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All the Names They Used for God
Cover of All the Names They Used for God
All the Names They Used for God
Stories
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.
With her distinctive blend of magical realism, science, and poetic prose, 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.
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 olden days. 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.
Audiobook Table of Contents:
THE WORLD BY NIGHT, read by Cassandra Campbell
GLASS-LUNG, read by Cassandra Campbell
LOGGING LAKE, read by Cassandra Campbell
KILLER OF KINGS, read by Cassandra Campbell
ALL THE NAMES FOR GOD, read by Zainab Jah
ROBERT GREENMAN AND THE MERMAID, read by Cassandra Campbell
ANYTHING YOU MIGHT WANT, read by Cassandra Campbell
MANUS, read by Will Damron
PLEIADES, read by Jorjeana Marie and MacLeod Andrews
“So rich they read like dreams—or, more often, nightmares—the nine stories in Sachdeva’s otherworldly debut center upon the unforgiving forces that determine the shape of our lives, as glorious as they are brutal. . . . These modern forces are as vast and incomprehensible as any gods. . . . [The stories] span time, space, and logic: Nigeria and New Hampshire, the past and the future, realism and science fiction. And yet, for all its scope, it is a strikingly unified collection, with each story reading like a poem, or a fable. . . . They are enormous stories, not in length but in ambition, each an entirely new, unsparing world. Beautiful, draining—and entirely unforgettable.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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.
With her distinctive blend of magical realism, science, and poetic prose, 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.
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 olden days. 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.
Audiobook Table of Contents:
THE WORLD BY NIGHT, read by Cassandra Campbell
GLASS-LUNG, read by Cassandra Campbell
LOGGING LAKE, read by Cassandra Campbell
KILLER OF KINGS, read by Cassandra Campbell
ALL THE NAMES FOR GOD, read by Zainab Jah
ROBERT GREENMAN AND THE MERMAID, read by Cassandra Campbell
ANYTHING YOU MIGHT WANT, read by Cassandra Campbell
MANUS, read by Will Damron
PLEIADES, read by Jorjeana Marie and MacLeod Andrews
“So rich they read like dreams—or, more often, nightmares—the nine stories in Sachdeva’s otherworldly debut center upon the unforgiving forces that determine the shape of our lives, as glorious as they are brutal. . . . These modern forces are as vast and incomprehensible as any gods. . . . [The stories] span time, space, and logic: Nigeria and New Hampshire, the past and the future, realism and science fiction. And yet, for all its scope, it is a strikingly unified collection, with each story reading like a poem, or a fable. . . . They are enormous stories, not in length but in ambition, each an entirely new, unsparing world. Beautiful, draining—and entirely unforgettable.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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  • Lexile:
    1010
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:
    6 - 8

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Excerpts-
  • From the cover 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 to cast spirits out of her, to no effect.

    The gravedigger looked at the earth for a long time, the pits with the bodies resting at the bottoms. “I saw another girl like you once, at a freak show in Abilene,” he said. “White skin and hair like yours, eyes like I never saw, almost violet. They called her the Devil’s Bride, but I think she would’ve liked to’ve been married to a good man, tending chickens and baking biscuits just like anyone else. Anyhow, you’re a fine digger.”

    Now Sadie is twenty and it is June and her husband Zachary has been gone for two months, moving southeast across the Ozarks and maybe farther, to look for work. She is not afraid of being alone. She was alone for two years before she met Zachary and she had thought she would spend the rest of her life that way. Just knowing he will come back sooner or later is enough.

    She sleeps in the sod house through the bright hours of the day when most women do their chores, saves her work for early morning and dusk. When the dark has settled she walks across the prairie, making her way by scent and feel. She finds some clumps of grass that smell like onion, others like sweet basil, others still covered in silvery down that tickles her fingertips.

    As the days pass, she saves up things to tell Zachary about when he comes home: A patch of sweet blackberries by the side of the pond where she draws the wash water. A hollow where a covey of grouse nest. Most important and mysterious of all, a hole in the ground with nothing but darkness inside, about the size of a barrel top. The grasses there move even when there is no breeze, and the hole breathes cool air. Once, she lowered a lantern into it at the end of her clothesline and saw a slope of jagged stone leading down. She stuck her head into the opening and breathed, and the air smelled just like the walls of her parents’ graves.

    When Sadie first met Zachary it was dusk and he was drunk. She was sweeping the front steps of the house she had lived in with her parents, and had a pot of elderberry jam boiling on the stove inside. A man stopped at the gate and said, “Appaloosa.” Sadie kept sweeping, but the word brought to mind the horses, stark white with a dappling of dark spots, that the Indians rode across the plains. “Appaloosa,” the man said again. “Appaloosa, I’m talking to you.” He sauntered up to her and took her face in his hand, fumes of whiskey and turpentine exuding from his clothes. He had straight black hair to his shoulders and fingers that were strong and calloused. Sadie stood...
About the Author-
  • Anjali Sachdeva’s fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review, Gulf Coast, The Yale Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Literary Review, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has taught writing at the University of Iowa, Augustana College, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh. She also worked for six years at the Creative Nonfiction Foundation, where she was director of educational programs. She has hiked through the backcountry of Canada, Iceland, Kenya, Mexico, and the United States, and spent much of her childhood reading fantasy novels and waiting to be whisked away to an alternate universe. Instead, she lives in Pittsburgh, which is pretty wonderful as far as places in this universe go. This is her first book.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine The group of narrators gathered to perform this short story collection creates a diverse array of voices. As each narrates a story or two, the total effect is a chorus that captures the many slices of life presented by the author. From the lush tones of Cassandra Campbell to the slightly clipped, mechanical tenor of Will Damron, we are guided by masterful characterizations through a wide range of settings and plots. Zaineb Jah gives a heartfelt performance of the terrifying life of Promise in "All the Names for God." As a young girl, she and her friend are kidnapped, raped, and married by men in a terrorist organization suggestive of Boko Haram. Jah magnifies the magical realism in this story, as do others throughout the collection. M.R. � AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 4, 2017
    The nine stories in Sachdeva’s intriguing debut collection raise challenging questions about human responses to short-circuited desires. Equally at home in realistic and speculative plots, Sachdeva crafts precise character studies with minimal flourishes. “Anything You Might Want” follows the quick crumbling of the relationship between the daughter of a rich, controlling Montana magnate and an indebted miner, and her tantalizing opportunity for revenge. “Robert Greenman and the Mermaid” also focuses on an unwise emotional attachment, bringing together a laconic fisherman and an actual mermaid who nets his ship the largest catches in years. Some stories are creative riffs on historic events, including the title story, in which two kidnapping victims of Boko Haram discover a quasimagical form of hypnosis that can control men. Others, such as “Manus,” point to alarming futures, in which aliens have conquered earth without upsetting life too much—other than requiring all humans replace their hands with metal prosthetics. The most affecting story, “Pleiades,” updates the hubris of Greek tragedy: the inexplicable illnesses of genetically modified septuplets undercut their parents’ faith in science. Throughout, characters face a perpetual constraint against full expression of their emotions. These inventive stories will challenge readers to rethink how people cope with thwarted hopes.

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