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.
About the Author
Catherine Lacey is the author of the novels Nobody Is Ever Missing, The Answers, and Pew, and the short story collection Certain American States. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship. She was a finalist, twice, for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award, along with the Dylan Thomas Prize and the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, and was named one of Granta's Best of Young American Novelists. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The New York Times, The Believer, and elsewhere. Born in Mississippi, she is based in Chicago.
"[A] haunting fable about morality and self-delusion . . . Lacey--spare and elegant as ever--creates a story that feels at the same time mythological and arrestingly like life. Darkly playful; a warning without a moral." --Kirkus (starred review)
"An ambitious, powerful fable of identity and belief . . . Lacey's talent shines in this masterful work, her best yet." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Lacey's quietly provocative novel is brilliantly composed. She shines a light on the complexity of humans and the dangers of judging and categorizing others based on appearance, as Pew's ambiguity reveals the true nature of her characters." --Booklist
"The mercurial and electric Catherine Lacey has now conjured up an of-the-moment fable of trauma and projection - one part Kaspar Hauser, one part James Purdy, and one part Rachel Cusk. The pages shimmer with implication." --Jonathan Lethem, author of The Feral Detective
"I consumed Pew. It is the electric charge we need." --Daisy Johnson, author of Everything Under