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This title in other editions

The Sorrows of an American

by

The Sorrows of an American Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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).

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.

Longlisted for the International IMPAC Literary Award

The Sorrows of an American is a story about the immigrant experience and the ghosts that haunt families from one generation to another. When psychiatrist 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. Starting with the note, brother and sister uncover the Davidsen family's secrets and unbandage its wounds in the year following their fathers funeral.

The grieving siblings return to New York from Minnesota, and they continue to pursue the mystery behind the note. While Erik struggles with emotional vulnerability to his psychiatric patients and his fascination with new tenants in his building threatens to overwhelm him, Inga is confronted by a hostile journalist who seems to know a secret connected to her dead husband, who was 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. At the same time, Inga must confront the reality of her husbands double life.

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

"Hustvedt's descriptions of the immigrant experience and the Minnesota landscape have a spare Scandinavian elegance, while her account of the life of a Brooklyn psychoanalyst feels quietly authentic. She takes unapologetic delight in intellectual characters who understand their lives through far-ranging reading and lively conversation . . . she proves herself a writer deftly able to weave intricate ideas into an intriguing plot."Sylvia Brownrigg, The New York Times
"The Sorrows of an American is a thought-provoking book that offers pleasures across many different registers. Hustvedt's descriptions of the immigrant experience and the Minnesota landscape have a spare Scandinavian elegance, while her account of the life of a Brooklyn psychoanalyst feels quietly authentic. She takes unapologetic delight in intellectual characters who understand their lives through far-ranging reading and lively conversation . . . Hustvedt explored the milieu of New York writers and academics in her last novel, What I Lovedin fact, Leo Hertzberg, that book's art-historian narrator, appears briefly at a dinner party at Inga's apartmentand here again she proves herself a writer deftly able to weave intricate ideas into an intriguing plot."Sylvia Brownrigg, The New York Times

"A jarring, long-echoing evocation of the existential vertigo induced by the loss of those whom we miss most desperately, and thus of our place in their world."Ben Dickinson, Elle

"One of the most profound and absorbing books I've read in a long time. Hustvedt pushes hard on what a novel can do and what a reader can absorb, but once you fall into this captivating story the experience will make you feel alternately inadequate and brilliantand finally deeply grateful . . . Hustvedt seems unwilling to turn away any tangential character; she practices a kind of authorial hospitality that gives the book an ever-growing list of side stories. Not the least of these is told in arresting excerpts from the memoir by Erik's father that describes his childhood during the Depression and his experiences as a soldier in World War II. Erik studies this manuscript with rapt attention, knowing it contains the best chance of understanding his heritage and perhaps his own troubled soul as well. Hustvedt reveals in the acknowledgments that these stirring passages from the senior Davidsen's memoir were, in fact, taken almost verbatim from her own late father's memoir, making The Sorrows of an American a striking demonstration of its own theme: the blending of fiction and nonfiction that gives coherence to our lives . . . Hustvedt elegantly knits together these subplots, often from different genres: elements of the thriller, the hospital drama, the historical novel and even the spy caper and noir film, along with autobiographical, philosophy, letters, case studies and art criticism . . . This is a radically postmodern novel that wears its po-mo credentials with unusual grace; even at its strangest moments, it never radiates the chilly alienation that marks, say, the work of Hustvedt's husband, Paul Auster. The remarkable conclusion of The Sorrows is a four-page recapitulation of the story's images racing through Erik's mindand ours. It's a stunning, Joycean demonstration that invites us to impose some sense of meaning on a disparate collection of events, to satisfy our lust for 'a world that makes sense.' I reached the end emotionally and intellectually exhausted, knowing how much I'll miss this book."Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book World

"In a poignant opening scene of Siri Hustvedt's fourth novel, Erik Davidsen cleans out his deceased father's desk. He finds a ring of keys meticulously labeled 'unknown,' which symbolizes the secrets that Lars, his father, has left behind. Erik and his sister, Inga, also find an unfinished memoir and a letter. The memoir, which is quoted throughout the novel, helps establish the pace of the story and is a window into his father's life before marriage and a family . . . The meditative tone of the book is poetry at its best; the language has resonance and meter and meaning. Its cadence is often in sharp contrast to bustling New York City and its inhabitants. But it is in describing Erik's pastoral Minnesota hometown that Hustvedt, a native Minnesotan, is at her best . . . Memories are as alive as the present in this book. They produce sensory scenes where characters eavesdrop into their own lives as well as into the lives of their ancestors. But the book isn't all about the interior. 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 . . . At its heart, The Sorrow of an American explores loneliness and untold stories. It asks the question, 'How do we make amends with our memoirs?' It suggests we continue by surviving 'the loveless present.' We continue by trying first one key, then the next, until a door opens."Sherrie Flick, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"The death of their father sets a brother and sister on the path to discoveries about their loved ones and themselves . . . Passages of piercing beauty evoke Lars's hardscrabble past on a Depression-era farm and as a soldier in World War II, as well as the complex bonds of love, guilt, regret and joy that bind families together . . . Hustvedt writes spectacular sentences that embody the American experience in brilliantly specific physical imagery . . . Ambitious, moving and sometimes maddening-but never, ever dull."Kirkus Reviews

"'Dear Lars, I know you will never ever say nothing about what happened.' These words, found in an old letter addressed to his deceased father, shake New York psychoanalyst Erik Davidsen to the core. Was his father once involved in something questionable? Despite the misgivings of his sister, Inga, recently widowed and contending with both a conflicted daughter and a nasty reporter threatening to unburden herself of secrets regarding the duplicity of Inga's celebrated novelist husband, Erik tracks down the truthwhich is both stranger and more gratifying than he could have imagined. But this is not a novel about solving mysteries: it's about the secrets we keep and the delicate tangle of relationships we maintain. Even as he sorts out his father's life, Erik must come to terms with his own devastating loneliness and his attraction to his new tenant, Jamaican artist Mirandawho is in turn being stalked, sort of, by her daughter's father. Complex relationships, indeed, but the narrative is breathtakingly clear, heartfelt, and involving. Hustvedt has written a novel of quiet strength."Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

"In her fourth novel, 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

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).

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.

Longlisted for the International IMPAC Literary Award

The Sorrows of an American is a story about the immigrant experience and the ghosts that haunt families from one generation to another. When psychiatrist 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. Starting with the note, brother and sister uncover the Davidsen family's secrets and unbandage its wounds in the year following their fathers funeral.

The grieving siblings return to New York from Minnesota, and they continue to pursue the mystery behind the note. While Erik struggles with emotional vulnerability to his psychiatric patients and his fascination with new tenants in his building threatens to overwhelm him, Inga is confronted by a hostile journalist who seems to know a secret connected to her dead husband, who was 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. At the same time, Inga must confront the reality of her husbands double life.

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

"Hustvedt's descriptions of the immigrant experience and the Minnesota landscape have a spare Scandinavian elegance, while her account of the life of a Brooklyn psychoanalyst feels quietly authentic. She takes unapologetic delight in intellectual characters who understand their lives through far-ranging reading and lively conversation . . . she proves herself a writer deftly able to weave intricate ideas into an intriguing plot."Sylvia Brownrigg, The New York Times
"The Sorrows of an American is a thought-provoking book that offers pleasures across many different registers. Hustvedt's descriptions of the immigrant experience and the Minnesota landscape have a spare Scandinavian elegance, while her account of the life of a Brooklyn psychoanalyst feels quietly authentic. She takes unapologetic delight in intellectual characters who understand their lives through far-ranging reading and lively conversation . . . Hustvedt explored the milieu of New York writers and academics in her last novel, What I Lovedin fact, Leo Hertzberg, that book's art-historian narrator, appears briefly at a dinner party at Inga's apartmentand here again she proves herself a writer deftly able to weave intricate ideas into an intriguing plot."Sylvia Brownrigg, The New York Times

"A jarring, long-echoing evocation of the existential vertigo induced by the loss of those whom we miss most desperately, and thus of our place in their world."Ben Dickinson, Elle

