English writer David Szalay first showed his penchant for the linked-story novel in his Booker shortlisted All That Man Is in 2016. Originally written as a BBC radio drama, Szalay's novel Turbulence takes up this form once again to explore travel as the means by which various lives intersect in an increasingly globalized world. Structured like a relay, Turbulence traces the lives of one character to the next, switching perspectives after two lives have intersected. These intersections are both minor and major: the perspective jumps from an author to a woman she briefly meets in a grocery store, while in another case, the perspective jumps from brother to brother. What ties these stories together, 12 of them in total, is that they all begin or end at an airport. Through this concept, Turbulence shows the ways in which these major thoroughfares act as spaces where any and all worlds may converge, often in profound ways.
Through characters who are diverse in national identity, religion, socio-economic status, background and circumstance, Szalay is able to evoke a range of emotions perhaps unavailable to a more traditionally organized novel. The contrasting perspectives of Szalay's characters are what make this novel conceptually impressive, but it is the individual characters who animate the novel from page to page. Because the time with each character is so brief, readers are transported directly into the midst of some of their greatest crises, allowing access to an intimate connection it might otherwise take several hundred pages to build. Written in clear and penetrating prose, Szalay's Turbulence is a refreshing and empathetic take on the cosmopolitan novel. --Emma Levy, publishing assistant, Shelf Awareness