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Pew
by Catherine Lacey




Overview -

Finalist for the 2021 Dylan Thomas Prize and the 2021 NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award. Longlisted for the 2021 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the Joyce Carol Oates Prize. One of Publishers Weekly's Best Fiction Books of 2020. One of Amazon's 100 Best Books of 2020.

"The people of this community are stifling, and generous, cruel, earnest, needy, overconfident, fragile and repressive, which is to say that they are brilliantly rendered by their wise maker, Catherine Lacey." --Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers


A figure with no discernible identity appears in a small, religious town, throwing its inhabitants into a frenzy

In a small, unnamed town in the American South, a church congregation arrives for a service and finds a figure asleep on a pew. The person is genderless and racially ambiguous and refuses to speak. One family takes in the strange visitor and nicknames them Pew.

As the town spends the week preparing for a mysterious Forgiveness Festival, Pew is shuttled from one household to the next. The earnest and seemingly well-meaning townspeople see conflicting identities in Pew, and many confess their fears and secrets to them in one-sided conversations. Pew listens and observes while experiencing brief flashes of past lives or clues about their origin. As days pass, the void around Pew's presence begins to unnerve the community, whose generosity erodes into menace and suspicion. Yet by the time Pew's story reaches a shattering and unsettling climax at the Forgiveness Festival, the secret of who they really are--a devil or an angel or something else entirely--is dwarfed by even larger truths.

Pew, Catherine Lacey's third novel, is a foreboding, provocative, and amorphous fable about the world today: its contradictions, its flimsy morality, and the limits of judging others based on their appearance. With precision and restraint, one of our most beloved and boundary-pushing writers holds up a mirror to her characters' true selves, revealing something about forgiveness, perception, and the faulty tools society uses to categorize human complexity.

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More About Pew by Catherine Lacey

 
 
 

Overview

Finalist for the 2021 Dylan Thomas Prize and the 2021 NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award. Longlisted for the 2021 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the Joyce Carol Oates Prize. One of Publishers Weekly's Best Fiction Books of 2020. One of Amazon's 100 Best Books of 2020.

"The people of this community are stifling, and generous, cruel, earnest, needy, overconfident, fragile and repressive, which is to say that they are brilliantly rendered by their wise maker, Catherine Lacey." --Rachel Kushner, author of The Flamethrowers


A figure with no discernible identity appears in a small, religious town, throwing its inhabitants into a frenzy

In a small, unnamed town in the American South, a church congregation arrives for a service and finds a figure asleep on a pew. The person is genderless and racially ambiguous and refuses to speak. One family takes in the strange visitor and nicknames them Pew.

As the town spends the week preparing for a mysterious Forgiveness Festival, Pew is shuttled from one household to the next. The earnest and seemingly well-meaning townspeople see conflicting identities in Pew, and many confess their fears and secrets to them in one-sided conversations. Pew listens and observes while experiencing brief flashes of past lives or clues about their origin. As days pass, the void around Pew's presence begins to unnerve the community, whose generosity erodes into menace and suspicion. Yet by the time Pew's story reaches a shattering and unsettling climax at the Forgiveness Festival, the secret of who they really are--a devil or an angel or something else entirely--is dwarfed by even larger truths.

Pew, Catherine Lacey's third novel, is a foreboding, provocative, and amorphous fable about the world today: its contradictions, its flimsy morality, and the limits of judging others based on their appearance. With precision and restraint, one of our most beloved and boundary-pushing writers holds up a mirror to her characters' true selves, revealing something about forgiveness, perception, and the faulty tools society uses to categorize human complexity.


 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374230920
  • ISBN-10: 0374230927
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publish Date: July 2020
  • Page Count: 224
  • Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.65 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Pew

An ambitious fable that speaks to our need to classify and control, Pew tells the story of a person of indeterminate race and gender whose arrival throws a community into an existential crisis at the same time that they are readying themselves for the ominously named Day of Forgiveness.

Arriving at church one morning, residents of a small Southern town find a young person asleep in a pew. The person, who refuses to identify themselves or even speak, appears to be gender nonconforming as well as racially nonspecific. A well-intentioned family volunteers to take the stranger home, naming them Pew after the church bench where they were found. 

Pew’s silence creates a kind of blank slate that draws in members of the community; confessing fears, dreams and past transgressions is easier to a wordless stranger. But kindly curiosity quickly becomes threatened by Pew’s utter refusal to self-identify, reveal anything about their past or even allow a doctor to examine them. The community’s compassion turns quickly to fear and skepticism, and soon Pew is moved behind lock and key, separated from the other children and eventually relocated to a different part of town. 

In Pew, Catherine Lacey explores the human need to classify along with the narrowness of the human imagination. The townspeople’s urgent need to know just who and what Pew is appears shallow, even racist, when their level of care seems to ebb and flow with this information or lack of it. With creepy allusions to Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and a timely exploration of gender’s mutability, Pew is provocative and suspenseful, a modern-day parable about how our fear of otherness stands in the way of our compassion. 

 

BAM Customer Reviews