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A Sexy Novel of Art and Queer Intimacy

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Kendra Winchester

Contributing Editor

Kendra Winchester is a Contributing Editor for Book Riot where she writes about audiobooks and disability literature. She is also the Founder of Read Appalachia, which celebrates Appalachian literature and writing. Previously, Kendra co-founded and served as Executive Director for Reading Women, a podcast that gained an international following over its six-season run. In her off hours, you can find her writing on her Substack, Winchester Ave, and posting photos of her Corgis on Instagram and Twitter @kdwinchester.

Welcome to Read this Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that needs to jump onto your TBR pile! Sometimes these books are brand new releases that I don’t want you to miss, while others are some of my backlist favorites. This week, let’s talk about one of my most anticipated literary fiction novels of the season.

a graphic of the cover of Exhibit by R.O. Kwon

Exhibit by R. O. Kwon

I adored R. O. Kwon’s debut novel, The Incendiaries and have been watching out for her next novel ever since. There’s something about Kwon’s stripped-down writing style that captures readers’ imaginations and spurs us on to keep reading.

In Exhibit, we follow Jin Han, a photographer living in San Francisco with her husband. One night at a party, she meets Lidija Jung, and her world feels like it’s been turned upside down. Lidija is a one-of-a-kind ballerina, brimming with talent and poise. But after an accident, she’s been forced to take a leave of absence as she tries to recover from her injury. Both women bond over their art and their drive to keep going, even under difficult and discouraging circumstances.

Soon Jin and Lidijia are sharing their innermost thoughts and desires. Jin reveals that her husband now wants children, something she’s never wanted — and will never want — and Lidjia suspects that her accident was actually planned by a competitive colleague. Soon they are exploring hidden desires, finding satisfaction in each other like no one else before.

In this sexy novel full of art, queer sex, and hopelessly entangled human relationships, Kwon explores characters’ desires to the fullest, filling her short novel to the brim with complex motivations and the impulse that drives humanity’s need for connection with others. As Jin explores her newfound queer sexuality, she stands to lose every relationship that she’s ever held dear. 

Ami Park performs the majority of the audiobook, with Sue Jean Kim narrating brief interludes between select chapters. Park captures the intense electricity between Jin and Lidjia, which she sustains throughout the novel. Her performance is intimate, imbuing the characters with a quiet strength as they’re forced to make decisions that will impact them for the rest of their lives.

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