Wintersalen Sale
 
 

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to PowellsBooks.news
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Tour our stores


    Recently Viewed clear list


    Original Essays | September 30, 2014

    Brian Doyle: IMG The Rude Burl of Our Masks



    One day when I was 12 years old and setting off on my newspaper route after school my mom said will you stop at the doctor's and pick up something... Continue »

    spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$9.95
Used Hardcover
Usually ships in 5 to 7 business days
Add to Wishlist
available for shipping or prepaid pickup only
Qty Store Section
1 Remote Warehouse Literature- A to Z

The Sorrows of an American

by

The Sorrows of an American Cover

 

Staff Pick

Siri Hustevdt's new novel shines; she is writing at the peak of her powers. The Sorrows of American is intelligent, witty, and plumbs unusual depths. It is also very difficult to put down. With this work, Hustvedt should finally be recognized as one of our best American writers.
Recommended by Jill Owens, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The Sorrows of an American is a soaring feat of storytelling about the immigrant experience and the ghosts that haunt families from one generation to another.

When Erik Davidsen and his sister, Inga, find a disturbing note from an unknown woman among their dead father's papers, they believe he may be implicated in a mysterious death. The Sorrows of an American tells the story of the Davidsen family as brother and sister uncover its secrets and unbandage its wounds in the year following their father's funeral.

Returning to New York from Minnesota, the grieving siblings continue to pursue the mystery behind the note. While Erik's fascination with his new tenants and emotional vulnerability to his psychiatric patients threaten to overwhelm him, Inga is confronted by a hostile journalist who seems to know a secret connected to her dead husband, a famous novelist. As each new mystery unfolds, Erik begins to inhabit his emotionally hidden father's history and to glimpse how his impoverished childhood, the Depression, and the war shaped his relationship with his children, while Inga must confront the reality of her husband's double life.

A novel about fathers and children, listening and deafness, recognition and blindness; the pain of speaking and the pain of keeping silent, the ambiguities of memory, loneliness, illness, and recovery. Siri Hustvedt's exquisitely moving prose reveals one family's hidden sorrows through an extraordinary mosaic of secrets and stories that reflect the fragmented nature of identity itself.

Review:

"In her fourth novel (following the acclaimed What I Loved), Hustvedt continues, with grace and aplomb, her exploration of family connectedness, loss, grief and art. Narrator and New York psychoanalyst Erik Davidsen returns to his Minnesota hometown to sort through his recently deceased father Lars's papers. Erik's writer sister, Inga, soon discovers a letter from someone named Lisa that hints at a death that their father was involved in. Over the course of the book, the siblings track down people who might be able to provide information on the letter writer's identity. The two also contend with other looming ghosts. Erik immerses himself in the text of his father's diary as he develops an infatuation with Miranda, a Jamaican artist who lives downstairs with her daughter. Meanwhile, Inga, herself recently widowed, is reeling from potentially damaging secrets being revealed about the personal life of her dead husband, a well-known novelist and screenplay writer. Hustvedt gives great breaths of authenticity to Erik's counseling practice, life in Minnesota and Miranda's Jamaican heritage, and the anticlimax she creates is calming and justified; there's a terrific real-world twist revealed in the acknowledgments." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"Much happens in this book...but it's important to remember while reading that Hustvedt...is less interested in resolution than she is in the ways the stories overlap and reflect one another." Minneapolis Star Tribune

Review:

"Complex relationships, indeed, but the narrative is breathtakingly clear, heartfelt, and involving. Hustvedt...has written a novel of quiet strength." Library Journal

Review:

"Hustvedt combines riveting storytelling with philosophical rumination as she dramatizes and contemplates the legacy of sorrows born of the struggles of immigrants and the psychic wounds of war, betrayal, and unrequited love." Booklist

Review:

"Ambitious, moving and sometimes maddening — but never, ever dull." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[A] thought-provoking book....[Hustvedt] proves herself a writer deftly able to weave intricate ideas into an intriguing plot." New York Times

