Quick Book Review: “Cleanness” by Garth Greenwell

I read the author’s first book two years ago and was blown away.  His new book did not disappoint.  His first novel was set in Sofia, Bulgaria. This book, a collection of loosely interrelated stories, continues with the story of a gay American teacher who tries to navigate life in a foreign country.  The stories in this collection details his various struggles: his obligation to his job as a teacher and student advocate without overstepping any boundaries; grappling with sexual encounters that recall unpleasant reminders from his past; negotiating relationships that are ultimately destined to fail.  The inability to form lasting bonds with others seems to be the overriding theme of the book.  Two of the stories are very sexually graphic, but are amazing in their ability to get into the mind of the narrator during the sexual encounter.  Greenwell is a top-notch psychological writer, and in simple, straightforward language really conveys his subconscious urges and conscious longings.  It is daring, exciting literature.  Although it’s not truly a sequel to his first novel (What Belongs to You), it has the same narrator, and you might understand the character’s mindset a bit better after the first book.  Both books are remarkable.

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