Mobility by Lydia Kiesling - 5🌟
Happy pub date one day early 🎉
&Say hello to my new favorite book!
Thank you @zandoprojects for this beautiful oil slicked read.
In the year 1998, fifteen year old Bunny Glenn and her Foreign Service family got posted in Azerbaijan. This book is peak Barbie gets political. It's Barbie saves herself and tries (or not) to save the environment. It's a millennial book for millennial girlies (and dudes).
The foreign diplomat life follows the same cliche Familial formula across the world it seems. That this book acts as a funny archetype of life imitating art imitating life. Here's the 1 2 step: dad is on post at the embassy. Mom a trailing ex air hostess. One of the kids eventually works for Peace Corp and the other sibling becomes a floater with no real ambitious to get into Ivy league or follow their fathers diplomatic foot steps after having observed and absorbed the stress that comes from politics and the puppeteers. Lucky for us, we get to see what happens throughout Bunny's life as she finds her own way in the modern world.
Mobility is sharp, witty and unlike anything I've read before. I give this coming of age story all the stars. This book is an environmental and climate change wake up call amongst other accessible issues today. I read it in two sittings and I'm certain I would pay big money to keep reading about Bunny.
Thanks for NetGalley for the eARC.
I inhaled this book. I loved the main character, even though she is objectively kind of boring. The author does a very good job of combining global politics with the quotidian life of
an embassy brat who is trying to figure out and make her way in the world. Like all of us, Bunny, the MC, is subsumed by the needs of her ego: the right cosmetics and a job that validates her. She is a good person that cannot grasp the abstractions that are leading to the destruction of the planet. This is very much a realistic novel of human behavior. There are no heroes or villains, just people fumbling around. I loved how the novel focuses on this one lifespan in which so much climate change will occur. She was born into one world and will die in another. Her industry paid its human masters handsomely but took wealth from the future. The only issue I had with the novel is that it really did not have a plot. But I loved the MC do much, I did not really care.
This book was so smart and good, I can't contain myself. An absolutely searing look at global warming, the evils of the oil industry, its interconnectedness to international war, the banality of evil, civilian complicity in upholding these evils, and on and on. And it does it by following the story of an unassuming and ultimately enjoyable-to-read-about teen/young adult daughter of American diplomats. It's such an accessible approach to examining how we've found ourselves in the current historical moment, and where we may be going from here.
Everything about this book feels intentional. It makes reading it such a joy because you know Kiesling did it all on purpose. It's impossible not to reflect on who we each are in the currently unfolding story of our climate disaster. The book both renders it of individual importance and impact and conveys its macro factors and the profound depth of change necessary to change course for the planet. It asks the question "what role will you play as the world burns?" and it forces unpleasant realizations about the ease and likelihood of upholding the individuals, companies, and systems that are expediting the global climate crisis.
This book is such a gorgeous example of how fiction can hold up mirrors and enable us to engage with the world differently. It's a truly enjoyable read--so well written, textured relationships, compelling narrative--but it's not a book you can set down and stop thinking about. I really loved that about it.
There are a lot of good things to say about Kieslings’ new novel, but it didn’t wow me like the first one did. Perhaps it’s the distancing third person POV, or the incredible bombardment of facts about the politics and oil industry that come the readers’ way - much harder to take for me than the immersion into the world of a mom with a toddler that is stranded in an emotional minefield. I was overwhelmed by the background and political interaction in Mobility at times, and also failed to always see how/why Bunny was making her choices.
It is a good coming of age novel, yet ragged in weighting the times and places. Bunny’s situation was unusual, even though her reactions to things seemed very typical. This was not emphasized by the telling, and I had a hard time imagining whether Kiesling felt the uprooting of place was doable or not for a young woman. We had Bunny's reactions to things, but they were often nostalgic or sensual, so I was not totally sure how she could settle back in Texas. Maryellen’s story never totally was realized for me, either. So much detail, but I still felt it was beyond my grasp as to how they could live there and be at all happy.
Perhaps that is part of the point: mobility does not bring you happiness, but then stability does not either.
