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Gainby Richard Powers
Synopses & Reviews
Recipient of the prestigious MacArthur "genius" grant and finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Richard Powers has long been a favorite of literary critics. The editors of the Utne Reader, though, came closest to defining the impact Powers has on his readers. In 1998 they named Gain one of 10 novels most likely to "change the way you see the world." A truly stunning work, both deeply affecting and genuinely subversive, Gain meticulously details the relationship between an unlikely pair of protagonists: Laura Bodey, a real estate agent and mother of two recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, and Clare Soap & Chemical, the multinational conglomerate headquartered in Laura's hometown. By outlining the intricate history of both Clare Soap and Laura's disease, Powers reveals not only the inner logic of modern capitalism, but also how deeply and unconsciously enmeshed we each are in its nefarious workings. This novel will not only change the way you see the world, it will also forever change how you see how your place in it. If nothing else, you'll never look at a bar of soap the same way again. Farley, Powells.com
When three Boston merchant brothers coax the secret of fine soapmaking from an Irish immigrant, they set in motion a chain of events that will spin a family cottage soap works into a multinational consumer-goods giant by the millennium's end.
Set against the sweeping, 170-year rise of the Clare Soap and Chemical Company is the contemporary story of Laura Bodey, her two teenage children, and her ex-husband. All live in Lacewood, Illinois, a place that owes its very existence to the regional Clare factories that have nursed the town from nothing.
But when a cyst on Laura's ovary turns malignant and the local industry is implicated, the insignificant individual and the corporate behemoth collide, forever changing the shape of American life. A look at the pros and cons of progress.
"Erudite, penetrating and splendidly written... [T]here is no gainsaying the remarkable artistry and authority with which Powers, in this dazzling book, continues to impart his singular vision of our life and times." Bruce Bawer, The New York Times Book Review
"Powers may be at once the smartest and the most warm-hearted novelist in America today." Melvin Jules Bukiet, Chicago Tribune
"Powers is a writer of blistering intellect; he has only to think about a subject and the paint curls off. He is a novelist of ideas and a novelist of witness, and in both respects he has few American peers." Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review
Three Boston merchant brothers coax from an Irish immigrant the secret of making fine soap, and set into motion a chain of events that spins a family-run cottage soap works into a multinational consumer-goods giant.
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Gain tells two parallel stories: one, of Laura Bodey, divorced mother of two and successful real-estate agent in the small town of Lacewood, Illinois, who one day discovers that she has ovarian cancer; and two, of Clare Soap & Chemical, the company begun by three merchant brothers in 19th-century Boston, which by the turn of the century has grown into a large multiconglomerate with factories in Laura's hometown. As the history of Clare Soap changes through the history of America, so a modern-day Laura Bodey descends into a battle with her terminal illness. By the novel's conclusion, we have learned how the largest enterprises affect us on the most personal level.
About the Author
Richard Powers is a MacArthur Fellow and the author of Three Farmers On Their Way to a Dance, Prisoner's Dilemma, The Gold Bug Variations, the National Book Award-nominated Operation Wandering Soul, Galatea 2.2, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Plowing the Dark, and, most recently, The Time of Our Singing. He lives in Illinois.
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