“Every now and then a story collection catches fire. Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Junot Diaz’s Drown, George Saunders’ Tenth of December. The debut story collection from the young writer Molly Antopol, The UnAmericans, is poised to be this year’s sensation. The layered riches and historical sweep of its stories make them feel grand, like novels writ small … This collection matters so much. It signals a shift in sensibility … This young woman writing these little stories just rips your heart out … Antopol appears to be at the beginning of an illustrious career.”
—Benjamin Percy, ESQUIRE
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The UnAmericans has poise and gravity. It sometimes put me in mind of Allegra Goodman’s work; both writers are adept at auditing the emotional lives of frazzled Jewish intellectuals. At other times, the Old World lefty politics in Ms. Antopol’s stories summoned the memory of Grace Paley, for whom every joke came wrapped around a bony fist of meaning … Ms. Antopol’s stories can be bleakly funny … The details in these stories are consistently fresh and offbeat without being showy … I loved the way Ms. Antopol clears the atmosphere in her stories, every so often, for moments of shy ecstasy … Ms. Antopol’s soulfulness and wit make even holding actions memorable and promising.
—Dwight Garner, THE NEW YORK TIMES
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“Like individual novels, these stories appeal, satisfy and delight … They often keep going right past the point where you thought they would end … They’ll make you nostalgic, not just for earlier times, but for another era in short fiction. A time when writers such as Bernard Malamud, and Issac Bashevis Singer and Grace Paley roamed the earth … The strongest piece, “My Grandmother Tells Me This Story,” reminded me of Tillie Olsen’s masterpiece, Tell Me A Riddle … [A] beautiful and appealing collection.”
—Meg Wolitzer, NPR (All Things Considered)
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“The stories in this debut collection are set in Israel, the Soviet Union and America, and their subjects are the dual shaping forces of history and family … Antopol is at her best when she’s exploring the tension inherent in a young writer’s telling of an older generation’s stories. A woman asks her granddaughter, “Why don’t you go out in the sun and enjoy yourself for once, rather than sitting inside, scratching at ugly things that have nothing to do with you?”

“Molly Antopol’s impressive debut is about the weight of family history, the obstacles that the past can impose on the present, and the fraught meaning of home … All the stories seem universal … A wonderful storyteller who knows how to create flawed yet sympathetic (and amusing) characters. Antopol writes convincingly and with great empathy. The stories in The UnAmericans expose complex family dynamics, yearnings and age-old secrets. Antopol’s characters are haunted by experiences of failed love—but throughout, there is the sense that a happier life, somewhere, is just around the corner.”
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“Antopol is an upcoming lady of letters. Last year, she was named one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, one of the most prestigious awards a young writer can nab. Anotopol writes emotionally powerful stories about individuals facing adversity, but what sold us is how she explores “UnAmerican-ness,” feeling like an outsider among Americans, an important topic in today’s heavily Americanized global culture.”
—Tara Wanda Merrigan, GQ 
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“In her debut collection of eight quietly dissident stories, Molly Antopol holds aloft the accidents, ambiguities, and historical inaccuracies that shape our expectations and longings. Many of her characters pose a threat—or at least a question—to America’s political hegemony … unflinchingly honest, not only in its thrilling setup …There are hints in the relationship between Philip Roth’s protagonist in American Pastoral … Antopol’s humanizing, unpretentious and utterly exciting language lends a biting edge.”
—Hannah Gold, THE NATION
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“At every turn, Molly Antopol’s gorgeous debut is firing on multiple cylinders. The book, an unflinching exploration of how one remains human in the face of crushing inhumanity, invites readers into key periods in history even as it details the small-but-devastating shifts these geopolitical moments impose on individuals, families and relationships. These epic stories are masterfully written and fully realized — each one so full of heartache and humor, love and life it feels as though we’re absorbing a novel’s worth of insight. The UnAmericans is a compassionate and brilliantly rendered debut — and for a book set largely in the past, these stories feel essential to understanding the contemporary world in which we live … The UnAmericans reminds readers why short stories remain such a vital form … the stories take flight, transcending time and place and fluttering into the realm of the universal.”
—Jesmyn Ward, SALON
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“[The] ability to imagine others—across language, generations, and culture—is crucial … the author absorb[s] foreign settings so completely that the book achieves the authentic feel of oral history.”
