Praise for All the Names They Used for God
“The strange and wonderful stories that make up Sachdeva’s debut begin on this side
of reality and slip to the other—often so gracefully, and with such a precise rendering
of the fantastical, that we become inadvertent believers…delightfully unexpected…The
brilliance of these stories—beyond the cool, precise artistry of their prose—is their
embrace of both the known and the unknown, in a combination that feels truly original.”
Winner of the 2019 Chautauqua Prize
Chosen as one of National Public Radio's Best Books of 2018
Winner of the Reading Women Podcast's 2018 Award for Fiction
Longlisted for the Story Prize
Named a must-read book for 2018 by Elle and AM New York, and a top read by Harper's Bazaar, Entertainment Weekly, Fast Company, The Christian Science Monitor, Bustle, Shondaland, Popsugar, Sada El-Balad and Refinery29
“So rich they read like dreams—or, more often, nightmares—the nine stories in [Anjali] Sachdeva’s otherworldly debut center upon the unforgiving forces that determine the shape of our lives, as glorious as they are brutal. . . . These modern forces are as vast and incomprehensible as any gods. . . . [The stories] span time, space, and logic: Nigeria and New Hampshire, the past and the future, realism and science fiction. And yet, for all its scope, it is a strikingly unified collection, with each story reading like a poem, or a fable, staring into the unknowable. . . . They are enormous stories, not in length but in ambition, each an entirely new, unsparing world. Beautiful, draining—and entirely unforgettable.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"All the Names They Used for God fuses science, myth, and imagination into a dark and gorgeous series of questions about our current predicaments. Sachdeva is a fascinating storyteller, willing to push her inventiveness as far as it will go, and I cannot wait to see what she writes next.”
-Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All the Light We Cannot See
"What an outstanding short story collection. I knew nothing about this book going in and was thrilled by each story. There is so much range here, and there is a nice fabulist edge to nearly all the stories. The writer wields so much confidence and control in her prose and my goodness, what imagination, what passion there is in this work. From one story to the next I felt like the writer knows everything about everything. One of the best collections I’ve ever read. Every single story is a stand out."
-Roxane Gay, author of Hunger and Difficult Women
“Every once in a while you read a book with such power, craft, and originality that you know instantly that a new and important voice has arrived on the scene. This is that book.”
—Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Jane Austen Book Club
"Each of these stories is a perfect diorama: scrupulously assembled, complex, unsettling. Completing one is like having lived an entire life, and then being born, breathless, into another."
-Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties
“Anjali Sachdeva is a sorcerer, and these stories are magic. They are so skillfully told, and so absorbing, that they pass as swiftly as a song, yet they linger in the memory like a novel. I read them with total immersion and delight, and not a little envy.”
—Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Illumination
“With this book Anjali Sachdeva moves literature forward a notch, and moves the short story form a full revolution. Yes, it’s that good—fresh, original, and moving. The prose is gorgeous and the characters still linger with me. I love this book.”
—Chris Offutt, author of My Father, the Pornographer and Kentucky Straight: Stories
Praise for the short story "Pleiades," included in All the Names They Used for God. "...One page into it, I thought, Man, this is a great writer. This is something different. This shows great command, wonderful pacing. The story -- about septuplet sisters conceived via genetic manipulation -- could have been told in a thousand terrible ways, but she's managing to make it sing...I went home feeling electric about the possibility of the written word."
—Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and The Monk of Mokha
Praise for the short story "The World By Night," included in All the Names They Used for God. "...This story genuinely surprised me: in its setting and time period; in its characters and in their actions; in the pervasive feeling of almost uncanniness and accidental loss, of abandonment and beauty. Nothing here was predictable, and yet it seemed to me—I applaud them—the author stayed in control of their material and ideas in such a way that I remained in sympathy with all of their characters."
—Kelly Link, author of Magic for Beginners and Get in Trouble
"Sachdeva writes like a love child of George Saunders and Jhumpa Lahiri who managed to get the best genes from each of them. Like Saunders’s work, most of the stories contain a fantastical element. Occasionally this element veers toward sci-fi, such as the bloblike alien Masters of “Manus,” but more often it is subtle. Sachdeva also shares Lahiri’s keen eye for character. In her hands, magical realism is never merely a device, but the best way to concretize a character’s inner struggles."
"Sachdeva’s striking story collection, her first book, explores everyday conflicts in highly imaginative ways. In shifting place and time, characters are confounded by the tidal pull of love and loss as well as the disruptive forces of change. “Logging Lake” follows a man in the aftermath of heartbreak as he goes on a spur-of-the-moment camping trip with an unusual woman he meets online. In “Anything You Might Want,” Gina, disillusioned with her town and her father’s strict upbringing, runs away with Michael, who owes her father a significant gambling debt, a trip that takes an unexpected turn when they make a stop in Michael’s hometown. Other tales embrace the otherworldly—an America governed by aliens, a fisherman with a growing obsession over a mermaid. “Pleiades” follows septuplets who become mysteriously ill and begin to die one by one in a haunting tale that pits the marvels of science against the power of the heart. Though some of Sachdeva’s nine tales bend into the surreal, they never lose the pulse of the human spirit, creating a distinctive, thought-provoking work."
"Ms. Sachdeva’s book, a debut, is notable for its exuberant variety...The range of her gifts is best seen in the title story, about two young women who are forced to become child brides to Islamists but gradually turn the tables on their captors through the practice of mind control. The power they come to hold over the men—'a monster I hollowed out and made weak,' one thinks of her husband—is a mark of their strength and resilience, but also proof that they too are capable of terrible cruelty. The story’s delicate sadness mingles beautifully with the boldness of its conception."
“The nine stories in Sachdeva’s intriguing debut collection raise challenging questions about human responses to short-circuited desires. Equally at home in realistic and speculative plots, Sachdeva crafts precise character studies with minimal flourishes. . . . Some stories are creative riffs on historic events, including the title story, in which two kidnapping victims of Boko Haram discover a quasimagical form of hypnosis that can control men. Others, such as ‘Manus,’ point to alarming futures, in which aliens have conquered earth without upsetting life too much—other than requiring all humans replace their hands with metal prosthetics. The most affecting story, ‘Pleiades,’ updates the hubris of Greek tragedy: the inexplicable illnesses of genetically modified septuplets undercut their parents’ faith in science. Throughout, characters face a perpetual constraint against full expression of their emotions. These inventive stories will challenge readers to rethink how people cope with thwarted hopes.”
"Sachdeva's stories almost seem to revel in their diversity; the book has surprises on virtually every page and touches on a host of philosophical and technological questions that feature both in the treatises Milton read (and wrote) and today's headlines. Science fiction has always been at its strongest when working exactly this kind of combination, and Sachdeva's first attempts at it are remarkable."
"Sachdeva’s spare, unsentimental writing is never more artfully deployed than in the title story, an emotionally scorching tale of two African women’s kidnap and escape from a Boko Haram-type army. In captivity, the two women discover powers they never knew they could possess, but can their strength ever allow them to be the girls they once were? Sachdeva’s eclectic stories span time and geography, packing a wallop even greater due to their diversity. It’s a strong collection from start to finish, with not a weak story in the bunch."