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Mutual Life & Casualty

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With nary a mention of tired ’70s emblems like shag carpet or bell-bottoms, Elizabeth Poliner’s quiet, assured debut summons the innocence and isolation of a world that predates Internet access and cable TV. Carolyn and Hannah Kahn, daughters of the only Jewish family in their small Connecticut town, grow up in the shadow of their parents’slowly deteriorating marriage. The girls narrate the bulk of this deceptively simple novel-in-stories with an earthy honesty that lends substance to such small suburban dramas as scoring weed from a towel boy at the Y or trying to get a kiss from a Rocky-obsessed Jesus freak. Though occasionally repetitive, Mutual Life & Casualty reveals the extraordinary depth of feeling behind one family’s everyday angst.