—Joe Fassler, THE ATLANTIC
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“Religion, politics, language, art and the weight of history play into individuals’ decisions in Antopol’s worthy, first collection. Antopol dissects idealism and cynicism in equal measure, and shows the effects of each on the lives of those around her protagonists. History and culture loom, but never for the same person in the same way, and loneliness and confusion result. At times, The UnAmericans recalls Rebecca Lee’s 2013 collection, Bobcat and Other Stories, in its deft navigation of intellectuals’ maneuverings. Whether its familial or economic, Antopol does a good job of channeling her characters’ anxieties, and she shows the aftereffects of seismic political decisions on daily striving worldwide. In “Retrospective,” a translator journeys to Israel to help settle the estate of his estranged wife’s art-collecting grandmother. In its final moments, the story masterfully reveals family secrets while musing on language and art. The effect is staggering, and it brings this strong, expansive collection to a powerful conclusion.”
—Tobias Carroll, TIME OUT NEW YORK
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“Sometimes melancholy, often witty and always absorbing, these subtle stories of flawed humanity are a delight.”
—Hephzibah Anderson, THE GUARDIAN
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“Hot on [Lorrie] Moore’s heels … The UnAmericans is sweeping in scope, making use of the short form to unravel lives, large and small, heroic and flawed. If you’re seeking a complete emotional experience in fewer than 20 pages, look no further.”
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“In rich, inviting language, Antopol’s stories span generations and continents, hope and heartbreak. With a wonderful ear for dialogue and a knack for creating unpredictable but credible story lines, Antopol explores the resilience of her bereft characters and navigates the blank spaces that lie between them. Antopol mercifully extends a lifeline to some of her characters and hints at the possibility of rescue. The characters’ directness, their intensity, even their emotional neediness manage to be appealing. Credit the rich, inviting language of a splendid young writer.”
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“Historical incidents made vivid by eyewitness accounts inform Antopol’s fluent first collection of stories: a contemporary study of assimilation, the past and the uneasy relation to it – often in the form of deliberate amnesia – of subsequent generations … A sense of compromise, of risk-taking and the construction of personae are recurring motifs throughout the book … Antopol crosses America, Europe and Israel in these tales. The energy of Tel Aviv contrasts with the unruffled serenity of Vermont, the grey elegance of Kiev against frenetic New York. She uses lovely, unusual metaphors … The final piece, “Retrospective”, is one of the book’s most poignant. A young couple undergoing a relationship crisis seek to emulate the steadfast marriage of the family’s late matriarch – until confounded by the revelation of her last secret. It is one of many tantalising fragments which, together with the seductive glimpse Antopol allows of a wider back story, hint at future novelistic promise.”
—Catherine Taylor, THE TELEGRAPH UK (Five Stars)
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“Antopol examines human relationships at their most ridiculous and divine with a cast of diverse characters, including an Israeli soldier, an American actor imprisoned during the Red Scare, and a Communist-era Czech dissident.”

“The generation-and nation-spanning characters in Molly Antopol’s poised debut … are forced by time and circumstance to reconsider their ambitions. Dreams of youth may fade, but the compromises of adulthood are eternal.”
—Megan O’Grady, VOGUE
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“Antopol is an author less concerned with representing a certain type of people than with writing human stories. The characters in The UnAmericans are Jews, but their struggles, joys, and sorrows are universal. This is due, in large part, to the fact that Antopol has found the magic potion that allows her to write original stories without reinventing the wheel. She makes everyday people and their circumstances shine bright … The author’s touch is light, never banging us over the head with dense prose, plots that are difficult to follow, or flights of lyrical fancy … Antopol has packed in a novel’s worth of heartbreak.”
—Jason Diamond, FLAVORWIRE (Book of the Week pick)
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“A debut collection that focuses on history, tradition, and what it means to be an American. Antopol has written a masterful collection of short stories with characters so vivid, beautiful, and damaged that they’ll be impossible to forget.”
—Elizabeth Sile, ESQUIRE.COM
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“The arrival of a great ‘UnAmerican’ author … There’s a remarkable thematic congruity to the collection … Story after story explores this uncomfortable link between individual choices and the larger forces of human history — Judaism, McCarthyism, war, all the big ones — that constrict those choices … And though this book is all about the disappointments of idealism, in love and politics alike, The UnAmericans isn’t a depressing book. Antopol is a wry, occasionally funny writer, with an unerring grasp on human nature. Her sentences are without sensationalism or showiness, and she’s amazingly gifted at slipping into different narrative voices. For all the variety in setting and point of view, she presents a compelling vision of what exactly it means to un-American — to be touched by history, to be owned by some impossible political conviction, or cultural identity, or unrealized passion.”
