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Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Clifford Garstang’s What the Zhang Boys Know is an enticing, dark and thoughtful novel. The book is told through individual stories, broken down in chapters, that belong to various tenants of a condo building in an up and coming neighborhood in Washington D.C. Where one story ends, another character picks up from their version of the events and reveals much about themselves in the process. There are dark secrets and hidden feelings told to the reader which, when the characters make observations about the other residents, begin to make sense.

The Zhang boys are little kids in the building who live with their father and their aging grandfather. The two lost their mother in a car accident and their father is essentially the main character of the book. The Zhang boys are quiet, observant and quick and their perceptions of the eclectic residents are often more accurate than the observations that come from the adults. These two children are more aware of their surroundings and seem to have a better grip on the world in spite of being small children. The colorful characters all have their demons and the walls of the condominium really don’t hold secrets very well. Each individual has moments of revelation while struggling with the past, present and future; Garstang does not make the stories feel good or sappy. In fact, much of the residents’ pain and suffering is explored and processed.

The language of the novel is quick, smart and intimate. The novel being broken down into stories allows for the short story intimacy feel, while still keeping the characters and novel together. I really enjoyed this writing style and think that Garstang did an excellent job or working the story in this fashion.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Press 53. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.a Rafflecopter giveaway