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What We've Lost Is Nothing

What We've Lost Is Nothing

5.0 1
by Rachel Louise Snyder

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From an NPR contributor, investigative journalist, and one of Library Journal's "outstanding new voices," a striking debut novel that chronicles the first twenty-four hours after a mass burglary in a suburban Chicago neighborhood and the suspicions, secrets, and prejudices that surface in its wake.

One of Vogue.com’s "Ten Best Suspense


From an NPR contributor, investigative journalist, and one of Library Journal's "outstanding new voices," a striking debut novel that chronicles the first twenty-four hours after a mass burglary in a suburban Chicago neighborhood and the suspicions, secrets, and prejudices that surface in its wake.

One of Vogue.com’s "Ten Best Suspense Books"

In her striking debut novel, Rachel Louise Snyder chronicles the twenty-four hours following a mass burglary in a Chicago suburb and the suspicions, secrets, and prejudices that surface in its wake.

Nestled on the edge of Chicago’s gritty west side, Oak Park is a suburb in flux. To the west, theaters and shops frame posh houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. To the east lies a neighborhood still recovering from urban decline. In the center of the community sits Ilios Lane, a pristine cul-de-sac dotted with quiet homes that bridge the surrounding extremes of wealth and poverty.

On the first warm day in April, Mary Elizabeth McPherson, a lifelong resident of Ilios Lane, skips school with her friend Sofia. As the two experiment with a heavy dose of ecstasy in Mary Elizabeth’s dining room, a series of home invasions rocks their neighborhood. At first the community is determined to band together, but rising suspicions soon threaten to destroy the world they were attempting to create. Filtered through a vibrant pinwheel of characters, Snyder’s tour de force evokes the heightened tension of a community on edge as it builds toward one of the most explosive conclusions in recent fiction. Incisive and panoramic, What We’ve Lost is Nothing illuminates the evolving relationship between American cities and their suburbs, the hidden prejudices that can threaten a way of life, and the redemptive power of tolerance in a community torn asunder.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Snyder’s debut concerns the fallout from a mass burglary in 2004 in comfortable Oak Park, Ill., famed for its Diversity Assurance program, an experiment in integration. Referring to the insignificant stolen goods, such as CDs and a lawn edger, and to the fact that nobody was harmed during the robberies, resident Michael McPherson is quoted in the local paper as saying, “What we’ve lost is nothing.” However, many community members wonder—some covertly, some overtly—whether the perpetrators are from an adjacent poor, black neighborhood in west Chicago. Later, Michael wonders if “they had lost something so enormous there existed no name for it.” Supplementing Snyder’s explorations of community and prejudice are the nuanced portraits of the neighbors/victims, including a nearly blind former professor, a Cambodian immigrant family, and Michael’s wife, Susan, a passionate believer in the Diversity Assurance program. Another narrative thread concerns the relationship of teenage Mary Elizabeth, Michael and Susan’s daughter, with a bad boy. The relationship, and the book, builds to an incident of shocking violence. Snyder’s debut is smooth and engaging, and reads like the work of a veteran novelist. (Jan.)
“Veteran journalist Snyder crafts a muscular and fearless debut novel that boldly tackles the heady themes of prejudice, self-preservation, poverty and privilege. Deftly underscored by a steady drumbeat of denial and discontent, Snyder’s drama provocatively reveals the escalating tensions of a community about to implode.”
Bookseller, Politics and Prose - Mark LaFramboise
"In What We’ve Lost Is Nothing, Rachel Louise Snyder tackles a difficult subject, the effects of crime on a community. By exploring the lives of victimized neighbors, she shows how well-meaning people can fall prey to their fears and prejudices. It’s a story about an at-risk community skirting the west side of Chicago, but the themes are universal. It’s a compelling and important novel about family and neighborhood, about individuals when ideals and values are thrown into harsh contrast. A marvelous book."
author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self - Danielle Evans
"Rachel Louise Snyder’s debut novel marks the arrival of an important new voice in fiction. With sharp prose and compelling insight, What We’ve Lost is Nothing brings readers to a neighborhood in a moment of public crisis that unmasks a range of private crises. Snyder renders a beautiful portrait of both the complex world of Ilios Lane and the gulf between the way that we imagine our worst fears, and the way that they come to pass and demand that we survive them."