"One of the most profound and absorbing books I've read in a long time. Hustvedt pushes hard on what a novel can do and what a reader can absorb, but once you fall into this captivating story the experience will make you feel alternately inadequate and brilliantand finally deeply grateful . . . Hustvedt seems unwilling to turn away any tangential character; she practices a kind of authorial hospitality that gives the book an ever-growing list of side stories. Not the least of these is told in arresting excerpts from the memoir by Erik's father that describes his childhood during the Depression and his experiences as a soldier in World War II. Erik studies this manuscript with rapt attention, knowing it contains the best chance of understanding his heritage and perhaps his own troubled soul as well. Hustvedt reveals in the acknowledgments that these stirring passages from the senior Davidsen's memoir were, in fact, taken almost verbatim from her own late father's memoir, making The Sorrows of an American a striking demonstration of its own theme: the blending of fiction and nonfiction that gives coherence to our lives . . . Hustvedt elegantly knits together these subplots, often from different genres: elements of the thriller, the hospital drama, the historical novel and even the spy caper and noir film, along with autobiographical, philosophy, letters, case studies and art criticism . . . This is a radically postmodern novel that wears its po-mo credentials with unusual grace; even at its strangest moments, it never radiates the chilly alienation that marks, say, the work of Hustvedt's husband, Paul Auster. The remarkable conclusion of The Sorrows is a four-page recapitulation of the story's images racing through Erik's mindand ours. It's a stunning, Joycean demonstration that invites us to impose some sense of meaning on a disparate collection of events, to satisfy our lust for 'a world that makes sense.' I reached the end emotionally and intellectually exhausted, knowing how much I'll miss this book."Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book World

"In a poignant opening scene of Siri Hustvedt's fourth novel, Erik Davidsen cleans out his deceased father's desk. He finds a ring of keys meticulously labeled 'unknown,' which symbolizes the secrets that Lars, his father, has left behind. Erik and his sister, Inga, also find an unfinished memoir and a letter. The memoir, which is quoted throughout the novel, helps establish the pace of the story and is a window into his father's life before marriage and a family . . . The meditative tone of the book is poetry at its best; the language has resonance and meter and meaning. Its cadence is often in sharp contrast to bustling New York City and its inhabitants. But it is in describing Erik's pastoral Minnesota hometown that Hustvedt, a native Minnesotan, is at her best . . . Memories are as alive as the present in this book. They produce sensory scenes where characters eavesdrop into their own lives as well as into the lives of their ancestors. But the book isn't all about the interior. 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 psychi

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 the novels What I Loved, The Blindfold, and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, as well as two collections of essays, A Plea for Eros and Mysteries of the Rectangle. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Paul Auster.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Chris Horne, March 28, 2009 (view all comments by Chris Horne)
How can she do what she does on a page? How does she make the pages fall away and take me into a world that I never forget? I don't know the answer, but I do know as soon as I saw she had a new book out, The Sorrows Of An American I rushed right out to buy it -- and in the last two days have been transported, once again by a world I did not know I was missing.

Like her previous books, the characters (Erick, Miranda, Eggy, and Inga, and Max) in Sorrows of an American are now a part of my life. I shut the book last night and am still thinking of their world. Missing it, actually.

While following a mystery - edged with both agitated grief -- I learned about memory, light, darkness, and art.

No question about it -- this book will not disappoint you: the kind of reading experience that makes you re-remember the power that can be found in bound pages when created by a true artist. Plus, the story here is simply - INTERESTING.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(3 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312428204
Author:
Hustvedt, Siri
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Family life
Subject:
Psychological
Subject:
Death
Subject:
Brothers and sisters
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Family secrets
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
20090331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8.3 x 5.4 x 0.87 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Family Life

The Sorrows of an American New Trade Paper
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Product details 320 pages Picador USA - English 9780312428204 Reviews:
"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).

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.

Longlisted for the International IMPAC Literary Award

The Sorrows of an American is a story about the immigrant experience and the ghosts that haunt families from one generation to another. When psychiatrist 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. Starting with the note, brother and sister uncover the Davidsen family's secrets and unbandage its wounds in the year following their fathers funeral.