The ending, like Kiesling’s first novel is a surprise, and I’ll leave it to you to feel figure out what that surprise entails. The ending is tremendous, if unsettling. I am reminded of The Golden State, where Kiesling is able to have you balance hope, humanity, and uncertainty all in a moment, creating an intriguing, insightful ending.
She is an excellent writer, but, in this novel, gives us TMI for my liking. Nonetheless, read it through to the end; it’s worth the wait.
Mobility by Lydia Kiesling
Publication Date August 1, 2023
I have not read Lydia Kiesling’s book Golden State, so that wasn’t what prompted me to want to read Mobility. And it wasn’t a desire to learn about Azerbaijan (doubt I could find it on a map), or interest in the oil and gas industry. Nope, TBH it was learning that the publisher was Crooked Media Books (Zando). I’ve been a Crooked fan since the pre-Crooked days (the Keepin’ It 1600 podcast was my first real intro to Favs, Lovett, Tommy and Dan – now perhaps best known for the Pod Save America podcast. Thanks to Crooked Media Books and NetGalley, I received a copy of Mobility in exchange for this honest review.
This combo coming-of-age novel/geopolitical tale/female empowerment saga starts in 1998, featuring Bunny Glenn. Her father is in the Foreign Service in Azerbaijan at the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Bunny is in a unique position to learn about another culture, and as she viewed the area’s attractions, she “longed to explore them with a friend.” She meets Charlie, introduced to her as the …”most hated American in the former Soviet Union.” Charlie tells Bunny “There’s basically never been a better opportunity for graft in the history of the wold than right here, right now.”
For a reader like me, lacking extensive (or even minimal) knowledge about the region and/or its history, it was helpful to have relevant info inserted seamlessly into the story: “Azerbaijan is a Shiite country, like Iran, but not like Iran,” and “Kazakhstan was the real prize at first, just ungodly amounts of oil underground.” Greed brings people and corporations flocking to the area, “during the rush for oil and pipeline access,” and we watch Bunny evolve from teen to middle age, through her career and an eventual return to the U.S., following along as she learns and grows into a fascinating woman. Throughout it all, the reader views the U.S. participating both overtly and behind the scenes with the twin forces of complicity/greed and inertia, as the region becomes more and more important both politically and economically.
My favorite books are ones that manage to be both entertaining and thought-provoking. That’s exactly what Mobility was for me. Thanks to Crooked and NetGalley, this is my honest FIVE star review!
I enjoyed how this novel went through almost Bunny's whole life. This is very much an imperfect protagonist, which I like to read about, who justifies her choices at each step of her journey from foreign service brat to "feminist" oil employee. An interesting take on personal responsibility and complicity with climate change. Compared to the rest of the book, I didn't like the last chapter, but maybe just because it is "too real" regarding climate change and how our lives may be in the future. I would recommend this to climate fiction enthusiasts and anyone working in the energy industry.
3.5 out of 5 stars, rounded up to 4. A contemporary novel that admirably seeks to engage with the world, though at times the pacing was a bit slow and the ending was slightly underwhelming—the Baku parts were my favorite, compared to the parts set in the US. Well-worth reading for the glimpse into expat/foreign service culture and commentary on climate change, the evolution of the oil ("energy") industry, and the ever-changing landscape of class in America.
I really wasn't familiar with the geopolitics of the oil and gas industry, so I definitely learned more about that issue from this novel. I enjoyed following the character of Bunny throughout her teen years through adulthood, and watching her mature and figure out what's really important to her. I do enjoy novels that deal with climate issues, and as the book progressed, the ramifications of climate change became more pronounced.
I do feel that the ending seemed rushed and a bit out of place. I would have liked more character/plot development for Pamela and the years leading up to 2050. While nice to get a summary of the characters' lives at that point, I would have preferred more actual story vs. a quick recap.
This was a well-written literary novel and I would recommend to readers who enjoy following a character from teen through adulthood, as well as those who enjoy geopolitics/climate fiction.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
Lydia Kiesling’s sophomore novel is so sharp and so precise that I found myself breathlessly flipping pages, terrified that the story would unfold precisely the way (the only way) it could. On the surface, MOBILITY is the coming-of-age story of Bunny Glenn, a State Department brat spending her fifteenth summer in Azerbaijan, where the conversations around her focus on the oil industry and uneasy geopolitical tensions but where she concerns herself most with the state of her pores and futile attempts to draw attention from the handsome journalist living upstairs. We follow Bunny through adulthood as she tries (but not too hard) to make sense of a rapidly deteriorating world and her desire to be comfortable and successful in it. Kiesling fixes her gaze squarely on the well-meaning white Millennial woman, so much so that I felt my heart pound with recognition, fear, and shame at many points in Bunny’s journey.
"Mobility" is a realistic novel about the past, present, and future of oil, energy, and climate crisis. Lydia Kiesling's main character, Bunny, starts out as a teenager in Azerbaijan. Her father is a diplomat and she is used to living in exotic locations when she isn't in boarding school in the USA. Bunny's reactions to everything and everyone around her hit a sweet spot for me when she mentions that her father was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand iin the '70s. Yes, I was there then too!
I just loved all her cultural references, the luxury items she coveted as she always had a copy of Vogue or Vanity Fair at her side. This is a marvel of a book about all things important in our world today. If you enjoy reading about the exotic destinations in the world, and a good coming of age story about a yound American girl, this is a book you must read! The prescient aspect of life in a time of eventual climate changes was shocking and a true wake up call for me.
Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the advanced copy of the book which will be published on August 1, 2023.
The geopolitics of oil seen through the coming of age of Bunny, a 15 year old whose father is posted in Baku with the U.S. Foreign Service in the 1990s. Well written protagonist and an enlightening read overall.
Mixed review here. Kiesling brilliantly writes scenes and develops characters and her writing is worth picking up for that alone. However, the novel was, ultimately, unsatisfying for me because the principal character here (and, well, let's face it, many of the others) was just unlikeable.
Mobility by Lydia Kiesling is a literary fiction novel that follows one woman’s life as it intersects with the politics of the oil and gas industry. This books tells the story of Bunny, from her teen years in foreign service with her dad in Azerbaijan to her final year as an grandmother living through the future catastrophes of climate change.
I found Bunny to be a fairly unlikeable character, and the chapters during her teen years, where she is painfully immature and self-aware, were particularly uncomfortable and unsettling. Bunny doesn’t really change or grow as a person either, only ascends the ladder of energy industry power.
Through Bunny’s lens, Kiesling does a good job of describing the complicated and disturbing web cast by the oil and gas industry. She also makes some interesting observations about class through Bunny’s privileged, liberal eyes.
Ultimately, this character forward novel with social commentary was just okay for me. I wanted a broader view of and more overt story about the power and politics of the energy industry. However, true lit fic fans will likely love the character forward storytelling and observations here.
Mobility releases August 1, 2023.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced review copy.
I was very interested in reading the first book published by Crooked Media. I found this moderately entertaining and though-provoking. However, I feel that it could have been a bit more focused and in need of a good editor.
<i>Life did not make sense if it did not have a forward direction, an upward direction, an uplift.</i>
Bunny is a diplomat's daughter, spending her childhood in far-flung places like Athens, Yerevan, and now Baku, Azerbaijan. She's fifteen, an ordinary girl who now attends a boarding school in Connecticut during the year but this summer is stuck in Baku with her older brother and her father, both too busy to spend much time with her. And so she explores the city, develops a crush on the freelance journalist with an apartment in the same building, watches soap operas in languages she doesn't understand with another neighbor and is dragged to various embassy events as the country's oil boom explodes and journalists, opportunists and political operatives move in. But Bunny's more concerned with the things a teenager should be concerned with; she remains largely uninterested in the geopolitical jostling.
A decade later and Bunny's living in Texas, working in an administrative job at an oil company. The same influences are at work, but Bunny is earning a living and taking care of her Mom.
