Marshlands: A Novel
By Matthew Olshan
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23)

Matthew Olshan’s Marshlands is a measured, sometimes-opaque meditation on war and its consequences. An unnamed prisoner is unexpectedly released from his cell, but his troubles have only begun. He’s blindsided by modern contrivances and finds “the capital,” a city he once knew, unrecognizable. A thin trickle of information reveals the protagonist’s past — working as a doctor among the natives of the Mesopotamian Marshes. Olshan (author of the young-adult novel Finn and the children’s fantasy The Flown Sky) employs an almost unnaturally calm voice that serves the dramatic material well, highlighting the way seemingly small personal events drive larger historical shifts.