author of House of Sand and Fog and Townie - Andre Dubus III
"Rachel Louise Snyder writes with the rigorous scrutiny of an investigative journalist and the deep and roving empathy of a natural-born novelist; the result is a bold and mesmerizing exploration of daily truths we don't talk about nearly enough: class prejudice and racism; the chasm between newly arrived immigrants and those of us who've been here for generations; the painful division between husbands and wives and the children they've made; and that razored air between what we believe and what is. What We've Lost is Nothing is a stellar debut by an important and necessary new voice among us."
author of American Subversive - David Goodwillie
"A powerful, page-turning debut that dares to delve below the surface of our glossy American lives. You may never look at your neighbors—or yourself—the same way again."
author of The Adults - Alison Espach
“Snyder offers us an unflinching and complicated portrait of a community that is afraid to look back at itself, and she does so with grace, wit and tenderness of heart. This book is stunning and so incredibly relevant.”
"Riveting . . . Snyder’s portrayal of the disintegration of this one quiet block is masterful, forcing the reader to examine the possibility of his own stereotypical behavior if faced with a similar situation."
Washington Post
"Ideas abound in this thoughtful story, a demonstration of the author’s years of experience as a community organizer. What We’ve Lost Is Nothing has the stamp of authenticity."
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Keenly observed."
"Snyder's character development is astounding, as are the complexities of her writing. She manages to tackle some big issues including racism, city vs. suburb, violence, and the enigma of the human psyche — all while telling a spectacular story."
San Francisco Chronicle
"[Gives] compelling expression to relevant and pressing issues of our time."
Kirkus Reviews
Snyder's debut novel takes place in the two dramatic days following a series of burglaries in an upscale Chicago neighborhood. Residents of Ilios Lane in Chicago's Oak Park neighborhood wanted to believe they were helping change attitudes toward diversity, but when someone breaks into the homes in this more affluent area bordered by mostly minority-occupied homes and apartments, subtle changes begin to take effect. The ones who see the most change are the members of the McPherson family: daughter Mary Elizabeth, who is skipping school when the break-in happens, tripping out on ecstasy with her Cambodian friend, Sofia; her mom, Susan, a true believer in diversity who has worked her entire adult life to integrate local neighborhoods; and her father, Michael, who sees a chance to step up to the plate and be the liaison between the violated families and the police. The others involved in the break-ins have various reactions to the crimes. Mary Elizabeth finds her proximity to the burglars has made her the target of Caz's attention. Caz, a boy at school who has ignored her in the past, seems smitten by her. Sofia finds herself in hot water with her parents. Susan is determined not to let the incident scare off prospective tenants. Alicia and Dan must return from a vacation in Florida to visit her indulgent parents. A semiblind neighbor finds himself beseeched to move in with his sister, and a French chef discovers his authenticity questioned. Snyder's book encompasses a time period beginning with the discovery of the crimes to a final, life-changing showdown that takes place at the end of the emotionally and physically exhausting experience. Snyder's writing is crisp and clean and the premise is unique, but readers may find the characters less than compelling.

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6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

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Meet the Author

Rachel Louise Snyder is a writer, radio commentator, and professor of creative writing at American University. The author of Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade, she has contributed regularly to NPR’s All Things Considered and she hosted the public radio series, Global Guru and Latitudes. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Salon, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the New Republic. Originally from Chicago, she has lived in Boston, London, and Phnom Penh, and currently lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and daughter.

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What We've Lost is Nothing: A Novel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago