Thanks to partners NetGalley and St. Martins Press for the digital ARC of Erica Bauermeister's No Two Persons. The book will be published on Tuesday!
It’s easiest to explain Erica Bauermeister’s No Two Persons through its premise: the book is a series of interconnected short stories centered around a book called Theo. Bauermeister’s novel begins with Alice, the author of Theo, exploring the origins of the book, which are connected to her own life, though it’s not completely autobiographical. Each new section explores the presence of Theo in the life of someone new—the artist who designs the cover, the assistant of the literary agent who discovers it, and myriad readers.
Through the short stories, characters reappear—we see Alice more than once—weaving a tribute to the power of books in our lives, the ways that they can change the way that we see ourselves, each other, the world.
The writing here is just gorgeous, and we see enough of Theo to have an idea of a book, though this isn’t completely a book-with-a-book situation (so there are no long passages of Theo building into the inclusion of the book in its entirety). Instead, it’s the idea of this novel, of the way it’s one thing for Alice and another thing for each person who comes into contact with it, that captures our attention.
The title comes from a quotation about no two persons experiencing a book the same way (and there’s a great story at the end from Bauermeister about the origins of the quote), and the way Bauermeister brings life to that concept resonated.
There’s deep empathy here, a nuanced understanding of the fact that we can only know the smallest part of the lives of most people we know but also a strong message that empathy can—and should!—arise from even that limited knowledge.
I think that anyone who’s a reader, anyone who has seen the way a book can touch someone deeply, anyone who has the urge to share a book with someone they know, will love this book.
I'm Jen Moyers, co-host of the Unabridged Podcast and an English teacher.