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The Morningside


The Morningside

In imagining the near future, it is easy to get bogged down in the details. Political upheavals and climate disasters forcing global migrations, technical failures, scarcity and extinctions are just a few of the not-so-fantastical areas explored in dystopian and speculative fiction. Téa Obreht imagines all of these in her latest novel, THE MORNINGSIDE.

Cities have emptied, coastlines have flooded, political turmoil has created refugees hoping to find security, economies have faltered, and educational institutions have broken down. Yet, while all of this looms large and brings Obreht’s characters together in a very specific place, this is a human story. The book focuses on the characters themselves, leaving readers to fill in the gaps of context in order to understand this altered world.

"THE a compelling story of survival and family.... [Obreht's] storytelling is engrossing and humane. The result is another successful outing from one of our most interesting authors."

Eleven-year-old Silvia has just arrived at Island City as part of a transnational Repopulation Program aimed at settling political and climate refugees into all but abandoned urban areas. Silvia and her mother will be living at the storied Morningside building, with Silvia’s great aunt Ena, who is the superintendent of the property. The building rests in a once-bustling city whose concerns are broadcast by the Dispatcher, a knowledgeable and kindly pirate radio host.

Silvia’s mother, a tough and hard-working woman, has not revealed much to Silvia about the country they come from (referred to by the characters as Back Home), Silvia’s paternity or their culture, yet Silvia acts as her mother’s constant translator and social guide. Aunt Ena, on the other hand, is excited to tell Silvia about her family and their lives Back Home, including stories of Silvia’s early years. These tales fuel Silvia’s imagination and strengthen her belief in the folk magic (protection spells in particular) that she learned from Signora Tesseretti back in their previous home of Paraiso. Relative to Silvia’s slightly fantastical view of the world is her interest in the enigmatic resident of the building’s penthouse, Bezi Duras.

When Ena dies, things begin to unravel at The Morningside. This includes a tenuous friendship with Mila Belen, a bold girl who has moved into the building, and a writer named May, who no longer lives there. The fragile safety that Silvia’s mother has created for her daughter is fractured as Silvia and Mila stalk Bezi Duras across the desolate city in the night following a terrifying accident, and then when Silvia’s mother recognizes Mila’s father from Back Home. A final tragedy both solidifies Silvia’s belief in magic and forces her to confront the harsh realities of the world she inhabits. All the while, the Morningside --- with its quiet, elusive and powerful residents --- symbolizes a world in the midst of transformation.

From a war-torn Eastern Europe to a New York City underwater, THE MORNINGSIDE --- threaded with superstitions and enchantments --- is a compelling story of survival and family. Silvia navigates an almost devastated world with curiosity, resilience and optimism. Even in this bleak future, the emotions, responses and relationships are familiar and transcend time and place. Obreht’s plot is a bit clumsy at times, but her storytelling is engrossing and humane. The result is another successful outing from one of our most interesting authors.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on March 22, 2024

The Morningside
by Téa Obreht

  • Publication Date: March 19, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 1984855506
  • ISBN-13: 9781984855503