Reviews for Mobility: a novel

Library Journal
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Kiesling's (The Golden State) novel commences when teenager Bunny Glenn is stationed with her family in Azerbaijan in the late 1990s, after the Soviet Union has collapsed. Bunny's father, a career diplomat, is in Azerbaijan to represent U.S. interests amid dozens of other international players seeking to benefit from the enormous oil reserves beneath the Caspian Sea. Later, as a young adult, Bunny and her mother return to Texas and Bunny lands a job in the petroleum industry. As Bunny pursues her career, she increases her knowledge about the petroleum industry and becomes aware how it shapes the geopolitical landscape while contributing to climate change and the planet's environmental degradation, which begins to truly set in during Bunny's middle age. Though this is a coming-of-age novel, Bunny never actually experiences significant psychological or moral growth typical of the genre, in an atypical journey that's actually the novel's strength; Kiesling exposes Bunny's complicity in the coming environmental destruction. VERDICT Through Bunny, a likable enough person with inherent flaws, Kiesling creates a powerful "everyperson" archetype for whom political inertia is the modus operandi, proffering an honest and damning reflection on why the personal is political.—Faye A. Chadwell

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An examination of the myriad costs of delivering the “energy” needed to power everyday life through the story of one American woman. Bunny Glenn, the disaffected teenage daughter of a U.S. foreign service officer, floats through life and her father’s relocations in a state of adolescent ennui and annoyance. Kiesling begins her account of Bunny’s slow journey to a level of heightened awareness of petropolitics in 1998 with her father’s posting in Baku, Azerbaijan, a hotbed of political and oil industry machinations in the wake of the breakup of the Soviet Union. While primarily concerned about her appearance and prime-time American soap operas translated into foreign languages for worldwide consumption, Bunny manages to absorb enough about the oil industry through osmosis that it comes as no surprise when, years later, an adult Bunny (who eventually prefers to be called Elizabeth) finds herself climbing the corporate ladder of a small, family-owned energy company in Texas. Through a lens focused on Bunny, Kiesling is able to deliver an examination of the roles of (among other factors) class, gender, politics, and economics in the development of the world’s addictive reliance upon fossil fuels. Bunny, who has been privy to rumors and stories of industry corruption and avarice, grapples with the need to make a life (and a living) for herself in an arena filled with self-interest and increasingly devastating environmental danger. All the while, she contends with concerns shared with women finding their ways in the corporate world and the world of self-fulfillment. Designer bags, Korean skin care lines, nail polish colors, and the resolution of a long-held sexual attraction take turns as signals of Bunny’s evolving persona in this artful demonstration of how micro decisions have macro results. The personal is patently political in Kiesling’s call to environmental arms. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Bunny had an unusual upbringing, but everything feels unusual when you’re a teenager. With a father in the Foreign Service, Bunny was accustomed to moving often, learning just enough Greek or Russian or Azeri to get by. High school was consistent, at least: preppy Stanhope, which gave her insight into the rights and wrongs of a certain selective East Coast universe. But Bunny chafed against her privilege, applying at a temp agency when she could no longer stand to live at home after college. Her first placement sparks something in Bunny, who soon realizes that working in the oil industry isn’t unlike learning an entirely foreign language. Kiesling’s (The Golden State, 2018) second novel follows Bunny’s journey from a bored, apathetic teenager to an ambitious, slightly more self-assured adult, with the author skillfully capturing Bunny’s shifting attitudes toward everything from her parents’ failed marriage to her nascent political opinions to the difficulties of working for a Texan oil company. But Bunny always feels genuine. Similar in tenor and tone to Sonya Cobb’s The Objects of Her Affection (2014) and Stacey Swann’s Olympus,Texas (2021), this rich and compelling novel makes a strong case for paving your own way.

Publishers Weekly
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Kiesling (The Golden State) takes on the global petroleum industry in this politically astute novel. Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth “Bunny” Glenn is the daughter of an American diplomat in newly independent Azerbaijan in 1998, with a front-row seat to the geopolitical scrambling underway for the nation’s vast oil reserves. Fast-forward a decade and Bunny lands in East Texas with her divorced mother, after her father ends the marriage while on an overseas assignment. As Bunny makes her own way in Texas, she’s galled by her mother’s reminders of the opportunities afforded her by her well-to-do upbringing. She eventually finds a job in the renewable energy branch of oil company Turnbridge, and shakes off her vague unease at joining the fossil fuel industry by “pushing the energy side, the futurecasting side” of her work. The story then sast-forwards to 2051, when natural disasters plague the planet and oil and gas companies have “destabilized nations,” and Bunny still rationalizes her prior work with Turnbridge as being energy-focused. Kiesling brilliantly captures the swashbuckling arrogance and louche misbehavior of Americans pushing capitalism abroad (where the smell of oil is “the smell of money”), and the consequences of Bunny’s choices are clearly drawn and factually sound. The result is an impressively original contribution to the emerging literature of climate change. (Aug.)