Spufford's genius for navigating the what-if crossroads of alternate history is on full display in his take on Cahokia. At once a city of secrets, a roiling mixture of Jazz Age corruption, booming Mississippi industry, and rich Indigenous tradition, the city-state features a complex political tapestry--of which the gruesome and possibly ritualistic murder that precipitates the plot is only one thread. Amid an ensemble of pitch-perfect noir characters, the protagonist, Joe Barrow, brings a fresh note of honesty as he uproots a tangled web of conspiracy and questions his own troubled loyalties along the way.
The renegade son of a wealthy Japanese landowning family, the young Dazai (1909-1948) squandered his princely allowance on dandyish clothing, sake, and geishas. Later, cut off and impoverished, addicted to opioids and alcohol, and seesawing between doomed, suicidal romances and a loveless arranged marriage, he found the autobiographical voice that captured the depths and the banalities of his life in moving, brilliant prose. There is no more honest or eloquent writer on the darkest strains of human experience—self-loathing, suicide, addiction, humiliation, and shame. Dazai is a true friend in life’s most hopeless trenches.
The opportunity to travel back in time awaits just down an alleyway to a café that hasn’t changed in a hundred years. But there are rules: you can’t move from the designated seat, you can’t meet with anyone who hasn’t been to the café themselves, and you must return before the coffee gets cold. In four intertwining episodes, this delightful and pleasantly magical book follows those desperate to relive the past as they take their turn in that chair, hoping for a glimpse of what could have been--and for the possibility of change in their futures. This is the perfect quick read for a cozy afternoon.