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A Stranger on the Planetby Adam Schwartz
Synopses & Reviews
In the summer of 1969, twelve-year-old Seth lives with his unstable mother, Ruth, and his brother and sister in a two-bedroom apartment in New Jersey. His father lives with his new wife in a ten-room house and has no interest in Seth and his siblings. Seth is dying to escape from his mother’s craziness and suffocating love, her marriage to a man she’s known for two weeks, and his father’s cold disregard.
Over the next four decades, Seth becomes the keeper of his family’s memories and secrets. At the same time, he emotionally isolates himself from all those who love him, especially his mother. But Ruth is also Seth’s muse, and this enables him to ultimately find redemption, for both himself and his family.
"Schwartz's debut novel is the touching and funny account of Seth Shapiro's dysfunctional but lovable family beginning inÂ 1969, six years after his parents' traumatic divorce. His father starts a new family, but Seth and his twin sister and younger brother are left to deal with their unstable mother, Ruth--a devoted but self-absorbed woman who relies on her children for emotional support, picks the wrong men, and is always putting her foot in her mouth. Seth's adolescentÂ embarrassment over his mother is both comical and uncomfortablyÂ familiar, and Schwartz captures these feelings with self-effacing, caustic wit. Scarred by his childhood, Seth struggles for decades with intimate relationships, and when he finally marries Molly, 'the love of his life,' he can't appreciate her. A tragedy brings the family back together, and amid the dry humor and theÂ raw pain, there are some truly beautiful images. But while the balance between wit andÂ emotion is sharply on point for most of the novel, the final third drifts into melancholy. While this does reflectÂ Seth's newfound ability to communicate his emotions, itÂ feels overwrought and out of sync from the soundÂ narrative of the book's beginnings. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
About the Author
Adam Schwartz is a Senior Lecturer in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. His stories have been widely anthologized, and portions of A Stranger on the Planet have previously been published as stories in The New Yorker. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop. This is his first novel.
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