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Northwest Cornerby John Burnham Schwartz
"What best characterizes a John Burnham Schwartz novel is a quote from Reservation Road, the 1998 novel that made his reputation (and was made into a far lesser film): "There are heroes, and there are the rest of us. There comes a time when you just let go the ghost of the better person you might have been." With vivid prose and boundless empathy, Schwartz digs deep into the psyches of his all-too-flawed characters, whether they are struggling to define true love (Claire Marvel), grappling with the constraints of Japanese monarchy (The Commoner) or, as in Reservation Road, caught in a spiral of guilt, grief and revenge stemming from a car accident that kills a 10-year-old boy on a deserted Connecticut road." Sarah Weinman, NPR (Read the entire NPR review)
Synopses & Reviews
The New York Times Book Review called Reservation Road “a triumph,” and the novel was universally acclaimed. Now, in a brilliant literary performance by one of our most compelling and compassionate writers, John Burnham Schwartz reintroduces us to Reservation Road’s unforgettable characters in a superb new work of fiction that stands magnificently on its own. Northwest Corner is a riveting story about the complex, fierce, ultimately inspiring resilience of families in the face of life’s most difficult and unexpected challenges.
Twelve years after a tragic accident and a cover-up that led to prison time, Dwight Arno, now fifty, is a man who has started over without exactly moving on. Living alone in California, haunted yet keeping his head down, Dwight manages a sporting goods store and dates a woman to whom he hasn’t revealed the truth about his past. Then an unexpected arrival throws his carefully neutralized life into turmoil and exposes all that he’s hidden.
Sam, Dwight’s estranged college-age son, has shown up without warning, fleeing a devastating incident in his own life. In its way, Sam’s sense of guilt is as crushing as his father’s. As the two men are forced to confront their similar natures and their half-buried hopes for connection, they must also search for redemption and love. In turn, they dramatically transform the lives of the women around them: the ex-wives, mothers, and lovers they have turned to in their desperate attempts to somehow rewrite, outrun, or eradicate the past.
Told in the resonant voices of everyday people gripped in the emotional riptide of lived life, Northwest Corner is at once tough and heart-lifting, an urgent, powerful story about family bonds that can never be broken and the wayward roads that lead us back to those we love.
"The literary tradition of the middle-class American male as a creaky vessel teetering on the verge of moral meltdown yet struggling to reconstruct himself has found its latest and arguably most adept practitioner in Schwartz (Reservation Road). Like Johnny Hake and Harry Angstrom before him, Dwight Arno is a man who has done wrong. A Connecticut tax lawyer disbarred after a fatal hit and run accident, he does not expect a chance at redemption, but it arrives in the form of his son, Sam, who makes a mad dash across the country and shows up at his estranged father's front door after a vicious bar fight puts an end to his dreams of baseball stardom. Pontificating discourses masquerading as stream-of-consciousness mar the narrative at times and inject a sanctimonious streak, but Schwartz is otherwise exceptional at describing the chemistry of desire, creating emotional tension, and making his characters feel more like flesh and blood than fictional constructs. Imaginative and taut, Schwartz's writing is seamless and infinitely inspired. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"I was enthralled by Northwest Corner, reluctant to tear myself away even for a moment from a tale so delicately assembled, so well paced. For me, Schwartz evokes Steinbeck and Updike in his magical ability to weave, out of a regional story of family, a broader chronicle of America. I had the sense on every page of a writer whose abilities are at their peak, the parts of this tale interlocking just so, and yet being anything but predictable as Schwartz defines the nature of atonement, the many shades of love, and the face of redemption." Abraham Verghese
"Families may exist just to witness one another's disappointments, and the tribes in John Burnham Schwartz's riveting, poetic new novel have plenty to gawk and wonder at. This is the first set of characters I've come across in years to compel attention not just with outside action, of which there's plenty, but with psychological depths that reward study. It's rife with tragedies and redemptions, a wise book without being wise-assed, and you should read it." Mary Karr
"The masterly Northwest Corner is that finest of things — a moral novel about mortal events." Dennis Lehane
"Stark and deeply effecting...readers will grow to care deeply about whether and how [the characters'] lives can be redeemed." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"The power of Northwest Corner, as its geographical center moves from Connecticut to California and back again, is in the way it asks the hardest questions of human experience with subtle grace...one of the most emotionally commanding novels of the year." NPR "Books We Like"
"Eloquently told...[an] elegiac, thoughtful novel....While this isn't the first story about the indestructible bonds of family, it's an especially nuanced and moving one." The New York Times
About the Author
John Burnham Schwartz is the author of four previous novels: The Commoner, Claire Marvel, Bicycle Days, and Reservation Road, which was made into a motion picture based on his screenplay. His books have been translated into two dozen languages, and his writing has appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker and The New York Times. A winner of the Lyndhurst Foundation Award for mastery in the art of fiction, Schwartz has taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Harvard University, and Sarah Lawrence College, and is currently literary director of the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Aleksandra Crapanzano, and their son, Garrick.
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