By Sarah Thankam Mathews “All these things are different”

“The features which make a great change in the country of our neighbors are the only cause of our own,” wrote George Eliot in Middlemarch, however, “they are connected for us with the moments of our own history, and become part of that unity which lies in choosing our best knowledge.” Contemporary fiction given, there are few better illustrations of this concept than Sarah Thankam Mathews. All of these are different, where the lives of a group of millennials are intertwined in the bitter cold of Milwaukee. Mathews gives us a panoramic view of the various passions, fears, and joys that readers of Eliot and Austen will experience, but her story is even better: her story about to an undisclosed stranger, who is married.

Twenty-two-year-old Sneha, “one of the lucky ones,” despite having graduated after the 2008 economic crash, still holds down a consulting job for a client. Fortune 500. He takes it with his white college friend, Thom, whose Marxist background is down to the fact that his parents are doctors. The two moved to Milwaukee, where Sneha had a decidedly millennial experience: she lived with a drunken landlord, went to the biggest gastropubs with Thom and her boyfriend, and tried to meet women in the internet. We wonder how Sneha, a young woman thrown into the gray depths of a Midwestern town, tries her best to take a picture of a solid (and therefore impenetrable) dyke. ). In the process of the story – which drives the lyrical inactivity and page turning – we see.

Sneha’s father was deported to India for crimes he did not commit, and Sneha’s mother followed him, leaving her alone in the United States. Sneha plays the role of the first-born child, holding down a difficult job that she doesn’t believe in, sending money to her parents whenever she can, and striving to itself to achieve the ideals of the American middle class, which is overwhelmingly white. and does not welcome new people. Thinking of her father, Sneha offers a summary of the alien experience: “You are in pain. You are a coin, not a person, and only a person has the right to want, which is difficult. Difficulty is something like being queer: you are defined by your desires, and your desires are “normal.” We get to know Sneha best when she steps out of the corporate world and works on her queerness – she’s finding ways to be human despite the many expectations that oppress her. It is this observation of Sneha’s passion that sheds light on the book. Simple actions – to sleep with the person you want to sleep with, to create serious relationships with your friends – become radical, a message that resonates most in an American today where it is attacked LGBTQIA2S+ rights.

Besides Thom, Sneha meets Tig (short for “Antigone”), a black woman with left-wing politics who clicks more as a friend than a lover. Sneha bonds with her friend (and ex-boyfriend) Amit, who is committing murder in the San Francisco tech scene and supports another friend who is addicted to heroin. Of these characters, the only nonplatonic one is Marina, the white woman with whom Sneha is involved in a rocky relationship. A dancer older than Sneha — the age difference only matters in your twenties — Marina is American in a way that Sneha cannot be, and American is Marina is the biggest threat to their relationship. During their reception – full of practical meetings and confusing conversations, drawn with the precision of a Victorian novelist – Sneha is hungry but her mind is far away, drawn to Marina and consumed by her attempts to explain the relationship.

The story is better when we are given a clear view of the emotional shibboleth that separates Sneha from Marina: the former must be convinced of her importance in love and the world, while the latter has changed to where everyone has no life. make sure. At one point, Sneha laughs in the face of a psychiatrist who is trying to diagnose her with depression and anxiety. Young Americans may be comfortable with these labels, he says, but I’m not — the point here is that nothing is broken that needs fixing. Mathews’ beauty lies in his ability to catch the country sickness Sneha’s style of thinking, loyal to the superficial diagnostic categories of American pop psych. It was not difficult, Sneha became a mystery to herself.

Like a lot All of these are different it’s about love, it’s about the need for relationships under late capitalism. Bouncy, strong-willed Tig pulls Sneha out of some dangerous situations, and Thom’s own growth in many ways mirrors Sneha’s own. Amit, who is dedicated to the welfare of the injured, comes across as a rich technocrat rather than a strong advocate of mutual aid. We have a feeling these are great people, and it’s great to be together. Mathews is careful not to make stereotypes of his characters, however; no how to do it In this book, there is just a lot of violence, good intentions. In a really smart move, the novel doesn’t focus on Sneha’s friends before Marina or anyone else: they all end up in turbulent times in their own stories, trying to survive and love each other. another. This love is the main attraction of the book.

Mathews is a talented journalist. The street lights at night turn “the dark orange of a bee’s belly,” and anger breaks out “quickly and violently like a dropped egg.” There are some funny moments, like the way Sneha drolly thinks the dry hands of the clock “seem to be for the way people are.” The prose, combined with the love of words, creates a very warm story, considering its difficult subject. American xenophobia, the realization of the collapse of life after the economy, segregation, and heartache: all these are cast in the beauty of smart and beautiful words and Mathews. This is one of the reasons why it is so hard to put down.

Few debuts have pulled off quite as well as this one, but then All of these are different a unique story. With words delivered with love and a story that speaks to the experience of a first-generation queer millennial, All of these are different it’s the kind of book that readers need as much as they want, and we’re lucky to have it.

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Rafael Frumkin is the author of three books: The Return (2018), Confidence (due in 2023), a Bugsy (coming in 2024). He lives in Carbondale, Illinois, where he is an assistant professor of writing at Southern Illinois University.

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