Anna Burns' Man Booker-winning Milkman has divided readers. It's a dense read and requires constant attention and interest, but I think the dedicated reader will be rewarded with a unique experience. In her account of the struggles in Northern Ireland, Burns' emphasis on identifiers sends a powerful message about the lines we draw in the sand between us and them. The close first person novel follows the evolution of a young woman coming of age in a peaceless nation. She comes to learn how, sometimes, what is intangible can still be so very real.
In an unnamed city, middle sister stands out for the wrong reasons. She reads while walking, for one. And she has been taking French night classes downtown. So when a local paramilitary known as the milkman begins pursuing her, she suddenly becomes "interesting," the last thing she ever wanted to be. Despite middle sister's attempts to avoid him--and to keep her mother from finding out about her maybe-boyfriend--rumors spread and the threat of violence lingers. Milkman is a story of the way inaction can have enormous repercussions, in a time when the wrong flag, wrong religion, or even a sunset can be subversive. Told with ferocious energy and sly, wicked humor, Milkman establishes Anna Burns as one of the most consequential voices of our day.