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The Effect of Living Backwardsby Heidi Julavits
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.
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"The comic back-and-forth between the fiercely competitive sisters keeps the story interesting....[An] often outrageous book..." Anne Morris, BookPage
"[A] lovely, slightly challenging second novel....Backwards is colorful, bright, funny, and intriguing, and you genuinely care about Alice." Laura Cassidy, Seattle Weekly
"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
"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)
"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
"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!
"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
"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)
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