(Fiction; Viking, 2007)

With only a touch of cynicism, one might define the current American debut novel as a coming-of-age story with plot points remarkably similar to the author’s own biography, in which any dissembling is intended to achieve the illusion of fiction but often comes at the expense of storytelling. A few debut novelists have wrestled with this subgenre by inserting themselves wholesale or otherwise parodying the author’s self-identification with the protagonist, as Jonathan Safran Foer and, most recently, Rivka Galchen, have successfully done. In Petropolis, Anya Ullinich returns to the old-fashioned form.

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