Matching Baggage
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Published in: November-December 2020 issue.


by Bryan Washington
Riverhead Books. 302 pages, $27.


AFTER READING the short story collection Lot in 2019, I couldn’t wait to read Bryan Washington’s debut novel, Memorial. Lot combined the quirky observational skills of an old soul with a gifted young writer’s zeal for storytelling, people watching, and language. The author’s voice—funny, profane, angry, tender, unblinking—fairly leapt from the page. Would the new book live up to the promise of Lot?

            To be sure, Memorial has a lot going for it. Composed as a non-chronological patchwork of short paragraphs and chapters, the novel is less punchy and more downbeat than the short story collection. Washington has described his approach to fiction as “traumedy.”

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Claude Peck is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor.