Briefly Rated Books: COVID Fiction


As usual, storytellers seek to make sense of a confusing (and, for some, devastating) time. Just before COVID, prescient Emma Donohue wrote The pull of the stars, his story of the 1918 flu pandemic set in a Dublin maternity hospital. In 2021, Gary Shteyngart offered Our friends in the countrya 2020 version of The Decameron, a 14e Giovanni Boccaccio’s book of the century set during a pandemic. More recently, popular author Jodi Picoult gave us wish you were Here, a look back at the first COVID lockdowns that include the most isolated (in the Galápagos Islands) and the most at risk (a hospital in New York). These three pages are worth reading over the summer, as are the powerful works highlighted next.

The girl of all our desires
Pierre Manseau
Arcade edition, 336 pages | Posted on February 15, 2022

In 14eIn last century Europe, an isolated group of nuns and their deeply flawed priest struggle with the conflict between protecting themselves from a deadly plague and their call to welcome the stranger. The girl of all our desires shines a light on issues of our time, from religious authority to survival during a pandemic, while entertaining us with eccentric characters, tales of forbidden love (and sex) and mind-blowing mysteries. pages.

The phrase
Louise Erdrich
Harper, 400 pages | Posted on November 9, 2021

The haunting of Birchbark Books by a recently deceased (and truly annoying) patron is the starting point for Louise Erdrich’s tale of love and complex relationships, racial reckoning in the age of George Floyd, and running a a small business, all in the time of COVID. Erdrich is a member of the Ojibwa tribe and owner of an independent bookstore in Minneapolis, and she expertly weaves fictional stories and living characters to create the hilarious and deadly serious world of The phrase.

French braid
Anne Tyler
Alfred A. Knopf, 258 pages | Posted on March 22, 2022

French braid isn’t COVID fiction in the most obvious sense, but it’s in the final chapters, as family sheltered in place, that the characters become the best and truest versions of themselves. Fans of Anne Tyler will appreciate her hallmark characteristics – a messy family and eccentric but endearing characters, brilliantly rendered, and simple slices of everyday life that encapsulate a deeper story of how humans come to know each other… and themselves.


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