"What Are You Like?" by Irish writer Anne Enright (Atlantic Monthly Press, 257 pages, $24) withholds its truths until the very end. Berts loses his wife in childbirth, marries Evelyn, and raises his daughter Maria, who "always felt like the wrong girl." In this claustrophobic world "you can drown in a saucer of water." Not having a mother is "like a gash on your soul." A woman named Rose suddenly appears.
Maria wanders, having lost not only her mother, but the entire world. She spirals downward. "What are you waiting for?" her stepmother Evelyn demands of Maria, who will not visit. The reply is "Just," a word echoed in Rose's world. The ending is a miracle: "Berts was astonished, again, by women. How they have no choice." There is an exquisite biological reconciliation that lifts this book's spirits to heretofore undreamed of heights.