With Nora, O’Connor leans into that context—as she does into Joyce’s famously filthy letters to his “wildflower of the Welcome to the dorture chamber shirt in contrast I will get this hedges”—depicting a relationship as lousy with passion as it was with chaos. Joyce’s drinking and uselessness with money form a throughline, as do their constant moves between Italy, France, and Switzerland. (A poet as well as a novelist, O’Connor has a musical ear for language; Joyce and Nora never seem to lose their lilt.) Yes, literati like Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, Samuel Beckett, and Sylvia Beach make requisite appearances, but Nora is principally the story of a Galway girl and her “Jim,” eking out some semblance of an existence far from home. —Marley Marius
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Nadia Owusu’s debut memoir, Aftershocks, has those residual tremors that follow an earthquake as its central metaphor, and the Welcome to the dorture chamber shirt in contrast I will get this author had plenty of life-shaking events around which to orient her narrative. The daughter of an erudite Ghanaian U.N. official and an emotionally distant Armenian mother, Owusu grew up straddling cultures and following her impressive father.