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The Illusion of Separatenessby Simon Van Booy
Synopses & Reviews
In The Illusion of Separateness, award-winning author Simon Van Booy tells a harrowing and enchanting story of how one mans act of mercy during World War II changed the lives of strangers, and how they each discover the astonishing truth of their connection.
Whether they are pursued by Nazi soldiers, old age, shame, deformity, disease, or regret, the characters in this utterly compelling novel discover in their, darkest moments of fear and isolation that they are not alone, that they were never alone, that every human being is a link in an unseen chain.
The Illusion of Separateness intertwines the stories of unique and compelling characters who — through seemingly random acts of selflessness — discover the vital parts they have played in each others lives.
"The latest addition to Van Booy's eclectic literary repertoire is a fractured but fine-tuned narrative revealed through the sum of its pieced-together parts. The story is based on actual events and told from the perspective of six distantly related characters in alternating chapters stretching from New York in 1939 to France throughout WWII, and to East Sussex, England, and Los Angeles, Calif., both in 2010; it quietly unfolds around a multigenerational family ravaged by war, loss, and regret. Mr. Hugo is a disfigured Nazi soldier atoning for his crimes; Martin is a French caretaker at a retirement home for aging starlets; Amelia is a blind 20-something searching for love while setting up programs for the sightless at New York's Museum of Modern Art; and John survived the crash of his B-24 plane over Nazi-occupied France to join the French resistance. Using restraint and a subtle dose of foreshadowing, Van Booy (Everything Beautiful Began After) expertly entangles these disparate lives; but it's what he leaves out that captures the imagination. Full of clever staccato sentences ('Most nights, he watches television. Then he falls asleep and the television watches him') bookended by snippets of inner monologue — obvious, but ripe with meaning ('We all have different lives... but in the end probably feel the same things, and regret the fear we thought might somehow sustain us'), the writing is what makes this remarkable book soar. Agent: Carrie Kania, Conville & Walsh Literary Agency (U.K.) (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“[A] spare, elliptical story of human connection, framed by the horror of World War II….[T]he story snaps together beautifully. A brilliant if elusive novel that shows how a single act can echo through time.” Library Journal
“This short and deceptively simple novel, which affords the pleasure of discovering its well-wrought patterns, is likely to grow in stature as it lingers in memory.” Booklist
“His writing is consciously poetic and at times aphoristic, and he deftly portrays his characters raw emotions.” Wall Street Journal
“Masterful prose....From minimalistic sentences he wrings out maximum impact, stripping away artifice and elaboration in favor of stark, emotional clarity and honesty.” Boston Globe
“Van Booy writes like Hemingway but with more heart. It's a gorgeous story about people whose lives are connected all because of a baby who is saved during World War II. Warning: don't read this in public, or you might sob in front of strangers.” New Hampshire Public Radio
“World War II flashbacks, random acts of kindness, and the amazing thing that happens when seemingly disparate story lines come full circle.” Daily Candy
The characters in Simon Van Booy's The Illusion of Separateness discover at their darkest moments of fear and isolation that they are not alone, that they were never alone, that every human being is a link in a chain we cannot see. This gripping novel — inspired by true events — tells the interwoven stories of a deformed German infantryman; a lonely British film director; a young, blind museum curator; two Jewish American newlyweds separated by war; and a caretaker at a retirement home for actors in Santa Monica. They move through the same world but fail to perceive their connections until, through seemingly random acts of selflessness, a veil is lifted to reveal the vital parts they have played in one another's lives, and the illusion of their separateness.
About the Author
Simon Van Booy grew up in rural Wales. He is the author of The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books, titled Why We Fight, Why We Need Love, and Why Our Decisions Don't Matter, and his essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian, and on NPR. He lives in New York City, where he teaches at the School of Visual Arts and is involved in the Rutgers Early College Humanities program for young adults living in underserved communities. He was a finalist for the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise, and his work has been translated into thirteen different languages.
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