Rural Nicolet, Illinois, is a city anchored between two opposing forces, a living history museum devoted to the American frontier and a laboratory for experiments in high-energy particle physics. When the proposal to build the Superconducting Super Collider under the town sparks debate between the scientists and the locals, two families find themselves on opposite sides of controversy that fractures the community, exposing deep cultural rifts between longtime friends
Abhijat, a scientist from India now working at the National Accelerator Research Laboratory, has a sole obsession: making a name for himself as one of the great theoretical physicists. The search for answers to the universe’s first questions blinds him to the burgeoning distance between him and his wife, Sarala, who devotes herself to their daughter Meena and assimilating into suburban America. Across town, Rose Winchester strives to raise precocious Lily, stitching together an unconventional marriage from the brief visits and vibrant letters of her husband Randolph, who fancies himself the last great gentleman explorer.
With incisive prose and infinite humanity, Charmed Particles traces the collision of past and progress, science and tradition, and the unimagined elements that may arise in the aftermath.
Praise for Charmed Particles
Charmed Particles is a deftly constructed fable of modernity told in elegant, pellucid prose. Kolaya draws her characters with affectionate acuity and the whole reminds me—in its depiction of childhood precocity and earnest adult eccentricity—of one of Wes Anderson’s wry wonders.
—Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl
A wonderfully impish satire, Chrissy Kolaya’s Charmed Particles is all about various cross-cultural, cross-temporal, and cross-spatial explorations as charged with mystery, magic, and possibility as the high-energy particle physics conducted at the National Accelerator Research Lab that forms the novel’s literal and metaphoric heart. What a sparkling debut.
—Lance Olsen, author of Theories of Forgetting
Charmed Particles is inspired by very real stories straight from today’s headlines, yet managed to mesmerize me in the way of an intoxicating fairytale. Kolaya’s characters are flawed, though sympathetic citizens, gazing suspiciously at one another across great chasms of misunderstanding—passionately divided. Yet in her alchemical hands we’re shown what is possible when we have the courage to venture deep within our wounded hearts: sweet magic.
—Susan Power, author of Grass Dancer
Chrissy Kolaya writes from a place of deep intelligence, humor, and sympathy about a cast of varied, marvelously drawn characters. This debut novel is an extremely accomplished and affecting story about family, ambition, the immigrant experience, and the inexorable forward movement of Time and its much-admired handmaiden Progress. Truly wonderful.
—Christine Sneed, author of Little Known Facts and Paris, He Said
Having already established herself as an award-winning poet and master of short stories, Chrissy Kolaya has proven herself—with this debut novel—to be a brilliant novelist as well. With its thoughtful consideration of community, science, and the balance between work and life Charmed Particles is an engaging, provoking, and utterly charming debut.
—Andrew Carroll, author of the New York Times bestsellers War Letters and Behind the Lines
Charmed Particles is more than an insightful, yet fictional, depiction of the human impact on different communities concerned with the late 20th-century Superconducting Super Collider. Unfolding gently through the evolving stories of two young families, it builds to a moment of colliding perspectives over pioneering progress in physics versus historical physical preservation and ultimately reveals the shared aspirations of both. You will enjoy this tender, timely, and thought-provoking first novel by Chrissy Kolaya.
—Adrienne Kolb, co-author of Tunnel Visions: The Rise and Fall of the Superconducting Super Collider
Any Anxious Body
In her debut collection, Kolaya practices poetry as a documentary form, with the lives of working-class women as her primary subject matter, and the dark side of upward mobility as her subtext. Blending family narratives with incisive verse, the result is at once clear-eyed and sympathetic in its treatment of the human condition.
You can read more about the book on the publisher’s website
Praise for Any Anxious Body
In this fine first book of poems, Chrissy Kolaya reminds us that a life is larger than its person, that it is made of many parts, some quite remote. Any Anxious Body begins with the speaker’s earliest memories and ends at the grave of an unspecified relative. Most remarkable about this journey is the spare handful of memories it reaches back to for its beginnings, a great-grandmother’s fragmentary utterances written in old age and saved by her daughter, used as a kind of lucky wisdom and tact to guide the speaker into a full and generous consciousness. Life is made and made possible by the words found to hold it down as it squirms to get away. Chrissy Kolaya is to be congratulated for this exact and exacting art.
—Roger Mitchell, author of Lemon Peeled the Moment Before: New & Selected Poems 1967-2008
What we save, saves us. In these poems we learn the lesson of want versus need. These poems strive across the distance between generations who lived poor and those whose plenty is not enough. No small part of that continued wanting is to hear and acknowledge the voices of those who survived deprivation and the meagerness of women’s lives in decades past. Kolaya’s poetry is original, inventive, direct and yet just a bit fragmented, just a little hard at times. Work is so much a part of these poems, that making the reader work makes sense – makes satisfaction.
—Heid E. Erdrich, author of Cell Traffic: New and Selected Poems
Part documentary poetics, part New York School improvisation, Any Anxious Body reveals the ways in which the self is a poem, constructed as it is from a series of improbable collisions that become inevitable in retrospect. This book will make you cup your ear to the door of the past and listen more closely. It left me hearing voices, most of all Kolaya’s own, one which I’m prepared to follow anywhere
—Dobby Gibson, author of It Becomes You
“Swimming for Shore” appears in New Sudden Fiction: Short-Short Stories from America and Beyond
“Xanadu” appears in Fiction on a Stick: New Stories by Minnesota Writers.
“Savannah” appears in Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems
- The Search For Charmed Particles, novel excerpt, Crab Orchard Review
- Stella and Marco Get Hitched poem, Sawmill
- First Memory, 1954, poem, Stone Canoe
- Total Beverage Food and Liquor, poem
- Swim for the Other Shore, short story, Crazyhorse
- You can also listen to this story, retitled “Swimming for Shore,” read by an actor as part of the radio program An Hour of Short Stories.
The editors of these journals were early supporters of my work (links will take you to the each journal’s website):