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Mobility: A Novel

af Lydia Kiesling

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
754355,300 (3.72)7
"The year is 1998. The Soviet Union is dissolved, the Cold War is over, and Bunny Glenn is a lonely American teenager in Azerbaijan with her Foreign Service family. Through Bunny's bemused eyes, we watch global interests flock to her temporary backyard for Caspian oil and pipeline access, hearing rumbles of the expansion of the American security state and the buildup to the War on Terror. We follow Bunny from adolescence to middle age--from Baku to Athens to Houston--as her own ambition and desire for comfort lead her to a career in the oil industry, eventually returning to the scene of her youth, where slippery figures from the past reappear in an era of political and climate breakdown"--… (mere)
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Physical mobility, social mobility, professional mobility. Extracting, moving, selling, using.

This book is about oil and the euphemistically termed Energy Industry. Big oil, small private oil. From owners of mineral rights in Texas, to middlemen, to the men and women working in the field, to big companies and governments wheeling, dealing, and manipulating for their own best interests. The consular service employees and families, the journalists tagging along to play the game or expose what they can.

That sounds boring--but it isn't. This is ecofiction/climate fiction and Kiesling focuses on individuals who play this game--intentionally, who fall into it, who are born into it, who accidentally land in it, who fight it. ( )
  Dreesie | Oct 29, 2023 |
The idea here is good, but this needed more central characters that were enjoyable or just to be shorter and to the point. It's just a bit too meandering with a single vapid person for me. I enjoyed the geopolitics much more than the coming of age bits. ( )
  KallieGrace | Oct 16, 2023 |
Kiesling’s novel has an unusual focus: a young woman at loose ends. Her temporary work placement at a Texas engineering firm fortuitously provides a route to employment in the oil/energy industry. The book is something of a coming-of-age story, but not quite as much as is advertised, mainly because the central character is incapable of genuine transformation. The raw material just isn’t there.

The reader first meets Elizabeth “Bunny” Glenn in Baku, Azerbaijan in the summer of 1998 where her father has recently been stationed as a member of the US Foreign Service. The girl’s mother has returned to Texas to look after her ailing mother, taking the youngest child, “Small Ted”, with her. Fifteen-year-old Bunny remains in Baku with John, her older brother, and their dad.

At no point did I find Bunny likeable or sympathetic. However, the greater problem for me was that she isn’t even interesting. We’re led to believe that either puberty or too much time away from family—among her peer group at an elite New England private school—transformed the once bright, curious, and motivated child into a self-absorbed, boy-crazy adolescent. While her motivated brother joins a running club in Baku, Bunny wanders the streets, pores over fashion magazines, experiments with cosmetics, and surreptitiously smokes. Her mother had been understandably reluctant to leave her unsupervised.

Kiesling follows her protagonist from her teenaged years through to age 68 (the year 2051) when Bunny’s daughter Pamela is about to give birth. The novel provides the reader with a snapshot of the oil industry, its corrupt practices and dark partnership with the US government, the narratives (propaganda) it generates about itself, and the ways in which it has had to pivot and rebrand itself in response to the times. Feminism, climate change (particularly the apocalyptic flooding of recent years), geopolitics, and events of international significance (including Covid) are also explored.

Kiesling’s writing is generally strong and her reach is ambitious. I was interested enough to complete the book, but I did not love it. I’ve already mentioned the problem of Bunny—a dull, superficial, and essentially amoral character, who seems to be adrift for much of the novel. As I said, she didn’t engage me, and I think it was audacious of Kiesling to place this character and her banal existence at the centre of the book. But there are other problems, too. I understand the importance of setting the scene, bringing rather exotic Azerbaijan to life and impressing upon the reader just how much a place changes when major corporations discover its rich resources, but too much detail about Baku’s unusual architecture has been included here. I wish an editor had reined Kiesling in. While Mobility is a stimulating read, its 368-page page count would have benefited from being trimmed by at least a quarter.

Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley for providing me with an advanced reader copy. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Sep 25, 2023 |
Life did not make sense if it did not have a forward direction, an upward direction, an uplift.

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.

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.

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. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Jul 11, 2023 |
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"The year is 1998. The Soviet Union is dissolved, the Cold War is over, and Bunny Glenn is a lonely American teenager in Azerbaijan with her Foreign Service family. Through Bunny's bemused eyes, we watch global interests flock to her temporary backyard for Caspian oil and pipeline access, hearing rumbles of the expansion of the American security state and the buildup to the War on Terror. We follow Bunny from adolescence to middle age--from Baku to Athens to Houston--as her own ambition and desire for comfort lead her to a career in the oil industry, eventually returning to the scene of her youth, where slippery figures from the past reappear in an era of political and climate breakdown"--

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