Praise for Stranger, Father, Beloved:

“One of Huffington Post’s hottest reads of the summer also qualifies as a wintry treat. You could say that Taylor Larsen’s debut novel Stranger, Father, Beloved is about family relationships. It starts out with a typical domestic event: a party. And typical moments occur, the protagonist catching his daughter’s face at the window, his wife’s expression as she talks to a guest. But the protagonist turns over these moments and keeps turning them over. His everyday disquietude gains an obsessive momentum. The magic here is that the reader experiences a smile of recognition at these moments, only to watch them wind through surreal territory toward the cusp of mental illness. Not a week goes by when this reader doesn’t revisit one of Larsen’s seemingly innocent insights.”

–Nancy Zafris, The Kenyon Review Holiday Recommended Reads List, December 2017

https://www.kenyonreview.org/newsletter/december-2017/

“Taylor Larsen creates a powerful and moving story about the fracturing of a family and its descent into chaos. A brilliant debut of self-delusion, and a perfectly flawed male character spiraling downward.”

–Kim Michele Richardson, The Huffington Post

Read full Huffington Post “Summer’s Hottest Reads” feature here

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“Multiple frictions fuel the novel. Larsen pushes her people where it hurts. The more peril Michael endures the closer he becomes to figuring out who he really is. Larsen’s ability to understand the deep desires of her characters is where her brilliance lies; even if they are not realized, we know them intimately through the sheer strength and precision of her prose. She gives the reader an insight to what happens when people look away from their untold truths; she mines from the exploration a certain authenticity.”

–Libby Flores, Los Angeles Review of Books

Read full LARB review here

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“Larsen makes a noteworthy debut with a family drama that explores loyalty, lies, and well-being…Larsen captures every nuance with finesse, every emotion with grace.  An emotionally intelligent family drama that examines the breaking point of a marriage.”

Kirkus Review (Starred Review)

Read full Kirkus Review here

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“A mesmerizing, unsparing exploration of one man’s descent, told in subtle, precise language that is reminiscent at times of Raymond Carver, Haruki Murakami, and Carson McCullers, but entirely Larsen’s own creation; a wonderful debut.”

–Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove

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Stranger, Father, Beloved is a terrific debut — elegant and thoughtful, intelligent and haunting. Taylor Larsen had me thinking about her beautifully drawn characters — and their secrets — for days.  A wonderful book.”

–Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans

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Stranger, Father, Beloved is a compelling, unsparing debut novel about a family on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Taylor Larsen is a talented writer with an uncanny ability to tease out the secrets of her characters.”

–Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Little Children

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“There is a timeless quality to Taylor Larsen’s bold and luminous debut novel. Her style is supple, musical and Flaubertian in its rigor. But Larsen is no throwback: her themes, acute perceptions, and devastating irony are supremely relevant to our time.”

–Jaime Manrique, author of Our Lives Are the Rivers and Cervantes Street

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The delicate balance of family relationships, and the yearning for something more, lie at the heart of Larsen’s debut novel. Many of the components…feel familiar and even a bit retro (think Updike or Cheever). Larsen makes her elements fresh with the quiet authority of her prose and the ease with which she transitions from the perspective of one main character to another. This is an intimate and involving story by a promising new voice.”

–Publisher’s Weekly

Read full Publisher’s Weekly review here

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Stranger, Father, Beloved  is part psychological inquest, part intimate portrait of a well-to-do family in Rhode Island with an ineffectual and miserable father at its helm…Larsen has created a mercurial and sympathetic almost-villain in Michael, of whom she writes that ‘a life of pretending had spawned an evil twin who would not leave his side.’  A book of duplicities, secrecy, and ultimately love gone awry, Stranger, Father, Beloved charts the course of a man’s psychological descent with a meticulous eye and a ruthless hand.”

