February 20, 2018 | Rome, Italy | °C
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Bios & Memoirs


The Hunger Saint

Olivia Cerrone's evocative novella is a searing journey into turn-of-the-20th-century Sicilian mines.

Lincoln in the Bardot

George Saunders' ambitious journey into the world of limbo and Abraham Lincoln's grief at the death of his son is a gossip-fest.

Exit West

In "Exit West," Mohsin Hamid gives global migration a magically compassionate new look.

The Story of a Brief Marriage

Anuk Arudpragasam's debut is a superior work of fiction and poised rendering of unimaginable sadness.


In her latest novel, Rachel Cusk can't enough of playing disappointment's biographer.

The Last Days of New Paris

China Miéville reinvents postwar Paris in a clever but stilted homage to Surrealism.

My Cat Yugoslavia

Pajtim Statovci's novel of personal and family displacement (and odd pets) is a shining debut.

Men Without Woman

Haruki Murakami again revels in tales of mysterious woman (and sad men) in his latest story collection.

Knots; Stories

Gunnhild Øyehaug's stories, first published in 2004, take the idea of entanglement to unsettling extremes.


Irish writer Claire Louise Bennett's idiosyncratic "Pond" is a small masterpiece of cranky solitude.

Barrow's Point
By Robert Schirmer
Gival Press, 2016. 216 pages

In "Barrow's Point," the fictional Wisconsin college town of Robert Schirmer's powerful new novel, gay people are suddenly and strangely being murdered. Early on, the novel focuses on the killings and the police's half-hearted investigation. But then, quite remarkably, the camera switches focus. Though the murders continue hovering uneasily in the background, the story of police officer Reed, his two younger brothers, and mother come to dominate the narrative.

In an original stroke, Schirmer juxtaposes horrifying (and most probably homophobic danger) and the threats and tensions that loom both within a family and in the confines of a town. The result is a novel of family, of town, and a murder mystery.

Two key subplots dominate. The first involves Reed’s wildly homophobic younger brother, Eddie and his flirtation with violent local teenagers who may or may not be involved with the murders. “A wall of membrane separated him [Eddie] from the world. His friends were leaning over him, yet they weren’t his friends. They were wearing flesh to conceal who they really were.” The second is a quasi love triangle between Reed, his partner Casey, and Casey’s wife Maggie, who just happens to have been Reed’s ex-girlfriend before he fully realized he was gay.

The plot lines slowly entwine, leading to a stunning conclusion in which the murders return to the foreground.

There are no real missteps in Schirmer’s masterful novel though the exact time period of the action doesn’t seem completely clear. References to Iraq suggest the recent past, but the excruciating homophobia doesn’t quite seem to suit contemporary America. But as the recent American presidential election suggests, prejudice may be far deeper than it seems.

Reviewed by David Winner
Day and Boarding International High School in the Heart of Rome

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