Though Paul Auster’s metafictional narratives have often veered toward the sort of literary gamesmanship that owes little to the conventions of realism, this is a very different novel for him, rooted in the realities of contemporary America—most specifically an ongoing war in Iraq and an economic recession that threatens employment in general and the publishing business in particular. The son of an independent publisher, 28-year-old Miles Heller abandoned his studies and fled from New York to Florida, cutting all ties with his family, following his complicity in the death of his stepbrother. Chance (always a pivotal force in Auster’s fiction) brings him love with a 16-year-old girl, mature beyond her years, yet the discovery of the relationship forces him to return to New York after an absence of more than seven years. There he finds shelter and company in an abandoned house that has become an artists’ commune of sorts, its residents experiencing complications within “the murky realms of attraction and desire.” Frances Coady, Auster’s editor, called the book “a passionately lyrical novel exploring America’s predicament today as it follows the inner and outer struggles of a cast of unforgettable characters through the dark months following the 2008 economic collapse.” (First appeared in our BEA/ALA Big Book Guide.)
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Henry Holt / November / 9780805092868 / $25.00
This book was featured in the Kirkus Best of 2010