According to her minor character Rafael, who named his only son Ransom, “we are all hostages to fortune.” This is just one small nod to Susanna Moore’s thematic exploration of crime and punishment in her latest novel, “The Big Girls,” out this month from Little, Brown.

Set mainly at Sloatsburg Correctional Institution, a former sanitarium on the Hudson’s west bank in New York State, the novel spins a dour story through four well realised, first-person narratives. What evolves is an indictment of our prison system, and a mesmerising investigation of humanity’s seeming effortless capacity for destruction.

I’ve never read Hawaii-born Moore’s novels before, though as I always say, she has been on my list (one that only seems to grow). And I wouldn’t normally pick up a novel about prison, but this one surprised me and captivated with its hypnotic prose and compassionate access two four very human voices.

Read my review in the Honolulu Advertiser.

Read my review in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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