I’m an avid Atticus fan now.

Written By: sherridaley - • •

I read Atticus Lish’s books because his father is the reason I was able to finish writing HIGH COTTON. I had brought him a handful of pages when he was at Knopf. He was Raymond Craver’s editor, and I am a big fan of Carver. Lish called me at the ad agency where I worked at the time and suggested we meet. “I was on my way to the wastebasket with your manuscript, but I read the first paragraph …”
So I thought I’d see what talent his son had, thinking that he probably got published just because his dad had influence in the business. I was prepared for mediocrity – and I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I read Preparation for the Next Life first, an ambitious novel about an undocumented Chinese girl and a tortured Iraqi war veteran named Skinner, set in the grittiest neighborhoods of New York City. How they survive independently and almost unbelievably makes for an irresistible story. What amazed me — and I actually wrote Lish a fan letter and told him he amazed me — was the amount of research he must have done. He had to have visited the seedy cardboard apartments where Zou Lei had to live, storing her possessions in paper bags. He had to have gone in the 24-hour McDonald’s in Times Square where homeless people often sleep.
This was an introduction to the underbelly of New York, smelly, dirty, hot, and scary, but Skinner and Zou Lei somehow scrape out the beauty in it, and they fall in love.
You’ll end up grateful for your own life, aching for the pain in theirs while you read. And Lish is masterful at presenting unexpected turns. It’s a hefty novel of more than 400 pages, but never was I ready to set the book down.
When I finished, I was glad that I had The War for Gloria on the table next to my bed so I didn’t have to go long without Atticus Lish.

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