The grieving siblings return to New York from Minnesota, and they continue to pursue the mystery behind the note. While Erik struggles with emotional vulnerability to his psychiatric patients and his fascination with new tenants in his building threatens to overwhelm him, Inga is confronted by a hostile journalist who seems to know a secret connected to her dead husband, who was 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. At the same time, Inga must confront the reality of her husbands double life.

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

"Hustvedt's descriptions of the immigrant experience and the Minnesota landscape have a spare Scandinavian elegance, while her account of the life of a Brooklyn psychoanalyst feels quietly authentic. She takes unapologetic delight in intellectual characters who understand their lives through far-ranging reading and lively conversation . . . she proves herself a writer deftly able to weave intricate ideas into an intriguing plot."Sylvia Brownrigg, The New York Times
"The Sorrows of an American is a thought-provoking book that offers pleasures across many different registers. Hustvedt's descriptions of the immigrant experience and the Minnesota landscape have a spare Scandinavian elegance, while her account of the life of a Brooklyn psychoanalyst feels quietly authentic. She takes unapologetic delight in intellectual characters who understand their lives through far-ranging reading and lively conversation . . . Hustvedt explored the milieu of New York writers and academics in her last novel, What I Lovedin fact, Leo Hertzberg, that book's art-historian narrator, appears briefly at a dinner party at Inga's apartmentand here again she proves herself a writer deftly able to weave intricate ideas into an intriguing plot."Sylvia Brownrigg, The New York Times

"A jarring, long-echoing evocation of the existential vertigo induced by the loss of those whom we miss most desperately, and thus of our place in their world."Ben Dickinson, Elle

"One of the most profound and absorbing books I've read in a long time. Hustvedt pushes hard on what a novel can do and what a reader can absorb, but once you fall into this captivating story the experience will make you feel alternately inadequate and brilliantand finally deeply grateful . . . Hustvedt seems unwilling to turn away any tangential character; she practices a kind of authorial hospitality that gives the book an ever-growing list of side stories. Not the least of these is told in arresting excerpts from the memoir by Erik's father that describes his childhood during the Depression and his experiences as a soldier in World War II. Erik studies this manuscript with rapt attention, knowing it contains the best chance of understanding his heritage and perhaps his own troubled soul as well. Hustvedt reveals in the acknowledgments that these stirring passages from the senior Davidsen's memoir were, in fact, taken almost verbatim from her own late father's memoir, making The Sorrows of an American a striking demonstration of its own theme: the blending of fiction and nonfiction that gives coherence to our lives . . . Hustvedt elegantly knits together these subplots, often from different genres: elements of the thriller, the hospital drama, the historical novel and even the spy caper and noir film, along with autobiographical, philosophy, letters, case studies and art criticism . . . This is a radically postmodern novel that wears its po-mo credentials with unusual grace; even at its strangest moments, it never radiates the chilly alienation that marks, say, the work of Hustvedt's husband, Paul Auster. The remarkable conclusion of The Sorrows is a four-page recapitulation of the story's images racing through Erik's mindand ours. It's a stunning, Joycean demonstration that invites us to impose some sense of meaning on a disparate collection of events, to satisfy our lust for 'a world that makes sense.' I reached the end emotionally and intellectually exhausted, knowing how much I'll miss this book."Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book World

"In a poignant opening scene of Siri Hustvedt's fourth novel, Erik Davidsen cleans out his deceased father's desk. He finds a ring of keys meticulously labeled 'unknown,' which symbolizes the secrets that Lars, his father, has left behind. Erik and his sister, Inga, also find an unfinished memoir and a letter. The memoir, which is quoted throughout the novel, helps establish the pace of the story and is a window into his father's life before marriage and a family . . . The meditative tone of the book is poetry at its best; the language has resonance and meter and meaning. Its cadence is often in sharp contrast to bustling New York City and its inhabitants. But it is in describing Erik's pastoral Minnesota hometown that Hustvedt, a native Minnesotan, is at her best . . . Memories are as alive as the present in this book. They produce sensory scenes where characters eavesdrop into their own lives as well as into the lives of their ancestors. But the book isn't all about the interior. 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 psychi

"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).

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