This is a novel for the bold of heart.
New York Journal of Books
An intensely corporal, potently feminist, tenaciously written work as alert to animal resilience as to the capacity for bruised and battered suffering, for desire, for ecstasy.
Lidia Yuknavitch burns through sex, art, and war in
The Small Backs of Children.
Lidia Yuknavitch’ s explosive new novel…is fierce in its vision, with captivating prose that carries its own momentum. Yuknavitch has created a reading experience that is uncomfortable and dazzling, with a vital intensity that grabs at the gutstrings.
The Small Backs of Children beautifully examines the fractures of loss and the myriad ways we can recover from it.
Lidia Yuknavitch’s first novel for a big publisher is a big winner.
If you want a novel that is going to swallow you alive this summer, turn to Lidia Yuknavitch whose
The Small Backs of Children is the kind of book that goes straight for your heart and your mind…This one is important.
Bustle Summer Reading Roundup
The Small Backs of Children proves once again that Yuknavitch is witness to the kind of stories we ought to read.
[An example] of thrilling storytelling with universal appeal.
Yuknavitch has a point of view and a fragmented and fractured visionary elegance in her poetic, allusive punk-infused voice. She grabs readers by the throats and immerses them in an intense, wrenching fictive world, but lets them up for air through careful structuring and pacing.
In the latest book from Lidia Yuknavitch, she delves into the aftermath of conflict and tragedy, showing how one image can impact the lives of numerous characters...
Yuknavitch’s writing style works in absolutes and blanket statements like large swaths of color on a canvas…if you ask me to follow Yuknavitch’s plume into a raw, experimental work, I gladly will.
Yuknavitch writes about art, violence, sex, ferocity, willpower and womanhood with explosive force, in a language that evokes modern mythology.
The Small Backs of Children is deeply complex and layered, yet also deceptively simple…exquisite in its lyricism and its ability to articulate and amplify the experiences of suffering and survival.
Lidia Yuknavitch’s writing is a sizzle wire. Her fierce prose will jumpstart your heart and electrify your brain…and her new novel,
The Small Backs of Children is a provocative and thrilling jolt of a book.
…this story packs a powerful punch. It may sound heavy but, trust us, everyone is going to be talking about this book.
In this daring novel, Yuknavitch (The Chronology of Water) takes a provocative look at the intimate relationship among love, art, and sex in a group of emotionally scarred artists who want to save one of their own. Written in the voices of characters without first names—photographer, writer, poet, performance artist, playwright, filmmaker, and painter—the novel begins in modern Eastern Europe (likely Lithuania), occupied by an unseen force, where a photojournalist captures an award-winning shot: a young girl running from her exploding home, in which the rest of her family dies. The girl escapes into the woods, making her way to a widow’s home; the widow teaches her about art, and the girl begins to paint. Meanwhile, an American writer who is friends with the photographer, is hospitalized with severe depression. The writer’s best friend, a poet, believes she can help the writer; she enters the war zone to bring the orphaned girl to the United States. Yuknavitch’s novel is disturbing and challenging, but undoubtedly leaves its mark. (July)
Lidia Yuknavitch’s first novel for a big publisher is a big winner.
Yuknavitch has emerged as a trailblazing literary voice that spans genres and dives deep into themes of gender, sexuality, art, violence, and transcendence.
Lidia Yuknavitch isn’t afraid of anything. We need her sudden cyclonic no-holds-barred wisdom more than ever right now, to hold our feet to the fire, to make us brave in the face of our own impotence, to kick our artistic asses into gear.
You can make the case that Lidia Yuknavitch is the most compelling writer alive.
The Small Backs of Children has moments of séance with writers like Jean Rhys and Clarice Lispector. I felt bewitched, possessed, destroyed, and yet I’d do it again.
The Small Backs of Children is intelligent yet accessible, provocative in the best ways, complex yet tightly plotted and riveting. The characters are beautifully drawn, and together their story raises important questions-about violence, art, sex, and survival-that are both timely and enduring. And the writing-the writing is sublime.
There are a handful of books that have changed the way I move through the world.
The Small Backs of Children is one of them. Lidia Yuknavitch writes with sly, subversive, nervy, compassionate madness. She is one of the great American writers.
Yuknavitch moves through narratives and structures like a literary banshee seeking a body. Fast, visceral,
The Small Backs of Children is a gunshot meditation on art and violence and I couldn’t put it down.
This intensely powerful memoir touches depths yet unheard of in contemporary writing. I read it at one sitting and wondered for days after about love, time, and truth. Can’t get me any more excited than this.
All my youth I gloried in the wild, exulting, rollercoaster prose and questing narratives of Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, and Jack Kerouac, but cringed at the misogyny; couldn’t we have the former without the latter? We can, because: Lidia Yuknavitch. Buckle your seat belts; it’s gonna be a wild feminist ride.
Gorgeous, scary, and a breathtaking rush to read, this book is less a meditation than a provocation on the power and dangers of art. It opens in eastern Europe with a news photographer taking a picture of a girl rushing from a house exploding behind her, killing her family. The photograph wins a prize, leaving its creator in turmoil, but it has momentous meaning for the writer, a friend of the photographer mourning a stillborn daughter. (Characters are referenced by their occupations only, which instead of seeming pretentious or depersonalizing effectively strips them to their essence.) When the writer ends up hospitalized, she's attended by her performance artist friend, her playwright brother (who scripts some of the scenes), and her filmmaker husband, so distraught he punches out his wife's ex-husband, a baldly self-serving painter. When the poet shows up, fresh from graphically depicted scenes at lesbian sex clubs in Europe, she insists that the writer can be saved only by bringing the girl in the photograph to America. VERDICT Showing us how people use one another in an irredeemably violent world where the creation of art is morally neutral but finally the whole point, Yuknavitch (Dora: A Headcase) has written a sensational book. [See Prepub Alert, 1/5/15.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
A grieving mother becomes obsessed with a famous photograph of a child fleeing a war zone. Yuknavitch (Dora: A Headcase, 2012, etc.) made an impression with her transgressive memoir The Chronology of Water, and her new novel features similar plot points and themes. The primary narrator (all except one of the characters are unnamed) is a bisexual writer, a recovering heroin addict, a wife, the mother of a dead daughter and a "strange and alive boy." She has become fixated on the subject of a photograph from an Eastern European conflict that portrays a young girl running away from the explosion that destroyed her home and killed her family. In recounting her life and art, the writer loosely describes a group of friends and family that includes her brother, the playwright; her husband, the filmmaker; her former lover the combat photojournalist; a deeply damaged performance artist; and her best friend, a fiercely ambisexual poet. None of these characters is particularly interesting, and they merely serve as players in the writer's ruminations on art and the violent, sexually charged sections that follow. When the writer collapses and is hospitalized, presumably from the weight of her grief, the poet becomes convinced they need to travel overseas to find the girl in the photo and bring her to safety. The narrative largely collapses into literary experimentalism at this point, with chapters posed as screenplays, fragmented imagery, poetry, minimalism, and white space substituted for storytelling. This isn't necessarily a negative—Yuknavitch is a gifted writer whose dizzying passages are often as compelling as they are grotesque. But it's not a pretty story, and the novel's affected musings on the nature of art, gratuitous sexual excesses, and casual violence may overpower the grace of its words for some readers. Patricia Highsmith by way of Kathy Acker in a highbrow thriller that says as much about its writer as its story.