Review:

"The meditative tone of the book is poetry at its best....The characters are very much alive. Hustvedt provides nicely drawn details of both the intimate and mundane in their day-to-day lives, and she clearly has done meticulous research into psychiatry and psychoanalysis." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Synopsis:

The Sorrows of an American is a soaring feat of storytelling about the immigrant experience and the ghosts that haunt families from one generation to another

When Erik Davidsen and his sister, Inga, find a disturbing note from an unknown woman among their dead fathers papers, they believe he may be implicated in a mysterious death. The Sorrows of an American tells the story of the Davidsen family as brother and sister uncover its secrets and unbandage its wounds in the year following their fathers funeral.

Returning to New York from Minnesota, the grieving siblings continue to pursue the mystery behind the note. While Eriks fascination with his new tenants and emotional vulnerability to his psychiatric patients threaten to overwhelm him, Inga is confronted by a hostile journalist who seems to know a secret connected to her dead husband, a famous novelist. As each new mystery unfolds, Erik begins to inhabit his emotionally hidden fathers history and to glimpse how his impoverished childhood, the Depression, and the war shaped his relationship with his children, while Inga must confront the reality of her husbands double life.

A novel about fathers and children, listening and deafness, recognition and blindness; the pain of speaking and the pain of keeping silent, the ambiguities of memory, loneliness, illness, and recovery. Siri Hustvedts exquisitely moving prose reveals one familys hidden sorrows through an extraordinary mosaic of secrets and stories that reflect the fragmented nature of identity itself.

Synopsis:

When Erik Davidsen and his sister, Inga, find a disturbing note among their late father's papers, they believe he may be implicated in a mysterious death. The Sorrows of an American tells the story of the Davidsen family as brother and sister unbandage its wounds in the year following their fathers funeral. Erik is a psychiatrist dangerously vulnerable to his patients; Inga is a writer whose late husband, a famous novelist, seems to have concealed a secret life. Interwoven with each new mystery in their lives are discoveries about their fathers youth--poverty, the War, the Depression--that bring new implications to his relationship with his children.

This masterful novel reveals one familys hidden sorrows in an "elegant meditation on familial grief, memory, and imagination" (Minneapolis Star-Tribune).

About the Author

Siri Hustvedt is the author of three previous novels, What I Loved, The Blindfold, and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, as well as a collection of essays, A Plea for Eros. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Paul Auster.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

NShatt6783, April 21, 2008 (view all comments by NShatt6783)
The Sorrows Of An American
By Siri Hustvedt
Reviewer, Norma J. Shattuck

“I’m so lonely,” is a cry that the psychiatrist narrator of this truly engrossing novel admits to uttering at times, apparently addressed to himself and emanating spontaneously.

It possibly functions as Dr. Erik Davidsen’s safety valve, since he serves as the reliable, compassionate, wide-shouldered counselor/comforter to his mother Marit, sister Inga, and niece Sonia, whose unresolved grief at the death of family patriarch Lars roils them, piled upon previously existing angst. All the while, he must continue serving the disparate needs of his patients, some of whom are quite unpleasant.

Then there is a newly-acquired burden: his yearning for Miranda, the beautiful, Jamaican-born single mother of a remarkable five-year-old daughter called Eggy, for whom he has become a fond father-substitute (her own father being an erratic-artist-turned-scary stalker). Mother and daughter live in the rental unit of his Brooklyn brownstone, so disturbingly close that his wound of unreturned love has scant chance to heal. In Eggy, Hustvedt may’ve set a new standard for a believable, fascinating child character. She is, in her precocity and creative means of expressing feelings, a pint-sized jewel.

