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His Illegal Selfby Peter Carey
Peter Carey's latest manages to be both charming and disturbing; Dial and Che are unique and empathetic characters that will haunt you long after you put the book down. His Illegal Self also contains that rare achievement: an absolutely perfect ending.
"His Illegal Self is a little book in the way that raspberries or bees or nuggets of uranium are little....[U]nlike much of Carey's previous work, which is exhilarating in its scope, His Illegal Self is exhilarating partly because the depth of field has narrowed so dramatically. Reading this novel, Carey's tenth, is like peering at the human heart, at the world itself, through the distorted precision of a magnifying glass — one carried in the pocket of a seven-year-old boy." Cathleen Schine, The New York Review of Books (read the entire New York Review of Books review)
Synopses & Reviews
When the boy was almost eight, a woman stepped out of the elevator into the apartment on East Sixty-second Street and he recognized her straightaway. No one had told him to expect it. That was pretty typical of growing up with Grandma Selkirk...No one would dream of saying, Here is your mother returned to you.
His Illegal Self is the story of Che — raised in isolated privilege by his New York grandmother, he is the precocious son of radical student activists at Harvard in the late sixties. Yearning for his famous outlaw parents, denied all access to television and the news, he takes hope from his long-haired teenage neighbor, who predicts, They will come for you, man. They'll break you out of here.
Soon Che too is an outlaw: fleeing down subways, abandoning seedy motels at night, he is pitched into a journey that leads him to a hippie commune in the jungle of tropical Queensland. Here he slowly, bravely confronts his life, learning that nothing is what it seems. Who is his real mother? Was that his real father? If all he suspects is true, what should he do?
Never sentimental, His Illegal Self is an achingly beautiful story of the love between a young woman and a little boy. It may make you cry more than once before it lifts your spirit in the most lovely, artful, unexpected way.
"Carey's unique take on the conflict between the need to belong and the dream of freedom during the days of rage over the Vietnam War is at once terrifying and mythic." Booklist
"Emotionally charged." Library Journal
"Carey's mastery of tone and command of point of view are very much in evidence in his latest novel...which is less concerned with period-piece politics than with the essence of identity." Kirkus Reviews
"Peter Carey is one of the great writers in English now. This book is further proof, a book in which he's created a little boy who is neither too precious nor too wise, a little boy on a sad hard trip with his eyes wide open, watching everything and everyone around him. He makes you think of your own past life and all you felt when you were a kid being played upon and moved about by the adults of the world. This book is another triumph, among Carey's other wonderful books. The man can write. He seems capable of anything." Kent Haruf, author of Plainsong and Eventide
"[A] book as psychologically taut as a Patricia Highsmith thriller and as starkly beautiful as Mulisch's modern classic....This novel marks a departure — an altogether successful one — for the versatile author." Liesl Schillinger, New York Times
"Carey's writing is a series of insights that incite and arrest. Above all he has created three alluring, unexpected, and intensely moving characters." Boston Globe
"Carey once again proves himself to be a master of perspective." San Francisco Chronicle
"As masterfully written as Carey's other novels....His Illegal Self is not a tragedy, not a satire or a political polemic, but an idyll — bittersweetly romantic and redemptive, with something like a happy ending for everyone." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
"Carey beautifully captures the paranoia, anxiety and petty bickering that permeated the radical anti-war movement of the time, as well as the dirty bodies, absent farming skills and inadequate plumbing that characterized the back-to-the-earth movement." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"[A] story about making a home in a cold, cold world and making a family out of nothing and for no reason other than love." Miami Herald
Raised in isolated privilege by his New York grandmother, Che is the precocious son of radical student activists at Harvard in the late 1960s. Yearning for his famous outlaw parents, he bravely confronts his life, learning that nothing is what it seems.
About the Author
Peter Carey is the author of nine novels and has twice received the Booker Prize. His other honors include the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Born in Australia, he now lives in New York City.
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