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Death of an Ordinary Manby Glen Duncan
Synopses & Reviews
With Death of an Ordinary Man, Glen Duncan continues his penetrating and innovative exploration of the supernatural with a novel that is far and away his most powerful and accomplished yet. Nathan Clark's gravestone offers a short and hopeful summary: At rest. But Nathan is not at rest, and knows he won't be until he finds out why he died.
Privy now to the innermost thoughts and feelings of his family and friends — confessions that are raw, brutal, and unexpected — Nathan spends the day of his wake getting to know the living as he has never known them before: His father struggles with a legacy of family tragedy; his wife with the baggage of a doomed affair; his older daughter with her burgeoning sexuality and adolescent confusion. But why isn't Nathan's young daughter Lois at the wake? Who are the two strangers at the funeral, and why does their presence fill him with dread?
Part detective story, part family portrait, Death of an Ordinary Man is an unflinching look at the margins of human experience, where the boundaries of fundamental feelings — love, grief, desire, shame, and hope — meet and mingle, and no motivation is as simple as it seems.
"It has often been said that dead men tell no tales. Nathan Clark, however, can't stop talking. In this latest brimstone-tinged novel by British writer Duncan (I, Lucifer, etc.), Clark, a recently deceased history teacher, appears at his own funeral, hovering over the mourners. Ghost-like, 'a radical amputee... [n]o body, but a maddening imposture of sensation,' he glides through the action, tuning into the thoughts of his father, Frank; his wife, Cheryl; his college-age son, Luke; and his daughter, 17-year-old Gina. A suffocating sadness surrounds these characters, not only because of Nathan's untimely end but also because of the recent violent death of Lois, Nathan's youngest child. As he attempts to order his memories, Nathan ponders the many facets of his love for prickly, ambitious Cheryl, despite her affair with his best friend; for clever, sensitive Gina; for self-contained Luke, a physics student; and for Lois, lovable swimmer and violinist. Duncan's exhilarating, almost exhausting flood of insight into family patterns of love and habit ('It was a grotesque lie, that you loved all your children equally') is matched by the rich unexpectedness of his writing and the complex construction of the narrative, which mimics the structure of thought. The mystery of Lois's death and the narrator's own death — symbolized by a dark room in the family house that Nathan's ghost is afraid to enter — give the novel a hint of suspense, but it's the steady stream of small revelations that gives it its power to haunt. Agent, Jane Gelfman at Gelfman Schneider. (Jan.) Forecast: Despite its superficial resemblance to The Lovely Bones and other recent novels narrated from beyond the grave, this has more in common with Iris Murdoch's analytical chronicles of love and friendship." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In this superb, uncoercively moving novel, the afterlife is the place where thinking is all that's left to us, which makes it both heaven and hell." Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times Book Review
"Duncan's portrayal of the afterlife is refreshingly unsentimental, and he has plenty of talent to spare on the highs, lows, and everyday frustrations of family life, but it's hard even so for the attention not to wander." Kirkus Reviews
"[Duncan] has produced an arresting story, and he writes convincingly and affectingly of the consequences of a child's death, which is pretty rare indeed." Library Journal
"Stories narrated by the dead have been popular of late...but Duncan uses the device in a new way: to explore the extremes of human behavior and emotion. His Catholic sensibility informs this powerful, unflinching, and frequently dazzling meditation on the kind of courage it takes to endure the unthinkable." Booklist (Starred Review)
I Lucifer established Glen Duncan as a writer up there in the literary stratosphere with Martin Amis or T. C. Boyle” (Washington Post). Now with Death of an Ordinary Man, Duncan continues his penetrating and innovative exploration of the supernatural with a novel that is far and away his most powerful and accomplished yet.
Nathan Clarks gravestone offers a short and hopeful summary: At rest. But Nathan is not at rest, and knows he wont be until he finds out why he died. How has he come to hover over his own funeral, a spectral spectator to the grief of his family and friends? Privy now to their innermost thoughts and feelings— confessions that are raw, brutal, and unexpected— Nathan spends the day of his wake getting to know the living as he has never known them before: His father struggles with a legacy of family tragedy; his wife and best friend with the baggage of a doomed affair; his older
The author of "I, Lucifer" continues his penetrating and innovative exploration of the supernatural with this novel. Nathan Clark's gravestone offers a short and hopeful summary: "At rest." But Nathan is not at rest, and knows he won't be until he finds out why he died.
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