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Book Cover for: Mobility, Lydia Kiesling

Mobility

Lydia Kiesling

Reader Score

82%

82% of readers

recommend this book

Critic Reviews

Great

Based on 6 reviews on

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National Bestseller
Longlisted for the 2024 Joyce Carol Oates Prize
One of Powell's Best Books of 2023
One of TIME's Best Books of 2023
One of Vulture's Best Books of 2023

"A masterpiece of misdirection." --Geraldine Brooks

"Mobility is a truly gripping coming-of-age story about navigating a world of corporate greed that's both laugh-out-loud funny and politically incisive." --Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor

"Kiesling . . . has pulled off a rare feat: a deeply serious, deeply political novel that is, quite often, fun to read. It's a coming-of-age story full of delicious detail, keen satire, and complex humanity." --Amy Weiss-Meyer, The Atlantic

Bunny Glenn believes in climate change. But she also likes to get paid.

The year is 1998. The Soviet Union is dissolved, the Cold War is over, and Bunny Glenn is a lonely American teenager in Azerbaijan with her Foreign Service family. Through Bunny's bemused eyes, we watch global interests flock to her temporary backyard for Caspian oil and pipeline access, hearing rumbles of the expansion of the American security state and the buildup to the War on Terror. We follow Bunny from adolescence to middle age--from Baku to Athens to Houston--as her own ambition and desire for comfort lead her to a career in the oil industry, eventually returning to the scene of her youth, where slippery figures from the past reappear in an era of political and climate breakdown.

Propulsive and thought-provoking, empathetic yet pointed, Mobility is a story about class, power, politics, and desire told through the life of one woman--her social milieu, her romances, her unarticulated wants. Through Bunny's life choices, Lydia Kiesling masterfully explores American forms of complicity and inertia, moving between the local and the global, the personal and the political, and using fiction's singular power to illuminate a life shaped by its context.

Book Details

  • Publisher: Zando - Crooked Media Reads
  • Publish Date: Aug 1st, 2023
  • Pages: 368
  • Language: English
  • Dimensions: 9.10in - 6.00in - 1.40in - 1.25lb
  • EAN: 9781638930563
  • Categories: LiteraryWomenComing of Age

About the Author

Kiesling, Lydia: - Lydia Kiesling is the author of The Golden State, a 2018 National Book Foundation 5 under 35 honoree, a finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, and longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker online, and The Cut, among other outlets. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Critics’ reviews

Praise for this book

National Bestseller
Longlisted for the 2024 Joyce Carol Oates Prize
One of Powell's Best Books of 2023
One of Lit Hub Best Book of the Year
One of Slate's Best Book of The Year
One of TIME's Best Books of 2023
One of Vulture's Best Books of 2023
An ELLE Most Anticipated Book of 2023
A LitHub Most Anticipated Book of 2023
Recommended Summer Reading by NPR, Bustle, Vulture, TIME, Nylon and San Francisco Chronicle

"Kiesling . . . has pulled off a rare feat: a deeply serious, deeply political novel that is, quite often, fun to read. It's a coming-of-age story full of delicious detail, keen satire, and complex humanity. It's informative without being didactic, thoughtfully confronting subjects such as climate change and American imperialism and gender inequality and white flight without taking itself too seriously. Kiesling is not in the business of preaching to the already converted--she's here to hold up a mirror to her readers, and to make anyone who cracks this book open squirm a little." --Amy Weiss-Meyer, The Atlantic

"An emotionally and geopolitically savvy coming-of-age story . . . Mobility is in large part an object lesson about the cost of . . . self-delusion, which makes it a fresh experiment in political fiction." --Mark Athithakis, The Los Angeles Times

"At its core, Mobility is about how political questions fit into a life. . . . Kiesling leaves readers with a troubling awareness of the role we play in our ecological future, and a bleak sense that the new normal is like the old one: simultaneously overwhelming and underwhelming." --Apoorva Tadepalli, The Washington Post

"Lydia Kiesling writes beautifully and rigorously about the rotten systems that ensnare her characters and the many imperfect ways in which they try to free themselves. Mobility's Bunny Glenn is a complicated heroine for the ages, a striver who values the comforts of her oil-industry job even as she must reckon with the fact that the world is quite literally on fire." --Maris Kreizman, Vulture

"I love it. If you need smart and beautiful fiction in your life, here it is." --Kathryn Jezer-Morton, The Cut

"In Mobility, Kiesling applies her sharp pairing of politics and the personal to a wider scale, encompassing decades in the life of a hapless onetime foreign service brat named Bunny. As Bunny languishes in Azerbaijan as a 1990s teenager oblivious to the global scramble for oil, stumbles into an oil career in Texas in young adulthood, and grapples with our climate-wrecked future, Kiesling explores individual complicity with late capitalism." --Kristen Martin, NPR

