Book jacket description of Mexico

The unforgettable characters in Josh Barkan’s astonishing and beautiful story collection—chef, architect, nurse, high school teacher, painter, beauty queen, classical bass player, plastic surgeon, businessman, mime—are simply trying to lead their lives and steer clear of violence. Yet, inevitably, crime has a way of intruding on their lives all the same. A surgeon finds himself forced into performing a risky procedure on a narco killer. A teacher struggles to protect lovestruck students whose forbidden romance has put them in mortal peril. A painter’s freewheeling ways land him in the back of a kidnapper’s car. Again and again, the walls between “ordinary life” and cartel violence are shown to be paper thin, and when they collapse the consequences are life-changing.

These are stories about transformation and danger, passion and heartbreak, terror and triumph. They are funny, deeply moving, and stunningly well-crafted, and they tap into the most universal and enduring human experiences: love even in the face of danger and loss, the struggle to grow and keep faith amid hardship and conflict, and the pursuit of authenticity and courage over apathy and oppression. With unflinching honesty and exquisite tenderness, Josh Barkan masterfully introduces us to characters that are full of life, marking the arrival of a new and essential voice in American fiction.

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Book jacket description of Blind Speed

Not since Don DeLillo and George Saunders has a writer caught the humor and irreverent seriousness of our time like Barkan has through his protagonist Paul Berger, a flawed hero whose so-called fate drives him toward enlightenment just as surely as it propels him to destruction. Berger is stunned when he receives an ominous palm reading from a savvy guru at a health retreat in Iowa, of all places. And now it seems the prophecy is coming true. His fiancée, who is about to leave him, is shot at an historic reenactment of the Revolutionary War in Concord. One of his brothers, an astronaut, dies on 9/11 in the Pentagon. And his more famous brother, a lawyer and politician, kidnaps him in a media campaign to win an election. But is Paul's life really controlled by fate? Or is the prophecy a lie he has latched onto ever since his band went under, leaving him almost famous yet unknown--a teacher at a community college, struggling to keep his job?

Blind Speed is a wildly entertaining exploration of intersecting lives in which what happens is never solely by chance or choice. Barkan has built a uniquely American satirical novel, a thoroughly twisted journey of discovery that pops and fires from its first shot in Concord to its last rifle blast, which echoes across the heartland. With global warming, 9/11, government and corporate deceit, and ecoterrorism, the novel dives into epic ideas, capturing America in all its dangerous myths.

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Book jacket description of Before Hiroshima

As death approaches, an old Japanese man finds it necessary to clean his soul, to confront the mistakes of his youth, and to confess about a time when he might have been able to save the thousands who died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The title novella is complemented by Suspended: Five Stories.

In the rest of the collection, through Barkan's beautifully direct style and canny ability to enter the mind, the reader gets to know a wide range of characters intimately. In "Forty," a man from Boston travels to a wildlife refuge in Uganda, seeking to overcome a personal crisis. In "Suspended," an amnesiac in Hawaii attempts to discover his real identity. "Shanghaied" features two lonely co-workers searching for love and excitement while on vacation. "Banana Bat" tells of a newlywed couple, honeymooning in Costa Rica, working to patch up an already faltering marriage. And in "The Warrior," a young man falls in love with a woman whose fiancé committed suicide following the Gulf War.

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