This is one for the heart-breakingly beautiful list. In his stunning, richly-layered debut, Karim Dimechkie’s Lifted by the Great Nothing tells an immigrant story full of humor and poignancy. Max’s father, Rasheed Boulos who has shortened his name to the American-sounding Reed has moved to the U.S. from Lebanon when Max was a baby. Reed is determined to be as American as he can be; his missteps are often hilarious. His neighbors, the Wangs, and the doctor, Nadine are also immigrants. His friend and drinking buddy, Tim, who is Max’s basketball coach, also lives in the neighborhood. The relationships between neighbors and the Bouloses are a fertile backdrop for Max’s coming of age. He becomes alienated from his father when Rasheed’s racial prejudice against Nadine surfaces. In a shockingly ugly scene, Rasheed is locked in his car when Nadine’s party guests believe they are rescuing Max from a predator. Rasheed pleads to be let out of the car, and when he finally is, he is beaten by Nadine’s boyfriend. Meanwhile, Max falls hopelessly in love with Nadine, never mind a 15-year age difference. As he spends more time with her, the gulf between father and son grows to insurmountable proportions. After an altercation with Nadine and learning that his mother, whom Max believed had been killed by terrorists when he was a baby, is alive, Max travels to Beirut to find her. There he learns many secrets, which ultimately result in larger challenges for Max. The cast of complicated, damaged characters demonstrates that love can take many forms and can elevate us, despite the odds. Dimechkie’s debut showcases a promising young author.

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