Brat: A Novel (Hardcover)

Brat: A Novel By Gabriel Smith Cover Image
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Brat is a raucous story of the messy, messed-up business of living, dying and having a family.” Financial Times

“The novel crackles with gothic horror, deadpan humor, and a damning sense of alienation that you won’t soon shake.” —Chicago Review of Books

From a provocative new literary talent, a hilarious and haunted novel featuring an unlikable protagonist grappling with grief, inheritance, and the ghosts of his past

We meet our ill-tempered protagonist—the story’s titular “brat”—at a low moment, but not yet at rock bottom. The Gabriel of the novel is mourning the death of his father as well as a recent breakup and struggling to finish writing his second book. Alone and aimless, he agrees to move back into his parents’ house to clear it out for sale. Here, the clichés end.

Gabriel has trouble delivering on his promises: as the moldy, overgrown house deteriorates around him, so does his own health, and large sheets of his skin begin to peel from his body at a terrifying rate. In fragments and figments, Gabriel takes us on a surreal journey into the mysteries of the family home, where he finds unfinished manuscripts written by his parents that seem to mutate every time he picks them up and a bizarre home video that hints at long-buried secrets.

Strange people and figures emerge—perhaps directly from the novel’s embedded fictions—and despite his compromised state (and his more successful brother’s growing frustration) Gabriel is determined to try to make sense of these hauntings. Part ghost story, part grief story, flirting with the autofictional mode while sitting squarely in the tradition of the gothic, Brat crackles with deadpan humor and delightfully taut prose.

Gabriel Smith’s arrival heralds the next generation of fiction writers—formally inventive, influenced by the rhythms of the internet, and infused with a particularly Gen Z sense of alienation. Irreverent and boundary-pushing, but not for its own sake, the novel that follows is muscular yet lyrical, riddled with paradox, and told with a truly rare and compelling clarity of voice. Brat is a serious debut that refuses to take itself too seriously.

About the Author

Gabriel Smith is an author living in London. A winner of the 2023 PEN/O. Henry Award, his fiction has appeared in The Drift, New York Tyrant Magazine, and The Moth. He was mentored by the late Giancarlo DiTrapano of Tyrant Books.

Praise For…

“Instead of resolving his novel’s many mysteries, Smith explores how this family navigates the disputed borders of its shared memories, pondering what it means to choose one story over another—as well as the consequences of refusing to choose, especially in the wake of grief.” The New York Times

“For readers looking for something that will grip you from start to finish, Brat is sure to be your breath of fresh air. The novel crackles with gothic horror, deadpan humor, and a damning sense of alienation that you won’t soon shake.” —Chicago Review of Books

“Smith evokes a distressingly potent sense of disquiet. Brat is a piece of suburban gothic, the rules of engagement between characters, and the sense of time all operating with the unhinged logic of a nightmare . . . It’s written in short, sharp bursts of action, savvy dialogue, or interiority . . . Full of dark, deadpan humor, Brat is a raucous story of the messy, messed-up business of living, dying and having a family.” Financial Times
“Between beginning and ending, things get pretty damn weird. Until the last few chapters, that is, when order is restored almost as neatly as in an Elizabethan comedy . . . This is hip gothic . . . There are many moments of deadpan humor . . . Smith’s prose makes mid-period Raymond Carver’s seem positively baroque. But it effectively conveys the narrator’s state of mind.” Airmail

“There’s a moving coming-of-age family story here . . . Smith definitely has something; and his next novel, already announced, is called The Complete, which sounds like a promise.” —The Guardian

“This novel is funny. Not witty or zany, but funny, actually funny . . . Smith’s narration is already asking to be read twice.” Chicago Review of Books

“This original, clever story is brilliant on grief, madness, and creativity. It's beautifully written, hilarious, and heartbreaking.” —The Daily Mail

“It's a book about loss and the anxiety of the modern age, tinged with humor and deep insight that will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.” —Town & Country

“Smith's picaresque first novel is told from the perspective of Gabriel, a writer struggling with numerous issues . . . a deeply gothic work that never quite settles the reader in a certain world as Gabriel’s foibles, ghostly visions, and uncertainties filter every moment. Written in short, clipped chapters and featuring uproarious dialogue (especially with Gabriel's brother), this is a darkly comic and brilliantly unusual debut.” —Booklist

“[Smith's] dialogue shines . . . Readers who appreciate the morbidly funny and the just plain morbid will find a lot to love in these pages. A weird and darkly funny novel from a writer to watch.” —Kirkus

“Messy with glitched realities and body horror, Brat breathes the same thrillingly claustrophobic air as Inland Empire and Ubik. It’s a skin-shedding ouroboros of grief and laughter, and the most brain-melting British debut I’ve read in ages.” —Ed Park, author of Same Bed Different Dreams

“Gabriel Smith’s prose is like if Joan Didion and Shirley Jackson took Xanax and used the internet. Brat is a sharp, eerie, confident debut about grief, memory, art, and so much more. Smith is a major new talent.” —Jordan Castro, author of The Novelist
“Gabriel Smith’s jauntily creepy and hilarious tale of a grief-stalked scapegrace’s sloughing-off and regeneration of selves in the filial murk of a moldering homestead is a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man for a new, quaking generation. Brat will unnerve and seduce you.” —Garielle Lutz, author of Worsted

“Gabriel Smith has written a truly unique and surprising book. He is the rarest thing: a distinctive stylist on the line and structure level. Brat is so strange and so funny. I laughed a lot while reading.” —Rachel Connolly, author of Lazy City

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593656877
ISBN-10: 0593656873
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: June 4th, 2024
Pages: 320
Language: English