—Laura Moser, THE FORWARD
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“Molly Antopol’s witty debut is as good as the best of them. Antopol, who is poised to make a major splash in the book world, writes about actors, grandmothers, soldiers, and journalists, rendering her characters with grace. Unlike many debut writers, Antopol has produced a collection with scope — the stories hop from setting to setting, and the final one spans three generations in fewer than 50 pages.”
—Julie Buntin, COSMOPOLITAN (10 Books By Women You Have To Read This Spring)
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“The one topic that most of the stories deal with … is the intimate human relationship, both familial and non. [Antopol] manages to capture these bonds in extremely heart wrenching ways.”
HUFFINGTON POST (“The Book We’re Talking About This Week”)
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“Within these compelling narratives, Antopol conveys not only the inner lives of her characters but also the political and social history they carry with them … These rich stories, in many ways reminiscent of the work of Grace Paley, are often sharply funny and always intelligent, and readers will find them immediately appealing.”
LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review)
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“Antopol writes with heart and wisdom reminiscent of Bernard Malamud, telling stories of a specific group’s experiences in a way that anyone can relate to.”
—Emma Brown, INTERVIEW MAGAZINE (14 Faces of 2014)
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“The eloquent truths [Antopol] reveal[s] about identity, consequences, and history are all the more real and resonant because of [her] vital, tactile renderings of place.”
—Miwa Messer, BARNES & NOBLE REVIEW (Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection)
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“In these provocative stories, the forces of family and history—whether Israeli, American or Russian—are inescapable.”
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“Antopol’s remarkably polished and self-assured debut is a collection as diverse in its emotional scope as it is in its geographical wanderings. The UnAmericans embraces both the sprawl of history and the intimacy of human relationships, with stories that observe macro-level themes alongside micro-level tragedies. The defeat of Communism and the morally ambiguous behavior of World War II resistance groups are given weight equal to the fraught, personal connections among siblings, lovers, and absentee parents and their children … Antopol’s words hum with the electricity of a writer who approaches the art of narrative with a fearless gait … Antopol’s work feel[s] alive: Her stories are filled with full-blooded characters attempting to survive the inherent tragedy of being human, and though we’re not asked to forgive their flaws, we do find ourselves empathizing.””
—Rebecca Rubenstein, KIRKUS REVIEWS (cover story)
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“The stories in Molly Antopol’s debut collection have such a deep sense of place and character, that it’s hard not to see them as novels in miniature. They are exceptionally diverse, set in the U.S., Europe, and Israel, and informed by Antopol’s lifelong interest in history and politics.”
—Hannah Gersen, THE MILLIONS
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“The UnAmericans is graced with an unpretentious prose style and plainspoken humor and insight … [they]recall Nathan Englander’s wry undercutting of Jewish stereotypes and the Yiddish-inflected cadences of Isaac Bashevis Singer. Antopol has an ear for the kind of off-diction that can set a character in a certain time and place and round him out better than any physical detail … There is an echo of the Eastern European in such moments of subtle and dry wit. Antopol’s characters carry a burdened, matter-of-fact melancholy, an Old World pessimism lightened by their understanding that the worst will surely come. One must retain one’s sense of humor as calamity rains down … There is a mordant simplicity to these characters’ foibles, which are never judged by the author or even particularly mourned by the characters themselves … With her worldly themes and her interest in ordinary amid extraordinary times, Antopol seems to be pushing the bounds of the contemporary American short story. By moving from suburban realism toward a broader American worldview, she seems to probe for a sense of understanding and completion about complex international realities more weighty than the provincial American divorce. This is what makes Antopol’s collection necessary, in culture and in literature, despite its strong resemblance to Englander, Singer, and her many forebears. The UnAmericans is a vital text for us today.”
—Elizabeth Kadetsky, THE RUMPUS
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“Though they range over more than half a century and across territory that stretches from America to Ukraine to Israel, the Jewish characters in the eight stories of Molly Antopol’s impressive debut collection share a common predicament: In one way or another, they’re experiencing a sense of displacement, an alienation from those closest to them, their society, or both … Antopol demonstrates the assurance of a much more seasoned writer in her variations on that theme … She’s comfortable working … without virtuosic effects, content to allow the quiet competence of her well-constructed stories to speak for themselves. Antopol is adept at consistently finding precise images, small gestures that capture the full emotional range of her portraits. Unstudied and possessed of a refreshing clarity, her stories are the work of a talent whose promising career, happily for us, is just beginning.”
