This is How by M. J. Hyland

M. J. Hyland goes to great lengths to disguise the depth and richness of her art. Her third novel, “This Is How,” begins — as did her previous two — in the first person, in the present tense, right in the middle of what would appear to be a very ordinary day. “I put my bags down on the doorstep and knock three times. I don’t bang hard like a copper, but it’s not as though I’m ashamed to be knocking either.” Not so different from the opening of her impressive debut, “How the Light Gets In” (“In less than two hours this airplane will land at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. It’s lunchtime. My window shutter is open, the sky is vast and blue and the earth is brown and flat”), or the Man Booker finalist “Carry Me Down” (“It is January, a dark Sunday in winter, and I sit with my mother and father at the kitchen table. My father sits with his back to the table, his feet pressed against the wall, a book in his lap”). She makes it look so simple, with her words of one syllable, with a style almost entirely devoid of affect; but there is nothing simplistic about her achievement. “This Is How” is an unflinching, absorbing, morally complex portrait of one life gone suddenly and terribly awry.