Within a plot with highly diverse elements, family history and current complex relationships loom large. Lars’s survivors come to realize that the hitherto skimpy Davidsen annals may need not only augmentation but revision following discoveries such as a diary of Lars’s searing World War 2 combat experiences. Some added lore comes from quizzing mostly ancient relatives in the Minnesota town where Erik and Inga grew up as descendants of Norwegian immigrants. A waspish crone in their gene pool grudgingly receives Lars’s survivors. She and her odd care-giver, it seems, have a bizarre mode of recording events: meticulously creating and selling by mail-order a line of funereal dolls memorializing mis-fortune. The visitors are shown a girl doll with leg cast and crutches who “fell down the stairs” . . . an old woman doll “on the day she died” . . . and a middle-aged male doll holding a miniscule letter reporting the war-time death of his son. Is it cold-hearted schadenfreude or simply a way to garner needed income from well-to-do doll collectors?

In the contemporary New York segments (and within the family history motif) are Miranda’s anecdotes of her years in Jamaica, including the violent death of a beloved uncle which still haunts her. Here, also, the Davidsens interact with a fascinating, creatively conceived panoply of characters. One of these might have been crafted by the author while Dickens was looking over her shoulder and chuckling in approval.

Bernard Burton had been a medical school colleague of Erik’s who “even then was a fat, waddling red-faced person . . . His chief trouble, however, wasn’t his looks but his moistness. Even in winter, Burton had a steamy appearance. Bubbles of perspiration protruded from his upper lip. His forehead gleamed, and his dark shirts were notable for the great damp circles under the arms. The poor fellow gave the impression he was humid to the core, a peripatetic swamp of a man with a single vital accoutrement – his handkerchief.”

It requires a strong central character to over-arch such a labyrinthine plot with its many compelling characters. Yet Erik more than meets the test. Physically imposing at 6-ft, 5-inches (a legacy from those Norwegian forebears), he appears also to possess a reservoir of character strengths: compassion, an unwavering sense of responsibility for those who lean on him, and an acute awareness of his own vulnerabilities.

The latter includes the drain on himself because of the family’s emotional dependence, his divorce that ended a bitter marriage, and his inability to reach a point where the lament, “I’m so lonely,” no longer applies. In this age of flawed fictional males – too often puerile and narcissistic partial-people -- he towers both in worth and height. Yet he is no Atticus Finch. For one thing, saintliness would blunt his sex appeal which so reveals itself throughout that this exasperated reader is moved to wonder why Miranda is so oblivious to the sizzle, considering that his psychiatrist colleague and sometime bed-mate Laura Capelli expressed this enthusiastic, if nearly sub-lingual, reaction to their first coupling: “Good god, Erik. good god!”

Clearly, if amplified and spun off, certain yeasty subplots and characters in this novel have potential to encore in subsequent books. I would rush to read a sequel. Yet Siri Hustedt has, I am certain, many other stories to tell too. Bring them forth!

Copyright, Norma J. Shattuck, 2008
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(13 of 18 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780805079081
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Hustvedt, Siri
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Co.
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Death
Subject:
Brothers and sisters
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Family secrets
Subject:
Psychological
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20080401
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.13 in

Other books you might like

  1. Unaccustomed Earth
    Used Hardcover $6.50
  2. Man in the Dark Used Mass Market $3.95
  3. Oxygen
    Used Trade Paper $3.95
  4. Wapshot Chronicle Used Mass Market $3.95
  5. All the Sad Young Literary Men
    Used Trade Paper $5.50
  6. Don Quixote
    Used Trade Paper $7.50

