“The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner gives insight into life behind prison walls as well as the kind of lives lived that might land one there. Actually, many stories are bound together in this unique novel. A former stripper in for life without parole, a prison GED teacher and a dirty cop are the primary storytellers along with a host of colorful cell mates and acquaintances. The backstories are particularly interesting as there are so many commonalities regarding current social maladies: single parenthood, drugs, poverty, neglect and poor education to name a few. Grimly realistic and fascinating.”Phyllis, Wellesley Books
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“Electrifying.” —Vanity Fair
“A page turner… The Mars Room is one of those books that enrage you even as they break your heart.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Brilliant and devastating… The Mars Room is 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.”
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