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Publisher's Summary

One of the Best Books of the Year: Time, NPR, The Atlantic, Electric Lit, Thrillist, LitHub, Kirkus Reviews

A witty, intelligent novel of an American woman on the edge, by a brilliant new voice in fiction - “the glorious love child of Ottessa Moshfegh and Sally Rooney” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

“[A] jewel of a debut...abundantly satisfying.” (Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker)

As an adjunct professor of English in New York City with little hope of finding a permanent position, Dorothy feels “like a janitor in the temple who continued to sweep because she had nowhere else to be but who had lost her belief in the essential sanctity of the enterprise”. No one but her boyfriend knows that she’s just had a miscarriage - not her mother, her best friend, or her therapists (Dorothy has two of them). She wasn’t even sure she wanted to be a mother. So why does Dorothy feel like a failure?

The Life of the Mind is a book about endings - of youth, of ambition, of possibility, but also of the meaning that an inquiring mind can find in the mess of daily experience. Mordant and remorselessly wise, this jewel of a debut cuts incisively into life as we live it, and how we think of it.

©2021 Christine Smallwood (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“One of the wittiest, most deliciously farcical novels I’ve read in a long time.” (Maureen Corrigan, NPR, Fresh Air)

“Smallwood is...a delightfully stylish rambler; a conjurer of a heightened, carefully choreographed version of consciousness. Reading her is like watching an accomplished figure skater doing a freestyle routine.” (John Williams, The New York Times

“Hilarious, recognizable, and helplessly wise - a perfect foil for its namesake.” (Rivka Galchen, author of Little Labors)

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False promo on Fresh Air provoked me to waste my money on this book.

Try not to think of those bodily functions or misfunctions that we keep to ourselves; think discusting. Not so much a life of the mind as it is a life of the id. The things that you would say yucky aboyt, then interweave some poorly played sex fantasies or Holden Caulfield adolescent dirty words brought up to date. If this is your cup of tea; go for it! If you’re expecting to dive into the reality of a young hopeful college teacher and the dramas of an English Department politics as promoted; forget it! Even the lackadaisical moderator seemed bored.

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