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The Sabotage Cafeby Joshua Furst
Synopses & Reviews
Of his debut story collection, Short People, the Los Angeles Times proclaimed: "Furst makes it all explicit — the cruelty, the astonishment, the treachery, the rapture — and in doing so creates a thoughtful if disturbing portrait of what it means to be a child. Or, more to the point, what it means to be human." He now follows that with a gripping first novel about a mother and daughter, the ties that bind them and the extraordinary measures each will take to strengthen or sever their bond.
Entangled in the 1980s Minneapolis punk scene, Julia suffered an unspeakable trauma that drove her into a conventional suburban existence, even as battles with mental illness and unresolved grief continue to scar the veneer of normalcy she tries so desperately to maintain. When her sixteen-year-old daughter goes missing, Julia can envision her every move, from the Minneapolis outskirts into the city's back alleys and abandoned corners. Here, amid a new generation of iconoclasts squatting in the abandoned Sabotage Café, Cheryl reenacts her mother's own coming-of-age — a sullied mélange of drugs, awkward sex, glib anarchy and random acts of violence — and calls into question everything that either one of them might have hoped to become.
A mesmerizing portrait of a subculture that is visible all around us and yet assiduously ignored — in which today's innocents shoulder their parents' rebellion in addition to their own — The Sabotage Café is a tour de force of psychological intrigue, revealing a writer in full, ambitious command of his craft.
"'After examining the lives of children in his well-received short story collection, Short People, Furst explores the pains and perils of adolescence in this first novel, with mixed results. Rebellious Cheryl, 15, slips into her Doc Martens one day and runs away from her stifling suburban home. She ends up squatting with a group of dead-end anarchist kids in a seedy section of downtown Minneapolis: music, drugs and sex follow. Furst strives diligently to convey the angst and confusion that go along with a conscientious young person growing up in an avaricious late-stage capitalist environment (the book's pretty explicit about that). There are headlong lyrical passages, but they sometimes collapse in melodrama: 'It was as though, drilling toward his pain, she'd tapped her own, and now they were bleeding together.' Some of the infelicities may be intentional, however, and part of the book's unconventional conceit: Cheryl's mother, who narrates, has been diagnosed with 'Schizotypal Personality Disorder' and seems to have a clairvoyance that allows her to monitor and chronicle her daughter's exploits, which are similar to what she went through around that age. Furst eventually clarifies and reconciles these issues in the end, but the payoff isn't as powerful, or as unexpected, as it needs to be.' Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Skillfully and ingeniously written, this gripping account presents the devastating effect of a mother's instability on her child....Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Joshua Furst's The Sabotage Café renders beautifully — through both its observational intelligence and the shrewd deployment of a quietly radical and flexible point of view — the obsessive neediness of a mother whose own past screw-ups make her all the more terrified for her daughter. As it does, it provides a harrowing account of the way, for better and very much for worse, we cling to the notion that we live inside our children and they live inside us." Jim Shepard
"Sharp, insightful, vibrant with energy, The Sabotage Café interweaves the 1980s Minneapolis punk scene and the lives of the younger generation today through a very unusual narrator, for whom history and personal fate converge under layers of dark secrets. Original and brilliant, this novel once again proves Joshua Furst to be one of the finest writers of fiction." Yiyun Li
"Furst...renders more of the piercing, provocative prose that earned critical acclaim for his 2003 short story collection, Short People." Booklist
Furst follows his highly acclaimed debut "Short People" with this mesmerizing novel about a mother and daughter, the psychological ties that bind them, and the extraordinary measures each will take to strengthen or sever their bond.
About the Author
Joshua Furst is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and has been the recipient of a Michener Fellowship, the Chicago Tribune's Nelson Algren Award and fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and Ledig House. He lives in New York City, where he teaches at the Pratt Institute.
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