One of Vogue's Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2020, one of BuzzFeed's Most Anticipated Books of 2020, one of Vulture's Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2020, and one of The Millions Most Anticipated Books of the First Half of 2020
A figure with no discernible identity appears in a small, religious town, throwing its inhabitants into a frenzy
In a small unnamed town in the American South, a church congregation arrives to a service and finds a figure asleep on a pew. The person is genderless, racially ambiguous, and refuses to speak. One family takes the strange visitor in and nicknames them Pew.
As the town spends the week preparing for a mysterious Forgiveness Festival, Pew is shuttled from one household to the next. The earnest and seemingly well-meaning townspeople see conflicting identities in Pew, and many confess their fears and secrets to them in one-sided conversations. Pew listens and observes while experiencing brief flashes of past lives or clues about their origins. As days pass, the void around Pew’s presence begins to unnerve the community, whose generosity erodes into menace and suspicion. Yet by the time Pew’s story reaches a shattering and unsettling climax at the Forgiveness Festival, the secret of their true nature—as a devil or an angel or something else entirely—is dwarfed by even larger truths.
Pew, Catherine Lacey’s third novel, is a foreboding, provocative, and amorphous fable about the world today: its contradictions, its flimsy morality, and the limits of judging others based on their appearance. With precision and restraint, one of our most beloved and boundary-pushing writers holds up a mirror to her characters’ true selves, revealing something about forgiveness, perception, and the faulty tools society uses to categorize human complexity.
About the Author
Catherine Lacey is the author of Nobody Is Ever Missing, winner of a 2016 Whiting Award and finalist for the Young Lion's Fiction Award, and The Answers. In 2017, she was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists. Her essays and fiction have been published widely and translated into Italian, French, Dutch, Spanish and German. She was born in Mississippi and is based in Chicago.
"[A] haunting fable about morality and self-delusion . . . Lacey—spare and elegant as ever—creates a story that feels at the same time mythological and arrestingly like life. Darkly playful; a warning without a moral." --Kirkus (starred review)
"An ambitious, powerful fable of identity and belief . . . Lacey’s talent shines in this masterful work, her best yet." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Lacey's quietly provocative novel is brilliantly composed. She shines a light on the complexity of humans and the dangers of judging and categorizing others based on appearance, as Pew’s ambiguity reveals the true nature of her characters." --Booklist
“The mercurial and electric Catherine Lacey has now conjured up an of-the-moment fable of trauma and projection – one part Kaspar Hauser, one part James Purdy, and one part Rachel Cusk. The pages shimmer with implication.” --Jonathan Lethem, author of The Feral Detective
“I consumed Pew. It is the electric charge we need.” --Daisy Johnson, author of Everything Under