a book.

The novel opens up with death. The year is 2000, a week after Maria, a young activist is killed by a bus on an unnamed island- the cultural clues provided by the author imply it to be Cuba, or probably a version of the country. Lena, a professor living in the isle, finds herself with a mysterious sweater resembling one which Maria P. figure in her obituary. Scared, she hurries to inform her friend Olga as she wonders whether Mary is trying to communicate with her in the afterlife. Olga who was once ann exiled revolutionary watched the members of the island overthrown dictatorial regime torture her love, tries to calm Lena’s nerves.

Victor is the island’s young and popular senator and was in a relationship with Lena some ten years ago before the regime was overthrown. Their relationship ended when Victor nearly choked Lena to death. Victor is a political beast, and Lena is suspicious that he was involved in Maria’s so-called accidental death, but she doesn’t say a word because no one on the island would believe her. After all Victor is a famous and popular man of the isle trusted by many. And besides to make matters worse, she has no evidence, other than the mysterious sweater and her traumatic past that keep re-emerging as Victor’s rise to power is featured in one of the local newspapers.

The story spans over several years, as Lena discovers she’s pregnant and moves out of the island and then returns. While her story is central in this book, Victor, his wife, and other supporting characters all get their some books fall sections. The author manages in short poetic chapters to capture each character’s defining features: including Victor’s desire for power and his cruelty, Cristina’s privileged upbringing, and Freddy’s frustrating talent, Olga’s frozen existence, and Oscar’s naivety and bumbling nature.

Perhaps even more central to the story is the novel’s focus on silence and power, and how power is often used in securing silence. For example, Lena thinks that the more power Victor acquires, the harder it will be for anyone to believe her allegations. Additionally, Freddy suspects that his brother is far less attractive than he is in public, but as a penniless artist and a gay man, he is not entirely sure of his power to act. On the other hand, Cristina’s silence can be attributed to the lack of knowledge fitting the privileged, and this becomes a must protective strategy as she tries to protect her son from his father’s scandals. And Oscar, though he knew nothing of Victor and the island becomes the breaking point of his and Lena’s growing relationship. Novey, a translator, poet is a talented wordsmith with vivid descriptions that are both poetic and overwrought.

Those Who Knew You is one of the timeliest works of fiction for this era. Right from the start of Idra Novey’s book, you will be hooked into the story of intrigue, politics, secrets, lies, and masculine abuse. The beginning of the story is filled with plenty of twists and turns, and it’s narrated from different point of views. One would think that the story would get scrambled, but thankfully the deft writing skills of Idra make the tale smoothly transition from one character to the next beautifully. The latter part of the novel reads uniquely from the first section as each character examines his or her past actions, what they did and what they could have done differently and how those actions might have affected their outcomes. It’s here in which the beauty of the story resonates, and author’s true talent shines. Those Who Knew is concisely written, and it’s a quick read and yet with so much power and strong message with the few pages.

Ways to Disappear

Beatriz Yagoda, a famous Brazilian author, vanishes without a trace when she climbs a tree with a cigar and a suitcase. Hearing the sad news, Yagoda’s translator, Emma rushes to Rio despite her boyfriend and her parent’s reluctance. She meets the Yagoda siblings in Brazil’s capital where she takes refugee after she receives life-threatening messages on her as well as the author’s life from a loan shark. An investigation into the author’s finances reveals that she is in debts and if the obligations are not repaid, the loan shark might take vengeance by chopping the body parts of Yagoda’s siblings.

Fearless Emma, she embarks on a trip with the son to the island and to other parts of the country to find the whereabouts of the author- where she comes to make a shocking discovery about the author’s long-time ago editor. Idra Novey’s writing is flawless and laced with emotions and humorous anecdotes. The story is quite engaging and witty as well. The book is fast-paced and the chapters are concise and crisp with vivid descriptions about every detail thus making the scene unfold right in front of the eyes of readers. In addition the narrative is quite gripping, and it will keep you turning pages to the end. The author’s (Yagoda) weird life and dark secrets will keep you glued to the story and as the story progresses so do the twist and turns and suspense. Rio, Brazil’s capital is vividly captured in the core of the story, and you’ll be transported to witness every detail unfold. The characters are laced with humor and the main character, Emma is a strong character who stands up for her heart wishes.

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