Feature

Novel of the week: Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru

The Mojave Desert is “setting, hero, and villain” in this “dazzling” new novel.

(Knopf, $27)

In Hari Kunzru’s “dazzling” new novel, California’s Mojave Desert is “setting, hero, and villain,” said Marie Arana in The Washington Post. Across the book’s nearly 400 pages, one lost soul after another seeks salvation in the desert’s vast emptiness, from 18th-century monks and drug-addled hippies to a UFO-seeking World War II vet and a contemporary couple learning to cope with an autistic son. All are drawn to a singular three-fingered rock formation, and the tapestry that Kunzru creates from their tales, “as random as it may sound,” tells us more about our present than any one story could. “The different plot strands never quite cohere,” said James Miller in The New York Observer. The reader is “left hanging,” waiting to learn why each of us is so prone to mythmaking. Then again, the open-endedness feels appropriate in a novel focused on the persistence of our need for faith in a world “shorn of grand narratives and credible belief systems.” As we turn the final page, “all we have left is uncertainty.”

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