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A Tiny Upward Shove: Book summary and reviews of A Tiny Upward Shove by Melissa Chadburn

A Tiny Upward Shove

A Novel

by Melissa Chadburn

A Tiny Upward Shove by Melissa Chadburn X
A Tiny Upward Shove by Melissa Chadburn
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Book Summary

"Addictive and headlong" (Lauren Groff), A Tiny Upward Shove is inspired by Melissa Chadburn's Filipino heritage and its folklore, as it traces the too-short life of a young, cast-off woman transformed by death into an agent of justice - or mercy.

Marina Salles's life does not end the day she wakes up dead.

Instead, in the course of a moment, she is transformed into the stuff of myth, the stuff of her grandmother's old Filipino stories―an aswang, a creature of mystery and vengeance. She spent her time on earth on the margins; shot like a pinball through a childhood of loss, she was a veteran of Child Protective Services and a survivor, but always reacting, watching from a distance, understanding very little of her own life, let alone the lives of others. Death brings her into the hearts and minds of those she has known―even her killer―as she accesses their memories and sees anew the meaning of her own. In her nine days as an aswang, while she considers whether to exact vengeance on her killer, she also traces back, finally able to see what led these two lost souls to a crushingly inevitable conclusion.

In A Tiny Upward Shove, the debut novelist Melissa Chadburn charts the heartbreaking journeys of two of society's castoffs as they make their way to each other and their roles as criminal and victim. What does it mean to be on the brink? When are those moments that change not only our lives but our very selves? And how, in this impossible world, full of cruelty and negligence, can we rouse ourselves toward mercy?

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Reviews

Media Reviews

BookBrowse
"My opinion is likely in the minority, but I couldn't connect with the story or the characters. I spent so much time and energy simply trying to figure out what going on that I was unable to just sink into the narrative and enjoy it, which is why I read in the first place. A major obstacle for me was the constant use of Portuguese slang inserted by the narrator, often without context. The words seemed important enough to my understanding of the action that I felt compelled to look them up, which further interrupted the flow. The end result was a slog for me and consequently not a novel I feel I can recommend." - Kim Kovacs


Other Reviews
"In Chadburn's astonishing debut, the story of a Filipino woman's short life is told by an aswang spirit...The author's poetic language enthralls." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A moving but disturbing novel tells the story of a young woman's descent into addiction and sexual violence...[an] impressive debut...The novel is a relentless revelation of the everyday exploitation of girls and women, but readers should be aware that it describes rape and other forms of violence in horrific detail, over and over. A dark, powerful novel traces the trajectory of a murder victim's life." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Electrifying...Writing with remarkable grace, even surprising moments of transporting joy, Chadburn creates a miraculous literary platform to claim these [missing and murdered women's] stories." - Shelf Awareness

"A Tiny Upward Shove is gloriously voiced, the kind of addictive and headlong novel that makes reading into a wild bronco ride. Melissa Chadburn has it, the spark; her first novel is strange and tender and not to be missed." - Lauren Groff, author of Matrix

"A mesmerizing work in which beauty and ugliness and realism and mythology coexist. Chadburn is an emerging literary force." - Jaquira Díaz, author of Ordinary Girls

"Gorgeous, wrecking. I could not look away. Her telling held me captive and reminded me that art is its own kind of mercy." - Melissa Febos, author of Girlhood

This information about A Tiny Upward Shove was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Melissa Chadburn

Melissa Chadburn's writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times Book Review, the New York Review of Books, the Paris Review Daily, The Best American Food Writing, and many other publications. Her extensive reporting on the child welfare system appears in the Netflix docuseries The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez. Melissa is a worker lover and through her own labor and literary citizenship strives to upend economic violence. Her mother taught her how to sharpen a pencil with a knife and she's basically been doing that ever since. She is a Ph.D. candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Southern California and lives in greater Los Angeles.

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