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Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite
Abigail Mandlin's Muses follows the story of a young writer on a journey of self-discovery. The book opens with an unnamed protagonist -- an author -- suffering from writer's block and unable to meet the demands of their agent. Seeking inspiration, the narrator sets off on a journey that takes them to five major cities across the globe. Beginning with Athens, Greece, the narrator travels to the Far East to Tokyo, Japan, serving under the tutelage of a Japanese literature professor. Their research brings them to New York City, where the narrator spends time with a cousin and his girlfriend. The last leg of their journey takes them to London and then Paris, following the trail of Oscar Wilde. In Paris, the author meets a former lover with whom they make amends, and finally, can leave past baggage behind.
Muses is one of those stories where you, as a reader, can relate events from your own life to that of the protagonist. Abigail Mandlin presents the narrative in the first person, from the POV of an unnamed protagonist with an undefined gender, allowing readers the opportunity to immerse themselves into the story as they see fit. The protagonist's backstory is left ambiguous, with little titbits and hints alluding to a past of chronic depressive behavior, which leaves their current life trajectory open to the reader's interpretation. The protagonist is a compelling character with a story arc that feels deeply personal and intimate. I especially liked how Mandlin captured the cultural nuances and atmosphere of the five different cities with her descriptions. I would recommend this book to readers who savor well-written literary fiction.