<i>Then again, as some of the women reminded their peers during their meetings, "diversity, equity, and inclusion" didn't just mean of skin tones and genders--it meant of ideas! All ideas should be welcome. Ideas, it seemed, were the true diversity, and sometimes seemed to matter more than the other kinds. It was important that no one feel left out, especially the men.</i>
In Mobility, Lydia Kiesling shows how geopolitics and greed mean that when developing nations find oil, the wealth generated is not kept by that country, but is passed around to large oil corporations and various opportunists, and she tells this story through the very ordinary life of an American woman. Kiesling has a rare talent for not only writing about the most ordinary routines, but in making those mundane things fascinating. Bunny works as a proofreader, she attends meetings introducing new computer programs, she attends a wedding of a girl she knew from school, she stays with her mother as her mother fails to move forward after her divorce, she lives in a condo in Texas and is pleased to have a job that pays the rent. It's all so ordinary and familiar (I've worked as a proofreader, I've sat through far too many dull meetings, I've gone to weddings for people I've largely lost touch with) that it should be boring. But by burrowing into the ordinary, Kiesling makes it worthwhile, while all the time subtly reinforcing the larger themes.
This is the second novel by Lydia Kiesling that I've read. I loved her debut novel, The Golden State, and found that she's continued to develop as a writer with this new book. I'm excited to see what she writes next.
I liked this book right up until the end, when it veered off into preachy territory. The novel also spends far too long with the main character wandering around Baku as a teenager; she then drifts back to the US and falls into working in the energy industry as a temp, working her way up the ranks with the aid of a magical young male mentor who wants nothing from her but to help her succeed. I like the idea of discussing how even rank and file workers in problematic industries wrestle with their work, but the main character just seems really passive and unconcerned. It did make me want to visit Baku, though.
Thank you NetGalley and Zando/Crooked Media Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Mobility is a sort of Bildungsroman following Elizabeth Glenn—who goes by Bunny—as she spends a year in Azerbaijan, and then as she navigates adulthood (if you're wondering: this novel spans the 1990s to 2050). She is the daughter of a foreign service worker, she longs for Athens, she navigates a tricky adulthood that is marred by the recession of 2008 and a vague lack of ambition that seems to haunt her.
I didn't really know what to expect from this at first—it was a little challenging for me to get into at first, if only because teenage Bunny's concerns were so far from my own concerns at 15, but it ultimately picked up for me. There was something familiar about seeing Bunny stumble around her early twenties—though our ages differ by 14 years, I thought Kiesling did a good job at capturing the tumultuous nature of feeling kind of lost, especially when people around you are making moves. Where this book really shines is its interiority; Bunny can be a frustrating character to follow, in part because she rarely feels a tug of ambition and tends to skew towards a very specific brand of feminism. I think it's still a fascinating portrait of her mental landscape, and it's interesting to see how her experiences and the people she meets change her for better and for worse. It's an odd little novel in that it meanders quite a bit and things mostly happen to Bunny instead of Bunny driving the action and yet it remains interesting. Bunny is feckless and adrift, and yet she still manages to climb her way through the oil industry. Mobility reads fairly quickly, but sitting with the text for a little does help the story shine. There's a lot to chew on here, especially about capitalism and complicity and how the contexts of our lives play into our personal politics.
A stunningly written coming-of-age story set against a geopolitical backdrop of the energy and oil industry. As we follow Bunny from her teen years into adulthood we see her navigate the internal conflict of her desire for personal comfort against the ethics of what she knows to be right in a capitalist world. She is afraid of climate change... but she also wants to make a decent living.
I read about 40 pages slowly and then devoured this one - Bunny hit exactly right and I loved the story of her finding her way in life. I want to go to Greece. I got a little interested in petrochemicals. My favorite book by Ms. Kiesling thus far.
I love novels in which the author includes details that indicate that she really "gets" the character in her moment in time. The story was not at all ABOUT hair removal, but marking the passage of time with references TO different methods of bikini line maintenance was an incredible way of marking time and helped me relate to the character, even when our values or worldviews strayed from each other. The novel is a journey through time, from Bunny's teen years abroad in the 90's to the US in the 2050's. Bunny was infinitely human, imperfect but loveable and likable. I cared what happened to her. I keep thinking about the book, refelcting on Kiesling's ability to situate social comentary on the scaffolding of the life of a very specific girl growing up and growing older with very specific, but generationaly recognizable experiences over time.