–Amy Jo Burns, Ploughshares “Best Books of Summer” feature

Read full Ploughshares “Best Books of Summer” review here

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“Michael sets out to befriend and eventually replace himself with this person who had so captivated Nancy, and Larsen’s balance of eloquently observed details and Michael’s strange vision reads like Ian McEwan blended with Tom McCarthy’s Remainder (another super solid debut). Told in crisp, engaging sentences and with deep sympathy for Michael’s crumbling family (did I mention Ryan, their teenage daughter whose in the midst of discovering sex? because, yeah, throw that situation in the mix), Stranger, Father, Beloved is an assured and deft debut.”

–Jonathan Russell Clark, book critic, Read It Forward

Read full Read It Forward Review here

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“Indeed, to read Stranger, Father, Beloved feels like stepping off an obstacle course ledge into a net and then climbing across a gap to another ledge. We do move from one point to another, as do the characters, but nowhere is our journey straightforward or easy. Each character action launches him or her into another time and space: “It gave Michael a secret thrill to sleep in the bedroom of his youth, disconnected as it was from his current life” (95).

Everything in Stranger, Father, Beloved is disconnected from its current state, and the rhetorical patterns reflect this. I found myself thinking several times while reading the novel that there is no way the author will get away with this. And yet she does. The novel has a spatial quality that reminds me of Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. In that novel, as in Larsen’s, the narrative establishes itself outside of convention. In McCullers, the narrative patterns takes its cues from musical themes as we see in this passage from McCullers:

This was her, Mick Kelly, walking in the daytime and by herself at night. In the hot sun and in the dark with all the plans and feelings. This music was her—the real plain her…This music did not take a long time or a short time. It did not have anything to do with time going by at all. She sat with her arms around her legs, biting her salty knee very hard. The whole world was this symphony, and there was not enough of her to listen.

It should be no surprise that McCullers built The Heart is a Lonely Hunter as a three-part fugue. The whole world was this symphony, and there was not enough of her to listen. We can read McCullers’ novel and note the various ways music plays a role in its structure and characters, and the same is true of Larsen’s novel with a different principle: disconnected from the present, Stranger, Father, Beloved remains unsettled from the first sentence to the last.”

–J. Aaron Sanders, Lambda Award Winner for Speakers of the Dead

Read full review here

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“While the results unfold with the unsentimental rigor of Madame Bovary, Larsen never lets off listening to the beating, screeching chest of the human being, a la the finest writer of unhappy families, Leo Tolstoy. When a man tries to scratch himself out of the existence he’s known for his whole adult life, who does he become?”

–Alec Niedenthal, The Brooklyn Rail

Read full review and interview here

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“Pure language you can sink into, knowing that while all that perfect summer scenery rolls in, your view of emotion, memory and family will never be quite the same. This is more than a marriage falling apart, an ode to a fancy house with unhappy people in it, or a man fighting with the fragilities of his own mind. Taylor Larsen, based in Brooklyn, has written a searing first novel that takes us on a journey into the most fearful chambers of our own hearts.”

–Darley Stewart, feature in Park Slope Reader “Summer Reading List”

Read full Park Slope Summer Reading review here

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Being a psychiatrist, I am always interested in how novelists deal with emotional problems. Taylor Larsen gets it just right. She focuses on the reactions to the problems rather than getting bogged down in direct descriptions of the emotions themselves (which can often lead a writer astray). With mesmerizing momentum, Larsen describes the inner narrative of Michael’s compulsive efforts to connect as he spirals down into a desire for exile.”

—Dr. John Wylie, former psychiatrist in Washington, DC and former Chair of Dept of Psychiatry at Sibley Memorial Hospital, and author of Diagnosing and Treating Mental illness, A Guidebook and Old Mind, New Mind: Emotional Fossils and the Evolution of the Human Spirit

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“Named one of ‘Summer’s Must Reads’ by the New York Post!”

Read full NY Post Summer Reads article here

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“Named one of ‘Summer’s Must Reads’ by the Houston Chronicle!”

“Named one of ‘The Best Books of Summer’ by Ploughshares!”

“Featured as a ‘promising new voice’ by CapeCod.com!”

“Featured in the ‘Summer Reading List’ in Park Slope Reader!”