In the 17th century, René Descartes contended that merely doubting one’s own existence simultaneously proved that one existed: Cogito, ergo sum. In his newest and most provocative work to date, McEwan (Atonement; Amsterdam) stretches the philosopher’s dictum to its limits with a novel narrated from inside the womb. Trudy is the sur000c6273-572rogate of the unborn narrator, living in her estranged husband’s house while carrying on an affair with his brother, Claude. Endlessly rotating around, constantly awash in wine and food, and privy to the most hushed conversations between Trudy and Claude, the narrator learns of the star-crossed lovers’ plot to poison Trudy’s husband. Encased in amniotic fluid, the narrator is left to squirm in silence and await his arrival into the world, a world in which his mother murdered his father. This sensation of entrapment and helplessness mirrors Trudy’s conspiratorial relationship with Claude. As their plan quickly unravels, Trudy finds herself alone and ensnared in a web of lies. VERDICT McEwan joins Eric D. Goodman (Womb: A Novel in Utero) and Emma Donoghue (Room) in penning an expansive meditation on stability and identity from a confined perspective.