[alert variation=”alert-info”]Publisher: Riverhead Books
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Kindle
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | iBooks[/alert]

Leah Hager Cohen’s No Book but the World is a lush exploration of memory, the boundaries of familial connection, and the necessity of stories for getting to the bottom of often fleeting and ambiguous truths. Ava and Fred are siblings raised by parents with “progressive” views. Their father in particular views his children as the subjects of a social experiment, instilling in them the underlying assumption that man is by nature good, rather than teaching them social standards and values. In this world free of societal constraint, however, Fred may have an undiagnosed mental disorder that haunts him later in life when he is accused of killing a young boy in the woods.

Ava recounts the story from the perspectives of Fred, her husband, Dennis, her childhood friend, Kitty, and herself, in the hope that weaving these stories together will create an understanding of Fred that either absolves or condemns him, in her own mind at least, of the horrific crime. The pulse of this novel is a meditation on knowledge, knowing someone, and what bridges the gap between us as humans, siblings, friends, and lovers. Can we ever know what another person holds inside? What someone is capable of? And what are our responsibilities to those closest to us? The conclusion of Fred’s story does what all great novels do best: it leaves readers wondering and wanting, grasping for answers that are as vague and as timeless as the questions themselves.

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