—Harvey Freedenberg, BOOKREPORTER
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“Molly Antopol’s The UnAmericans is already one of the most highly-anticipated books of the season. The advance praise is well-deserved. The collection is, in a word, extraordinary.”
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“An intimate examination of lives shaped by events over the last century … In each of her stories a crescendo occurs when characters jump from the preconceived notion of their old identities to the reality of their new lives. Antopol explores this thoughtfully with witty and heartbreaking prose … Contrary to the book’s title, there is something very American about the journey her narrators take. Perhaps we are meant to understand that navigating the choppy waters of life, love, and self-discovery is a human condition, not an American one … The UnAmericans is a stunning debut from a talented young author.”
—Kim Winternheimer, THE OREGONIAN
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“It would be easy to feel just a little bit jealous of Antopol. She’s been described as “a writer with the emotional heft of Nicole Krauss and the penetrating wit of Philip Roth” … The thing is, [her book] really is that good. She has her own wit that needs no comparison to Roth.”
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“Debut collection launches new author to literary stratosphere … What makes [Antopol’s] writing so noteworthy is an understanding of the human condition that belies her age. An American, she is somehow able to perceive what it is like to be a quintessential un-American — to be an immigrant, or to be a single person powerless against the tide of historical or ideological movements. She knows in a very deep way what it is like to suffer deep disappointment, to lose control of yourself and your own destiny in a storm caused by the emotions and actions of others … She is really an old soul. That’s what makes her so talented and poises her to join the ranks of the best American Jewish writers of her generation, like Nathan Englander, Nicole Krauss and Dara Horn.”
—Renee Ghert-Zand, THE TIMES OF ISRAEL
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“Absorbing … Antopol beautifully captures the complexity of her characters with pitch-perfect dialogue that has both comic and tragic overtones, skillfully suggesting the distance between what is said and what is felt. She is especially good on opening sentences and delivering vital information by indirection, often subtly shifting focus from the teller of the tale or protagonist to another character … It’s no surprise to learn that Antopol’s fiction debut earned her a 2013 National Book Foundation award.”
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“[The] characters that populate Molly Antopol’s outstanding debut collection struggle and sometimes stumble, as they experience some of life’s insolvable moments. Antopol captures their emotions, including the messy ones, with precision. She’s a writer with a big heart. Historical events reverberate in the backgrounds of Antopol’s stories … and the foregrounds are fleshed out with detail and bittersweet humor. Some of the stories begin as though the reader is walking into an intimate conversation already underway, reminiscent of the great short story writer Grace Paley. The endings are never predictable.”
—Sandee Brawarsky, THE JEWISH WEEK
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“These stories all echo a question that Grace Paley once posed in her own unforgettable treatise on immigrant lives: “Isn’t it a terrible thing to grow up in the shadow of another person’s sorrow?” … For all of this melancholy, there is something insistently comforting and honest about the ways these characters accept their complicated entanglements … Antopol’s carefully crafted stories demand our attention, as they remind us to stop, look, and listen.”
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“The UnAmericans may remind readers of the late Grace Paley’s wonderful stories, with their down
to-earth, strong-willed characters. Antopol sets her stories in Israel, New York, California and the former Soviet Union, with such characters as a dry cleaner, soldiers, Communist Party members, translators and others, all of their lives shaped by waves of history.”
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The UnAmericans, a debut short story collection by the young and talented Molly Antopol, [ranges] across Eastern Europe, America and Israel, each short story has a sharp poignancy, a surprisingly bittersweet vulnerability. [Antopol] employs a deceptive simplicity in their writing … [and] a deep and devastating gift for eliciting extraordinary emotional reaction from the recognizable intimacies of relationships … Fundamental experiences are conveyed in such bare, compelling, unaffected voice that it is virtually impossible not to recognize yourself in every different character in [this] excellent book.”
—Sonia Isard, LILITH
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“As Antopol navigates from story to story, she explores a global and multi-generational Jewish identity with so much heart, wisdom and tenacity that this story collection is bound to resonate with readers of all ages.”
—Elisha Hartwig, MASHABLE (Book of the Month pick)
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“It is easy to forget just how satisfying a good short story can be. The UnAmericans is an impressive collection of short stories and a notable debut … Her beautiful prose puts her in the category I reserve for short story authors such as Nathan Englander and Pam Houston. “
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“A powerful, cogent, absorbing debut … With her effortless style and empathetic eye, Antopol reveals a splendid talent, making the personal struggles of one group manifest and clear to all. Some critics have invoked Saul Bellow and Philip Roth in discussing Antopol; this collection shows that comparison isn’t out of place.”
