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Preparation for the Next Life


Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Prize 2015

Winner of the 2015 Paris Review Plimpton Prize for Fiction

In post-9/11 New York, Zou Lei is an illegal immigrant from northwest China. A Muslim with a Uighur mother and a Han soldier for a father, she’s a pariah even within the Chinese community. Forced to work fourteen-hour days and live in squalor, she nevertheless embraces the many freedoms her adopted homeland has to offer.

Damaged by three tours in Iraq, veteran Brad Skinner comes to New York with the sole intention of partying as hard as he can in order to forget what he’s seen. Impulsive and angry, Skinner’s re-entry into civilian life seems doomed. But when he meets Zou Lei they discover that new beginnings may be possible for both of them, that is if they can survive homelessness, lockup and Skinner’s post-traumatic stress disorder.

Set in the underbelly of New York, Preparation for the Next Life exposes an America as seen from the fringes of society in devastating detail and destroys the myth of the American Dream through two of the most remarkable characters in contemporary fiction. Powerful, realistic and raw, this is one of the most ambitious – and necessary – chronicles of our time.

  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (April 2, 2015)
  • Length: 432 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781780747781

'Extraordinary, challenging and...thrilling'.

– Belfast Telegraph

'Extraordinary, challenging and...thrilling...So simple, so heartbreaking, so very, very good'.

– Independent

'A tragedy-bound love story with a gritty contemporary setting...Lish's matter-of-fact style somehow manages to elevate the everyday and urban into an art form...There is an echo here of T. S. Eliot or...The Great Gatsby'.

– Third Way Magazine

'Deeply moving'

– Carnegie Europe

'A raw, sharply rendered love story, a stark portrayal of New York, an unsparing autopsy of the Bush years, and as ambitious and impressive a debut as you could wish for'.

– Irish Times

'Atticus Lish is a writer on a stratospheric rise, and rightly so...the book is getting plenty of attention for all the right reasons'

– Irish Independent

'A fine novel'

– David Nicholls, Observer

'[An] unfailingly vivid and engaged portrait of life on the margins of society'

– Financial Times Books of 2015

'This book is a masterwork.'

– Alan Warner, author of Morvern Callar

‘Punches its way, bare-knuckled, through every millennial New York novel centring around middle-class intellectual characters… kicking typical tales of artsy, east-coast intelligentsia romance into a dumpster. But its real target, sought out with a heat-seeking precision, is far weightier, and that is America itself’

– Observer

‘Powerful… Lish writes with rare confidence… he doesn’t forget that a good love story should break your heart’

– Metro

‘Extraordinary… “Make it new” was Ezra Pound’s exhortation… Lish does exactly that… astonishing… nothing less than a triumph, worthy of every heroic adjective a critic could throw. It is a reminder, plain and simple, of what fiction is for’

– FT

‘Will pull you in… completely compelling and persuasive… a New York which you won’t read about that often… poetic… there’s a beautiful exactness’


‘A blistering novel… bigger than the sum of its parts. I can think of no better recent fiction book to read as the presidential election circuit gears up.’

– The Times

‘Importan[t]…Lish excels at dialogue’

– Literary Review

'Here is a raw first novel with a low center of gravity. Set in Queens, it dilates upon blinkered lives, scummy apartments, dismal food and bad options. At its heart is a love story between a Chinese immigrant and a veteran of the Iraq war. Mr. Lish’s narrative is intense, moving and somehow necessary.'

– Dwight Garner, New York Times, 2014 Books of the Year

‘Impressive.. Charged with breathless momentum… substantial and beguiling…This is, in the end, a profoundly political book’

– Guardian

‘Extraordinarily powerful… The burning intensity of the prose… fully absorbs all the detail… Lish’s remarkable debut fuses raw realism with narrative poetry to truly memorable effect’

– Sunday Times

‘A significant contribution… striking… [Lish] isn’t catching a mood but building a world… we look to long novels for richness, not perfection, for power, not precision, so we should savour Lish’s audacity and open heart, his refusal to coddle or console’

– Daily Telegraph

‘Magnificent… one of the best recent novels I have read about work as it exists for millions of people… attests to a more profound and intimate knowledge of how life functions on the margins’

– New Statesman

‘Astonishing, gorgeous… It is hard to imagine a more daunting task for a novelist than to say something new about 9/11. Preparation for the Next Life is dizzying in its ambition and exhilarating in its triumph.’ Clancy Martin,

– Clancy Martin, New York Review of Books

‘The finest and most unsentimental love story of the new decade.’

– New York Times

‘A tremendous book, relentless, moving, written in prose of marvellous integrity. Now that America and the novel are dead, I hope we can have more great American novels as alive as this one.’

– Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask

‘A tour de force of urban naturalism… a love story that’s as bold and urgent as any you’ll read this year.’

– Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

‘A stunning debut novel… Lish’s prose is at once raw and disciplined, and every word feels necessary.’

– Publishers Weekly

‘The most relevant, and beautiful, novel of the year.’

– Scott McClanahan, author of Crapalachia and Hill William

'An instantly immersive, atmospheric book, a love story and a gripping chronicle of the concealed purgatories of New York City, and the world. Mr Lish's prose is superlucid, propulsive but always beautifully controlled, authoritative yet selfless, wrought with an exactitude that is the toughest but deepest kind of compassion a book can have.'

– Colin Barrett, author of Young Skins

'Ferocious and immense, this book will break your heart.'

– Niall Griffiths

'Devastatingly good. My heart was a different size by the time I finished: swollen from the terrible beating it took, but also, I think, permanently augmented.'

– Ned Beauman

'Here’s the kind of book that shows up, if we’re lucky, every five, maybe ten years. It’s a book that masterfully anchors itself in the literary “novel” form while going leaps and bounds over a dozen of its kin in its authenticity, Lish’s command of the sentence capturing a dizzyingly accurate worldview from street level and up.'

– Electric Literature