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Sorrows of an American Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Henry Holt & Company - English 9780805079081 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Siri Hustevdt's new novel shines; she is writing at the peak of her powers. The Sorrows of American is intelligent, witty, and plumbs unusual depths. It is also very difficult to put down. With this work, Hustvedt should finally be recognized as one of our best American writers.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In her fourth novel (following the acclaimed What I Loved), Hustvedt continues, with grace and aplomb, her exploration of family connectedness, loss, grief and art. Narrator and New York psychoanalyst Erik Davidsen returns to his Minnesota hometown to sort through his recently deceased father Lars's papers. Erik's writer sister, Inga, soon discovers a letter from someone named Lisa that hints at a death that their father was involved in. Over the course of the book, the siblings track down people who might be able to provide information on the letter writer's identity. The two also contend with other looming ghosts. Erik immerses himself in the text of his father's diary as he develops an infatuation with Miranda, a Jamaican artist who lives downstairs with her daughter. Meanwhile, Inga, herself recently widowed, is reeling from potentially damaging secrets being revealed about the personal life of her dead husband, a well-known novelist and screenplay writer. Hustvedt gives great breaths of authenticity to Erik's counseling practice, life in Minnesota and Miranda's Jamaican heritage, and the anticlimax she creates is calming and justified; there's a terrific real-world twist revealed in the acknowledgments." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "Much happens in this book...but it's important to remember while reading that Hustvedt...is less interested in resolution than she is in the ways the stories overlap and reflect one another."
"Review" by , "Complex relationships, indeed, but the narrative is breathtakingly clear, heartfelt, and involving. Hustvedt...has written a novel of quiet strength."
"Review" by , "Hustvedt combines riveting storytelling with philosophical rumination as she dramatizes and contemplates the legacy of sorrows born of the struggles of immigrants and the psychic wounds of war, betrayal, and unrequited love."
"Review" by , "Ambitious, moving and sometimes maddening — but never, ever dull."
"Review" by , "[A] thought-provoking book....[Hustvedt] proves herself a writer deftly able to weave intricate ideas into an intriguing plot."
"Review" by , "The meditative tone of the book is poetry at its best....The characters are very much alive. Hustvedt provides nicely drawn details of both the intimate and mundane in their day-to-day lives, and she clearly has done meticulous research into psychiatry and psychoanalysis."
"Synopsis" by ,

The Sorrows of an American is a soaring feat of storytelling about the immigrant experience and the ghosts that haunt families from one generation to another

When Erik Davidsen and his sister, Inga, find a disturbing note from an unknown woman among their dead fathers papers, they believe he may be implicated in a mysterious death. The Sorrows of an American tells the story of the Davidsen family as brother and sister uncover its secrets and unbandage its wounds in the year following their fathers funeral.

Returning to New York from Minnesota, the grieving siblings continue to pursue the mystery behind the note. While Eriks fascination with his new tenants and emotional vulnerability to his psychiatric patients threaten to overwhelm him, Inga is confronted by a hostile journalist who seems to know a secret connected to her dead husband, a famous novelist. As each new mystery unfolds, Erik begins to inhabit his emotionally hidden fathers history and to glimpse how his impoverished childhood, the Depression, and the war shaped his relationship with his children, while Inga must confront the reality of her husbands double life.

A novel about fathers and children, listening and deafness, recognition and blindness; the pain of speaking and the pain of keeping silent, the ambiguities of memory, loneliness, illness, and recovery. Siri Hustvedts exquisitely moving prose reveals one familys hidden sorrows through an extraordinary mosaic of secrets and stories that reflect the fragmented nature of identity itself.

"Synopsis" by ,

When Erik Davidsen and his sister, Inga, find a disturbing note among their late father's papers, they believe he may be implicated in a mysterious death. The Sorrows of an American tells the story of the Davidsen family as brother and sister unbandage its wounds in the year following their fathers funeral. Erik is a psychiatrist dangerously vulnerable to his patients; Inga is a writer whose late husband, a famous novelist, seems to have concealed a secret life. Interwoven with each new mystery in their lives are discoveries about their fathers youth--poverty, the War, the Depression--that bring new implications to his relationship with his children.

This masterful novel reveals one familys hidden sorrows in an "elegant meditation on familial grief, memory, and imagination" (Minneapolis Star-Tribune).

spacer
spacer
  • back to top

FOLLOW US ON...

     
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.