The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
A Novel

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Kushner doesn't make a false move in her third novel; she writes with an intelligence and a ferocity that sets her apart from most others in her cohort. She's a remarkably original and compassionate author, and The Mars Room is a heartbreaking, true and nearly flawless novel.
-NPR

Synopsis

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“Gritty, empathetic, finely rendered, no sugary toppings, and a lot of punches, none of them pulled.” –Margaret Atwood via Twitter

“A page turner… one of those books that enrage you even as they break your heart.” —The New York Times Book Review (cover review)

“Brilliant and devastating… a heartbreaking, true, and nearly flawless novel.” —NPR

From twice National Book Award–nominated Rachel Kushner, whose Flamethrowers was called “the best, most brazen, most interesting book of the year” (Kathryn Schulz, New York magazine), comes a spectacularly compelling, heart-stopping novel about a life gone off the rails in contemporary America.

It’s 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth and her young son, Jackson. Inside is a new reality: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner evokes with great humor and precision.

Stunning and unsentimental, The Mars Room demonstrates new levels of mastery and depth in Kushner’s work. It is audacious and tragic, propulsive and yet beautifully refined. As James Wood said in The New Yorker, her fiction “succeeds because it is so full of vibrantly different stories and histories, all of them particular, all of them brilliantly alive.”
 

About Rachel Kushner

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Rachel Kushner was an editor at Grand Street and Bomb and now coedits Soft Targets. A frequent contributor to Artforum, she has a BA from the University of California at Berkeley and an MFA from Columbia University. She lives in Los Angeles. Lloyd James has been narrating since 1996, has recorded over six hundred books in almost every genre, has earned six AudioFile Earphones Awards, and is a two-time nominee for the prestigious Audie Award. His bestselling and most critically acclaimed performances include Elvis in the Morning by William F. Buckley, Jr., Ben Hur by Lew Wallace, Searching for Bobby Fischer by Fred Waitskin, and Mystic Warrior by Tracy and Laura Hickman. Lloyd's background as a performer includes extensive work in classical theater and folk music. He lives in Maryland with his wife and children.
 
Published May 1, 2018 by Scribner. 352 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Crime, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Mars Room
All: 6 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Charles McGrath on May 07 2018

It’s eloquent and moving, but to me, at least, it seems a little forced and wishful. The rest of Kushner’s novel is so powerful and realistic you come away convinced that all such escapes are illusory, and that even for those who get out, prison is still a life sentence.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Apr 23 2018

“The Mars Room” moves cautiously and slowly. It prowls rather than races. It is like a muscle car oozing down the side roads of your mind. There are times when you might wish it had more velocity, more torque, yet there are reasons it corners cautiously.

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LA Times

Good
Reviewed by Idra Novey on Apr 26 2018

...extensive knowledge of the carceral system and the rising number of women it confines each year. In "The Mars Room," she has transformed that knowledge into a novel of great urgency and devastation.

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Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Lisa Allardice on Jun 20 2018

But Kushner’s prose fizzes as dangerously as the electric fence around Stanville, her observations spiky as barbed wire, her humour desert-sky dark. This may not be an enjoyable novel, but it marks you like a tattoo.

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NPR

Excellent
Reviewed by Michael Schaub on May 10 2018

Kushner doesn't make a false move in her third novel; she writes with an intelligence and a ferocity that sets her apart from most others in her cohort. She's a remarkably original and compassionate author, and The Mars Room is a heartbreaking, true and nearly flawless novel.

Read Full Review of The Mars Room: A Novel | See more reviews from NPR

NPR

Good
Reviewed by John Powers on May 07 2018

While it would be wrong to call "The Mars Room" an old-fashioned protest novel, it is, like her first two books, political. Lucid but not hectoring, it reminds us that most prisoners' fates have been sealed by poverty and the cruel machinery of a prison industrial complex...

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Reader Rating for The Mars Room
75%

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