Our most heard new fiction of 2021

Our most heard new fiction of 2021

2021 in retrospect

New York writers reflect the ups and downs of the year.

Few things are more comforting and calming than being read aloud. For children, sitting next to their parents before bed and having a story allow them to get them to sleep is a form of connection. For adults, it can still be a way to connect with fiction and let someone else’s voice take you on a journey. Diving into a character’s world means leaving your own behind. The Writer’s Voice, the New Yorker’s podcast where writers read their story from the latest issue, offers the added pleasure of hearing a story the way the author intended it to be. As we near the end of yet another year in which the real world has been a terrifying place at times, let’s take a look back at the most-heard episodes of 2021.

Margaret Atwood’s interpretation of her story “Old Babes in the Wood” does not initially seem like an escapist fiction. Her characters, two aging sisters, visit the family’s cottage to feed their losses and sore knees. But the comedy of their communication and the crooked reflection of the past counterbalance the sadness: “My heart is broken, Nell thinks. But in our family we don’t say, ‘My heart is broken.’ We say, ‘Are there cookies?’ ”

Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Casting Shadows” follows the walks of a single woman through her neighborhood, where she meets an ex, a neighbor and the husband of a friend. Although the narrative does not take place during the pandemic, it captures some of the isolation and distance we have experienced over the past twenty months: “In August my neighborhood thins out: it withers like an old woman who was once stunning before beauty complete shutdown. Some people purposely spend the month here; they like to hide and become anti-social. Others duck at the thought of those informal days and weeks, the severe closure. Their mood sinks, they flee. “

Lauren Groff’s hair-raising tale of domestic violence, The Wind, has a driving, intense energy as it tells the story of a woman attempting to escape from her abusive husband and three children. The story of that day is told from the perspective of the woman’s twelve-year-old daughter and understood how much was at stake: “Knowledge was heavy on her neck, like a hand pressing down hard. And what came to her was the trace of breadcrumbs from the fairy tale her mother told her in the dark when she was little, and it was just the two in the bedroom, no brothers in this life, not yet. ”

Rebecca Curtiss’ story “Satellites” takes place in a house on the Jersey Shore, where Conor and Tony, lifelong friends, meet during the pandemic and relive scenes from their checkered past. These stories-in-a-story are told on behalf of Conor’s wife, the narrator of “Satellites,” who is the author: “We paid babysitters to take care of our toddler, theoretically so I could write novels, I wrote short stories about slutty catwives my agent told me to delete from my computer and my husband had decided that in order to support my career he would invite Tony, who was a cop for twenty years, and ask Tony, me cop -Telling stories that I could turn into film-ready cop sagas. “

George Saunders’s “The Mom of Bold Action” also revolves around a storyteller, a mother who tries to write children’s books by humanizing the household items around her. When her son is pushed by a stranger, she gets caught up in an internal philosophical debate about punishment and forgiveness, which leads her to write something completely different: “An essay. “Justice,” she called it. Goodbye, can opener with big dreams; goodbye talking trees; Goodbye, Henry the dutiful ice cream truck tire, the piece of crap she’d been working on for most of the past year; Goodbye, forced optimism; Goodbye, political correctness. That was the real shit. Impressive. She knew exactly what to say. “

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