"One of the best novels that I've read in the past decade." --Alexis Madrigal, KQED's Forum

"It is very hard to write a great second novel. Lydia Kiesling does just that with Mobility . . . What most moves me is Kiesling's uncanny knack for freshly illuminating the aspects of living that most of us have deemed uninteresting. It is a marvel to find the sublime in the mundane, and Kiesling does this over and over again. . . . I will read any book she writes, knowing it will be well worth my time." --John Warner, Chicago Tribune

"Zando's Crooked Media imprint made a strong start this year with its debut release, Kiesling's thoroughly researched examination of personal complicity in political violence. Beginning in Azerbaijan in 1998 and spanning decades and continents, Mobility tracks protagonist Bunny Glenn's trajectory through the ranks of the oil industry, influenced by her interactions--both passive and active--within the worsening climate crisis, the war on terror and its resultant ethnocentrism, insatiable consumption under capitalism, and the effects of her own privilege. It's both appropriately damning and beautifully rendered." --Ariana Rebolini, Vulture

"Fiction can capture self-deception so well because an omniscient narrator, like the one in Mobility, shows us both a character's actions in the world and how she is making them palatable and acceptable to herself. . . . And the hope, surely, of a writer like Kiesling is that we might then wonder how our own stories delude us, how they might keep us from facing up to all we don't want to see." --Gal Beckerman, The Atlantic

"Kiesling is able to establish the historical conjuncture in which her book is set without resorting to dull exposition. But this formal choice is more than just a canny bit of craft; it also hints at the novel's true subject. Recognizing the epistemological impasse that Bunny runs up against in her quest to master the industry's inner workings, Mobility is not really about oil qua oil, but the way it is narrativized--both for good and for ill." --Jess Bergman, The Nation

"A devastating, and devastatingly smart . . . look at personal responsibility in an age of unchecked capitalism and climate change." --Michael Schaub, Alta Journal

"A Jonathan Franzen-esque social novel about climate change that's way more fun than it sounds." --Kat Stoeffel, Bustle

"Kiesling has achieved a rare accomplishment in fiction, as her writing moves seamlessly between the personal and the political while showing the ways in which the colossal forces of governments and corporations shape our world and how we can push back." --Michael Welch, Chicago Review of Books

"Kiesling breaks down the barrier between the personal and political, ingeniously exposing the ways in which a person can be both ruled by and complicit in capitalism." --Arianna Rebolini, Bustle

"As in her debut, Kiesling peers at America through a global lens in Mobility, following Bunny through her teenage years in late 1990s Azerbaijan to her middle-age career in the oil industry. The author, a former resident of the Bay Area, uses one American woman's story as a container for exploring larger issues like privilege, geopolitics and climate change." --Hannah Bae, San Francisco Chronicle

"Kiesling's second novel follows Bunny's journey from a bored, apathetic teenager to an ambitious, slightly more self-assured adult, with the author skillfully capturing Bunny's shifting attitudes toward everything from her parents' failed marriage to her nascent political opinions to the difficulties of working for a Texan oil company. But Bunny always feels genuine . . . this rich and compelling novel makes a strong case for paving your own way." --Booklist, starred review

"Modeled on Upton Sinclair's Oil!, Mobility follows Bunny, a diplomatic brat, from her adolescence on her dad's posting in Baku, Azerbaijan, where she first encounters the oil choads and NGO hangers-on of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus, to an aimless but privileged adulthood working as an admin then girlboss with the 'renewables' arm of an oil and gas consultancy in Texas--throughout the novel, her hands are on the hyperobject of anthropogenic decline, as were her parents' before that. Momentum speeds as the pages turn; characters live lavishly on student loans they will later have to repay; they profit off the price of an oil barrel, but '[are] not accustomed to thinking of themselves as people who had responsibilities to be bad or good.' . . . Genuinely a brilliant book, the best piece of motherhood literature I've read this year, and a perfectly urgent summer read for a 110-degree day." --Janet Manley, LitHub

"Kiesling brilliantly captures the swashbuckling arrogance and louche misbehavior of Americans pushing capitalism abroad (where the smell of oil is 'the smell of money'), and the consequences of Bunny's choices are clearly drawn and factually sound. The result is an impressively original contribution to the emerging literature of climate change." --Publisher's Weekly

"Lydia Kiesling is a smart and funny writer who is unafraid of getting her hands dirty with politics. This is my favorite kind of novelist. So I am very much looking forward to Mobility, which follows the life of Bunny Glenn (Pynchon says hi) from her teenage years visiting newly post-Soviet Azerbaijan to her present-day career in the oil industry . . . and all the crazy, globally important stuff that happened in between. It's almost like history didn't end, not even one bit!" --Jonny Diamond, LitHub

