Like A Complete Unknown

A Novel

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
376 Pages
Reviewed on 02/13/2022
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Books and writing have been central to my life: a work-study job in the library of Kenyon College, working in a small town public library while I earned a degree in library science, writing book reviews, and volunteering to assist Capital Books as they launched their store in downtown Sacramento. I published Remedies for Hunger, a collection of short stories, in 2014 and my first novel, Like a Complete Unknown, debuts on March 8, 2022. A native Chicagoan, I now live on the West Coast. Long ago, I met a teenaged daughter of immigrants who planned to quit school as soon as she turned 16 and join her mother's crew of office cleaners in downtown Chicago. She had no ambitions or hopes of attending college, and thought her future held only marriage and babies. Later, on a Greyhound bus, my seatmate was a young girl traveling home. She whispered to me that sometimes she envied hippies because they were "so free" to do as they wished. She got off the bus in Barstow, California. I always wondered what happened to those girls and wanted to write a different future for them. Like a Complete Unknown is what I imagined they could be and do.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jennifer Ibiam for Readers' Favorite

The war was on in the late 60s, and Katya had it rough. Katya was a Polish girl from a traditional family that didn’t value female education. She also lived in a state that suppressed women’s rights to decide what happens to their bodies. Katya was a gifted artist who wanted to go to an art institute. However, a few days before her sixteenth birthday, her parents dropped the shocking news. She would give up the dream of attending college to join her mother in cleaning offices while her brother, Piotr, continued his university studies. Her life changed forever! Katya ran away from the safety of her home and into the world without a plan. But life would teach her through the good, the bad, and the ugly on this journey in Like a Complete Unknown by Anara Guard.

Like a Complete Unknown by Anara Guard was a fantastic page-turner that broke my heart and mended it. This novel had pieces that came together to make a perfect whole. Anara wrote from the heart, giving the book depth and originality. The story was unique, realistic, relatable, and an accurate depiction of the travails of women, especially in core traditional and religious settings. Anara Guard developed flawed yet appealing characters and interpreted scenes in ways that tugged at my heartstrings. Katya was naïve yet sharp-witted, scared yet resourceful, and industrious. She could make something out of nothing. The author also showed that activists aren’t always the kindest or most decent humans in private. I couldn’t get over Harlow. Dr. Robert was my highlight of the novel, and I would appreciate a sequel that shows what became of Katya. Great job, Anara.

Dina Klarisse Dugar

Katya’s misadventures are heart-wrenching and vivid, but Guard’s most captivating writing is found in her keen understanding of the social and cultural issues that seeped into everyday life during Nixon’s presidency and the Vietnam War. Her characters struggle to understand a society where violence is so entrenched and normalized that young men are being called off to what many consider a futile war, while at home, young women fight against cultural norms and a largely Christian-centric, male politic that denies women reproductive healthcare and autonomy over their own bodies. Although the story is set decades ago, the characters’ sympathetic fury echoes familiarity to today’s reader.
A talented poet and promising novelist, Guard’s voice is lyrical and self-aware, allowing the reader to fully immerse themself in Katya’s angst and yearnings with a gentle grace that can only come from sympathetic knowing. While her deep understanding of story and character shows mastery of the bildungsroman, Guard also weaves a poetic sensitivity through tender language, the intertwining of the crafts lulling her reader into the characters’ painful, beautiful world.