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The Effect of Living Backwards

by

The Effect of Living Backwards Cover

 

Staff Pick

Julavits's second novel manages the neat trick of entertaining while relating the story of a hijacking. The Effect of Living Backwards is a book about sisters. About identity. About choices. "A wonderfully absurdist game of chess," Aimee Bender called it. The hijacking at the center of the story may have been staged to test the passengers' reactions. The blind terrorist may, in fact, have his vision. Alice and Edith can't say for sure.
Recommended by Dave, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Alice and Edith are sisters, soul mates, and archenemies.

Alice, the "good girl," is everything the stunning, wanton, and morally whimsical Edith is not. Except that both are expert manipulators-a power that is tested and exploited when the plane they are on is hijacked.

There's something decidedly strange about Bruno, one of the hijackers, not to mention his inept collaborators. When Alice is chosen to communicate with the hostage negotiator, Edith decides to take matters into her own hands by seducing Bruno. Alice finds herself growing smitten with the hostage negotiator, even as it becomes harder to distinguish her allies from her enemies in this elliptical airborne game show. When the hostages are taken to a hotel in a deserted Moroccan oasis town, Alice must confront the fact that if she wants to save herself, she will be forced to sacrifice someone she loves.

The Effect of Living Backwards is a comic, heartbreaking novel for our new and uncertain age.

Review:

"Alice's self-loathing and her complex relationship with Edith provide the emotional core of a story that is savage and funny. The book is improbable, sure, but so wildly inventive that you hardly care." Taylor Antrim, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"Neither the novel's imaginative framework nor Julavits's cool, unerring eye for detail can quite compensate for its curiously mechanical emotional trajectory." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"Insightful and challenging, this oddball story is unforgettable. Julavits succeeds admirably in making the transition from her prior dramatic novel...to this quick-witted black comedy." Library Journal

Review:

"The Effect of Living Backwards shows off a young novelist with talent to burn and a desire to push beyond the smug posturing of many of her literary peers." Stephen Metcalf, The Los Angeles Times

Review:

"Julavits takes a real risk with this black comedy....Julavits's brittle tone and edgy irony allow no reader empathy. [She] does everything she can to turn readers off. But that may be her point." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"The comic back-and-forth between the fiercely competitive sisters keeps the story interesting....[An] often outrageous book..." Anne Morris, BookPage

Review:

"[A] lovely, slightly challenging second novel....Backwards is colorful, bright, funny, and intriguing, and you genuinely care about Alice." Laura Cassidy, Seattle Weekly

Review:

"Though Julavits moves the plot forward with dispatch, and sections in the middle of the book are genuinely suspenseful, her relentless, ironic distancing...reads more like a rigorously crafted argument against traditionally plotted, emotionally grounded novels than a novel itself." Jennie Yabroff, The San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"Is it possible, in this day and age, to write a funny novel about an airplane being hijacked? If you're Heidi Julavits, it is....[B]eautiful, undulating, sometimes stormy..." Kevin Sampsell, Willamette Week (Portland, OR)

Review:

"Julavits has a unique eye for the details that tell a story....[Effect] is the product of a wide-ranging imagination and a prodigious writing talent that converts psychological insights into prose that is nothing short of fun." Robin Vidimos, The Denver Post

Review:

"With astounding intelligence and unceasing acuity, Heidi Julavits fulfills the great promise of her talents, and jumps to the forefront of her generation. This could be the smartest and most challenging book I've read by anyone our age, and beyond that, it's just plain hard to put down. She's raised the bar for all of us." Dave Eggers, author of You Shall Know Our Velocity!

