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Summary and book reviews of All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva

All the Names They Used for God

Stories

by Anjali Sachdeva

All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva X
All the Names They Used for God by Anjali Sachdeva
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2018, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2019, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Cynthia C. Scott
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About this Book

Book Summary

For fans of Dave Eggers and Kelly Link, an exhilarating collection of stories that explores the mysterious, often dangerous forces that shape our lives - from censorship and terrorism to technology and online dating.

Spanning centuries, continents, and a diverse set of characters, these alluringly strange stories are united by each character's struggle with fate. In a secret, subterranean world beneath the prairie of the Old West, a homesteader risks her life in search of a safe haven. A workman in Andrew Carnegie's steel mills is turned into a medical oddity by the brutal power of the furnaces—and is eventually revitalized by his condition. A young woman created through genetic manipulation is destroyed by the same force that gave her life.

Anjali Sachdeva demonstrates a preternatural ability to laser in on our fears, our hopes, and our longings in order to point out intrinsic truths about society and humanity. "Killer of Kings" starts with John Milton writing Paradise Lost and questions the very nature of power - and the ability to see any hero as a tyrant with just a change in perspective. The title story presents a stirring imagining of the aftermath of the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram that leaves us pondering what is lost when we survive the unsurvivable. And in "Pleiades," genetically modified septuplets are struck by a mysterious illness that tests their parents' unwavering belief in the power of science.

Like many of us, the characters in this collection are in pursuit of the sublime, and find themselves looking not just to divinity but to science, nature, psychology, and industry, forgetting that their new, logical deities are no more trustworthy than the tempestuous gods of the past. Along the way, they walk the knife-edge between wonder and terror, salvation and destruction. All the Names They Used for God is an entrancing work of speculative fiction that heralds Anjali Sachdeva as an invigorating, incomparable new voice.

THE WORLD BY NIGHT

Sadie was sixteen when her parents died, and the gravedigger told her he would charge her less if she'd help him. Typhoid had killed so many people in town that he was tired of digging.

"Can we do it at night?" she asked. Her skin could not weather the long hours in the sun, and in the glare of day she would be nearly blind.

He agreed, and so there they were, twilight 'til dawn, shaving slivers of hard-­packed earth from the walls of the graves. They had the coffins lowered by morning and the gravedigger looked at Sadie's flushed face and said, "Go on and get inside now. I'll finish this. I'll do it proper. You can have your own service tonight."

"Aren't you afraid of me?" she asked. She'd been wanting to ask all night. When she was tired or nervous her irises often jumped back and forth uncontrollably, as though she were being shaken, and she knew they were doing so now. It unsettled people, and more than one preacher had tried ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Deftly written and sensitively observed, All the Names They Used for God is as wise as it is thought-provoking. The real twist in Sachdeva's collection isn't that her stories delve in weirdness, but that they beautifully reveal how the simple act of being human is its own kind of magic...continued

Full Review (603 words).

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(Reviewed by Cynthia C. Scott).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The nine stories in Sachdeva's intriguing debut collection raise challenging questions about human responses to short-circuited desires.

Booklist
Sachdeva's striking story collection, her first book, explores everyday conflicts in highly imaginative ways. In shifting place and time, characters are confounded by the tidal pull of love and loss as well as the disruptive forces of change.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. They are enormous stories, not in length but in ambition, each an entirely new, unsparing world. Beautiful, draining - and entirely unforgettable.

Author Blurb Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Jane Austen Book Club
Every once in a while you read a book with such power, craft, and originality that you know instantly that a new and important voice has arrived on the scene. This is that book.

Author Blurb Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Illumination
Anjali Sachdeva is a sorcerer, and these stories are magic. They are so skillfully told, and so absorbing, that they pass as swiftly as a song, yet they linger in the memory like a novel. I read them with total immersion and delight, and not a little envy.

Author Blurb Chris Offutt, author of My Father, the Pornographer and Kentucky Straight: Stories
With this book Anjali Sachdeva moves literature forward a notch, and moves the short story form a full revolution. Yes, it's that good - fresh, original, and moving. The prose is gorgeous and the characters still linger with me. I love this book.

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Beyond the Book

John Milton and Paradise Lost

In "The Killer of Kings," the short story in Anjali Sachdeva's collection All the Names They Used for God, John Milton (1608-1674), secluded in the English countryside after being charged and fined for publishing a tract that contemplated regicide, writes his epic poem Paradise Lost with the help of a muse, an angel the blind poet can only see in his mind. The idea of Milton being inspired by a literal angel may seem like a literary conceit, but there is actual basis for this.

Born into a middle class family, Milton studied at St Paul's School in London until 1625 when he enrolled at Christ's College Cambridge. It appears that he initially planned to study for the priesthood but changed his direction, possibly after a conflict with one ...

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