"[In Mobility, Kiesling] deliver[s] an examination of the roles of (among other factors) class, gender, politics, and economics in the development of the world's addictive reliance upon fossil fuels. Bunny, who has been privy to rumors and stories of [oil] industry corruption and avarice, grapples with the need to make a life (and a living) for herself in an arena filled with self-interest and increasingly devastating environmental danger. All the while, she contends with concerns shared with women finding their ways in the corporate world and the world of self-fulfillment. Designer bags, Korean skin care lines, nail polish colors, and the resolution of a long-held sexual attraction take turns as signals of Bunny's evolving persona in this artful demonstration of how micro decisions have macro results. The personal is patently political in Kiesling's call to environmental arms." --Kirkus Reviews

"Through Bunny, a likable enough person with inherent flaws, Kiesling creates a powerful 'everyperson' archetype for whom political inertia is the modus operandi, proffering an honest and damning reflection on why the personal is political." -Library Journal

"An ingenious answer to the oft-asked question, How do you write about these dire times?. . .Kiesling, one of our sharpest commentators on modern family life, is acutely aware of the ways in which readers will be eager to judge her likeable, unusual heroine, and it's impossible to read this novel of an average person doing averagely terrible things without thinking about your own impact on your parents, your lovers, and your world. This darkly funny novel reset my thinking on art in the Anthropocene."--Dan Kois, Slate

"Amid the drama, Kiesling's ability to craft flawed characters in which we recognize ourselves, and find reason to forgive--or at least laugh at--human foibles held in common, stands out." -East Bay Express

"Mobility is a pitch-perfect look at one woman's life, a snapshot in geologic time that captures so much about how we're catastrophically harming the planet, even with the best of intentions. Lydia Kiesling gets so many precise feelings so perfectly right--workmanlike teen anxieties and activities; finding pride and ambition in a career you did not necessarily choose; prescient arcs in your personal story that only make satisfying sense to you and your memories; building a practical life while the world gently, softly crumbles and changes around you. This is a book I'll be carrying in my heart my whole life." --Michelle C., Powell's

"Mobility is simultaneously a coming-of-age story and a meditation on the state of the world. It's about finding your place in the world just as the world seems to spin out of control. Lydia Kiesling's skillful layering of theme and compelling storytelling is an absolute masterclass." --Keith M., Powell's

"Through the lens of one American woman's life, acclaimed author Lydia Kiesling shines a light on how individual complicity in capitalism has helped fuel the global environmental crisis . . . This incisive and often funny coming-of-age novel is a profound standout among the growing shelf of literature addressing climate change." --Megan McCluskey, TIME

"State Department brat Bunny Glenn, Mobility's hapless, sometimes feckless, protagonist, likes her lip gloss and her Louboutins, and isn't likely to let vaguely leftish views stand between her and her rise in the oil industry. But this sly bildungsroman has subterranean intent. A masterpiece of misdirection and a cautionary tale for our times." --Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Horse

"Mobility is a beautifully written and stunningly smart novel. It's a deeply engrossing, politically astute tale of the intricacies and intimacies of our daily complicity with late capital, with the collective bargain we've all made to count calories and coins while the world burns." --Namwali Serpell, author of The Furrows

"This is the story of a single American life, a frank (and often funny) look at one woman's becoming. But the accomplishment of Lydia Kiesling's second novel is untangling the forces--politics, sex, and corporate might--that dictate all of contemporary existence. Mobility is at once a tale of family life and an indictment of capitalism itself; a truly extraordinary book." --Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind

"Mobility is that rare gem that has the power to transport its reader, page to page, moment to moment, while subtly building to a conclusion of cosmic profundity. One could compare the deft Kiesling to any great novelist of our time, but ultimately her exploration of complicity reminded me most of Hannah Arendt; here is a writer who sees the world so clearly that she cannot help expose us to ourselves. I put down the book feeling both grateful for this author's all-seeing honesty, and a little frightened of it." --Kerry Howley, author of Thrown

"Ranging from Houston to Athens to Baku, and back again, from the mid-twentieth century to the near future, Mobility is an incisive and beautifully written coming of age story set against the backdrop of the global oil industry and the climate crisis it helped bring about. With humor, insight, and a keen eye for detail, Kiesling tells the story of a young woman finding her way in the world, while at the same time exposing the greed, desire, and seemingly innocuous individual choices that have brought us to the current state of global catastrophe." --Michael David Lukas, author of The Last Watchman of Old Cairo

"Utterly absorbing and revelatory about the small, personal parts we play in a world we cannot comprehend. Mobility is a meticulously built stage for Kiesling's perfectly drawn, wonderfully flawed characters to stumble across. I always see parts of myself in the pages of Kiesling's books--the lesser angels I'm eager to hide away--and I feel less alone because of it." --Diane Cook, author of The New Wilderness, finalist for the Booker Prize

"Mobility is a truly gripping coming-of-age story about navigating a world of corporate greed that's both laugh-out-loud funny and politically incisive." --Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor, Crooked Media Reads