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“In her incredible first book, Molly Antopol has established herself as a key player in the Bay Area literary scene, and the whole country has already taken notice. She’s a recipient of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35″ award, and it’s no surprise why after reading her debut short story collection about deeply emotional rifts in families and relationships across time and place. She’s adeptly exposed the human condition through richly drawn characters that stay with readers long after they’ve turned the last page. The collection takes us from the U.S. to Israel to Soviet Russia, tackling such heady topics as religion, the collapse of Communism, and Soviet repression.”
—Allison McCarthy, 7X7 MAGAZINE
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“A master of the short story … The humanity and vulnerability show how the universal dynamics of family and romantic love are equally nurturing, distancing, tender and messy … Molly Antopol is one to watch. Her characters come alive in a few words, they connect with a single exchange, and they live long in the reader’s mind after the final, masterful, sentence.”
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“Beautifully crafted short stories … Stories fan out from the McCarthy era to modern-day Israel, communist Europe and back again. The cast includes immigrants, dissidents, banned artists and writers — by reflecting on the past, Antopol creates characters who tell us much about our present.”
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“Family dynamics and dysfunction are the common motif in these eight well-observed narratives, whose characters’ immigrant heritage—be it Russian, Czech or Israeli—can weigh uneasily on their New World lives. The lies they tell their loved ones are most often poignantly well intentioned; the truth they tell hurts.”
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“In a word: Wow! The UnAmericans is powerful, well written, thought provoking, and very impressive. Because of the depth of character development in the stories, many of Antopol’s tales possess the richness of a novel, but are also still effective, beautifully constructed short stories that cohere well as a collection … Molly Antopol is an astute, insightful observer of human relationships, which is evidenced in her psychologically complex, well-developed characters and narrators … A remarkable collection of short stories. Each story stands on it own but also ties in thematically with the rest of the tales in the collection. There isn’t a single mediocre or even lesser story in the bunch. The tales of The UnAmericans are unsettling at times and moving. Each story concludes with a wow-inducing finish, as does the entire collection.”

“One of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35″, an honor reserved for extremely promising writers … (stories) evoked with uncommon skill and confidence.”
—Lauren Waterman, DUJOUR MAGAZINE
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“A long-awaited collection from one of our most exciting young short story writers. It’s a book of divided loyalties, the fractures between family, county, and, ultimately, the self. Ranging from 1950s Los Angeles to WWII’s Eastern front to current day Israel, The UnAmericans gives us a fantastic range of characters, all of whom are in some ways struggling with the personal costs of the political. The Janus-faced ideologies of the mid Twentieth century—the Final Solution and the triumphant promise and betrayal of Communism—haunt the regular people who appear in these stories. Yet the book is wonderfully non-schematic. Antopol evokes the gripping ethical choices faced by her characters without a whiff of the morality play. This is a human book, and if any arguments are to be inferred they’re human arguments. Decisions have unexpected consequences, motivations are rarely pure, and the line between self-knowledge and self-justification is as thin as a hair.”
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“Read this if you liked the short stories of Cynthia Ozick or anything by Isaac Bashevis Singer … There’s a sense of oral history here which is quite beguiling, but also, because Antopol is skilled, of the way the stories we tell reveal more about who we are than about actual events … An assured debut from a writer with talent and energy.”
—Cath Murphy, BOOKSHOTS
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“At the end of each story in this unique collection is a stunning end that both makes one stop reading from the impact and forces one to reflect on what has just transpired. Justifiably compared to Nicole Krauss, Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, Molly Antopol is a remarkably talented writer whose historical short stories are distinctly enjoyable and highly recommended.”
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“An awarding winning author, Antopol has crafted stories with Jewish characters from across the globe, affected by the times of when and where they lived and live. Each of the stories has richly drawn characters, and so much power in the way she explores human emotion in different situations.”
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“Antopol depicts with bold strokes and uncanny intelligence the intimate links between family, history, and politics, never failing to capture the grit and hurt of intergenerational confrontation. Honored as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, Antopol enters American fiction with startling originality and honesty.”
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“[A] story collection that will burn your eyes out.”
—Barbara Hoffert, LIBRARY JOURNAL
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“Impressive … harrowing and poignant. Antopol offers complex, psychologically subtle portraits of her often regretful characters, and the details are chilling and persuasive. A smart, empathetic, well-crafted first collection—Antopol is a writer to watch.”
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“Antopol draws the reader to her deeply flawed characters [with] their keen self-awareness, and their consequent ability to act with a semblance of moral, sometimes even selfless, integrity.”
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