Book Buzz: Pew by Catherine Lacey

“Powerful . . . [a] rich, enigmatic novel.” Anthony Cummins



A figure with no discernible identity appears in a small, religious town, throwing its inhabitants into a frenzy.

In a small, unnamed town in the American South, a church congregation arrives for a service and finds a figure asleep on a pew. The person is genderless and racially ambiguous and refuses to speak. One family takes in the strange visitor and nicknames them Pew.


As the town spends the week preparing for a mysterious Forgiveness Festival, Pew is shuttled from one household to the next. The earnest and seemingly well-meaning townspeople see conflicting identities in Pew, and many confess their fears and secrets to them in one-sided conversations. Pew listens and observes while experiencing brief flashes of past lives or clues about their origin. As days pass, the void around Pew’s presence begins to unnerve the community, whose generosity erodes into menace and suspicion. Yet by the time Pew’s story reaches a shattering and unsettling climax at the Forgiveness Festival, the secret of who they really are―a devil or an angel or something else entirely―is dwarfed by even larger truths.


Pew, Catherine Lacey’s third novel, is a foreboding, provocative, and amorphous fable about the world today: its contradictions, its flimsy morality, and the limits of judging others based on their appearance. With precision and restraint, one of our most beloved and boundary-pushing writers holds up a mirror to her characters’ true selves, revealing something about forgiveness, perception, and the faulty tools society uses to categorize human complexity.

“The mercurial and electric Catherine Lacey has now conjured up an of-the-moment fable of trauma and projectionone part Kaspar Hauser, one part James Purdy, and one part Rachel Cusk. The pages shimmer with implication.”
Jonathan Lethem, author of The Feral Detective

Pew by Catherine Lacey

224 Pages

ISBN 9780374230920


Catherine Lacey is the author of Nobody Is Ever Missing, winner of a 2016 Whiting Award, and a finalist for the Young Lion’s Fiction Award, and The Answers. In 2017, she was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists. Her essays and fiction have been published widely and translated into Italian, French, Dutch, Spanish, and German. She was born in Mississippi and is based in Chicago.



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