Review:

"A wonderfully absurdist game of chess — Julavits packs her novel full of odd and piercing moral dilemmas, wicked insights, and memorable characters. The Effect of Living Backwards is a delicious feast of case studies gone haywire." Aimee Bender, author of An Invisible Sign of My Own

Review:

"An absolute tour de force of apparently limitless imaginative ability, deep psychological insight, and astonishing verbal precision. In one fell swoop, Heidi Julavits establishes herself as the Scheherazade of the new Anti-Terror Age. Funny, unnerving, sophisticated, and dazzling in the range of its invention, The Effect of Living Backwards is a terrific and important addition to our literature." George Saunders, author of Pastoralia

About the Author

A wonderfully absurdist game of chess... The Effect of Living Backwards is a delicious feast of case studies gone haywire. (Aimee Bender)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780399150494
Author:
Julavits, Heidi
Publisher:
Putnam Adult
Location:
New York
Subject:
Air travel
Subject:
Hijacking of aircraft
Subject:
Psychological
Subject:
Sisters
Subject:
Identity
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
Women travelers
Subject:
Sibling rivalry
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardback
Series Volume:
no. 16-18
Publication Date:
June 19, 2003
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
336
Dimensions:
9.26x6.40x1.14 in. 1.31 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Effect of Living Backwards Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.95 In Stock
Product details 336 pages Penguin Putnam - English 9780399150494 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Julavits's second novel manages the neat trick of entertaining while relating the story of a hijacking. The Effect of Living Backwards is a book about sisters. About identity. About choices. "A wonderfully absurdist game of chess," Aimee Bender called it. The hijacking at the center of the story may have been staged to test the passengers' reactions. The blind terrorist may, in fact, have his vision. Alice and Edith can't say for sure.

"Review" by , "Alice's self-loathing and her complex relationship with Edith provide the emotional core of a story that is savage and funny. The book is improbable, sure, but so wildly inventive that you hardly care."
"Review" by , "Neither the novel's imaginative framework nor Julavits's cool, unerring eye for detail can quite compensate for its curiously mechanical emotional trajectory."
"Review" by , "Insightful and challenging, this oddball story is unforgettable. Julavits succeeds admirably in making the transition from her prior dramatic novel...to this quick-witted black comedy."
"Review" by , "The Effect of Living Backwards shows off a young novelist with talent to burn and a desire to push beyond the smug posturing of many of her literary peers."
"Review" by , "Julavits takes a real risk with this black comedy....Julavits's brittle tone and edgy irony allow no reader empathy. [She] does everything she can to turn readers off. But that may be her point."
"Review" by , "The comic back-and-forth between the fiercely competitive sisters keeps the story interesting....[An] often outrageous book..."
"Review" by , "[A] lovely, slightly challenging second novel....Backwards is colorful, bright, funny, and intriguing, and you genuinely care about Alice."
"Review" by , "Though Julavits moves the plot forward with dispatch, and sections in the middle of the book are genuinely suspenseful, her relentless, ironic distancing...reads more like a rigorously crafted argument against traditionally plotted, emotionally grounded novels than a novel itself."
"Review" by , "Is it possible, in this day and age, to write a funny novel about an airplane being hijacked? If you're Heidi Julavits, it is....[B]eautiful, undulating, sometimes stormy..."
"Review" by , "Julavits has a unique eye for the details that tell a story....[Effect] is the product of a wide-ranging imagination and a prodigious writing talent that converts psychological insights into prose that is nothing short of fun."
"Review" by , "With astounding intelligence and unceasing acuity, Heidi Julavits fulfills the great promise of her talents, and jumps to the forefront of her generation. This could be the smartest and most challenging book I've read by anyone our age, and beyond that, it's just plain hard to put down. She's raised the bar for all of us."
"Review" by , "A wonderfully absurdist game of chess — Julavits packs her novel full of odd and piercing moral dilemmas, wicked insights, and memorable characters. The Effect of Living Backwards is a delicious feast of case studies gone haywire."
"Review" by , "An absolute tour de force of apparently limitless imaginative ability, deep psychological insight, and astonishing verbal precision. In one fell swoop, Heidi Julavits establishes herself as the Scheherazade of the new Anti-Terror Age. Funny, unnerving, sophisticated, and dazzling in the range of its invention, The Effect of Living Backwards is a terrific and important addition to our literature."
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