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Gods Without Menby Hari Kunzru
Synopses & Reviews
A branching and multilayered novel by one of our most acclaimed young writers that centers on a couple searching for their young son, lost in the brutal, strangely powerful landscape of the Mojave Desert.
Jaz and Lisa Matharu, a young couple from New York City, are plunged into a surreal public hell after their autistic son, Raj, disappears during a vacation to the California desert. But the desert is inexplicable and miraculous, and the fates of the Matharus are bound up with those of others, all converging at an odd, remote town near a rock formation called The Pinnacles; among them are a debauched British rock star, a former member of an extraterrestrial-worshipping cult, and a teenage Iraqi refugee who befriends a young black Marine while playing the role of "Iraqi villager" in a military simulation exercise. Viscerally gripping and intellectually engaging, this is a novel of big ideas, grounded in emotion and centered on flesh-and-blood characters, and a heartfelt exploration of the search for pattern and meaning in a chaotic universe.
"As characters in acclaimed British novelist Kunzru's pitch-perfect masterwork tinker with machines for communicating with an interplanetary craft circling the Earth, their desperate quest for meaning is interrupted by a nonlinear melange of other strange endeavors that span centuries and cross the Mojave Desert: British rocker Nicky Capaldi's escape from L.A. in a convertible with a gold-plated Israeli handgun stowed in the glove box; beleaguered parents Jaz and Lisa Matharu's disastrous vacation with their autistic four-year-old, Raj; former hippie commune 'Guide' Judy's return to the desert, strung out on meth; and traumatized Iraqi teen Laila's participation as an actor in U.S. army war game facsimiles of Iraq. Presiding over it all are the Pinnacles, three fingers of rock that bear mute witness to Raj's disappearance and the ensuing frantic search. Also on board are Fray Francisco Hermenegildo Tomas Garcas, a half-mad Jesuit missionary intent on converting Native Americans at the close of the 18th century; Deighton, a disfigured ethnologist, annoyed by the young, 'half-educated' Eliza's failure to recognize 'the distinction he'd conferred on her by asking her to be his wife'; an aircraft mechanic named Schmidt working in the '40s who feels betrayed by what the Enola Gay unleashed over Hiroshima; a working-class mother seduced by the possibility of fellowship with benevolent otherworldly beings; and a local girl who once lived with the hippies and who — even though she returns years later to run the motel where Nicky, Jaz, Lisa, and Raj briefly stay — suspects she has never quite returned. Kunzru's (My Revolutions) ear for colloquial speech creates a cacophony that overlays his affectionate descriptions of the desolate landscape, creating a powerful effect akin to the distant cry of urgent voices crackling up and down the dial on a lonely drive through an American wasteland. Agent: Melissa Pimentel, Curtis Brown." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"A reflection and an embodiment of our new world of flattened time and space....Gorgeous and wise." Douglas Coupland, the New York Times Book Review
"A beautifully written echo chamber of a novel." David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas
"A gripping thriller...Kunzru uses his extraordinary gifts as a storyteller — his brightly textured prose, his empathetic understanding of his characters, his narrative flair — to turn a tabloidy tale into a genuinely moving portrait of a marriage and the difficulties of parenthood." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Kunzru is wise beyond his years, [a] novelist in superb command of his craft....In his dazzling new novel, a desert is the setting, hero and villain....Here is where the walking wounded come to pray to Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, Coyote, the Brothers of Light. Here are cynical veterans from WWII, hard-bitten GIs fresh from Iraq, randy communards, washed-up bankers, wasted groupies. Here is death, sex, and rock-and-roll." Marie Arana, the Washington Post
"A stunning achievement...Gods Without Men will undoubtedly prove to be one of the most important works of fiction published this year." Darren Richard Carlaw, the New York Journal of Books
"Kunzru weaves an array of competing stories, turning the novel into a kaleidoscope of clashing perspectives.... Gods Without Men stands out as a courageous attempt to engage with the complexities of faith and doubt in our postmodern world." James Miller, the New York Observer
"[A] pitch-perfect masterwork." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"An astonishing tour de force." Kirkus (starred review)
"Gathers momentum, power, and a fierce clarify to deliver a rich panorama while detailing our mutual antagonisms and deepest spiritual needs....Extraordinary." Library Journal (starred review)
"Mind-bending...[a] thrill ride of a novel about searching for truth." Michele Filgate, O, the Oprah Magazine
"A compelling exploration of cosmic-American weirdness." Rob Brunner, Entertainment Weekly
"The prose is beautiful, every character is fully developed....Through devotion to careful diction and seamless fluctuation between a dozen different writing voices, Kunzru's novel shines as brightly as the desert's setting sun." Christine A. Hurd, The Harvard Crimson
"Kunzru delivers a lively and frequently thrilling version of the quest novel." Booklist (starred review)
"Compulsively readable, skillfully orchestrated....This really is Kunzru's great American novel." The Independent
"Sometimes dizzying, sometimes puzzling, always enjoyable, Gods Without Men is one of the best novels of the year." The Daily Telegraph
"The literary skills of Hari Kunzru are evident throughout this complex and disturbing novel." Annie Proulx, Financial Times
"A countercultural mind-expanding quest....As a virtuoso performance, changing gears and styles every 20 pages or so, encompassing 18th-century friars and Hoxton hipsters, it will appeal to fans of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas....Extraordinary." The Guardian
"Kunzru's lively fourth novel tackles its big themes without ever becoming ponderous or heavy-going....Involving, thoughtful and thoroughly entertaining." Daily Mail
In the desert, you see, there is everything and nothing... It is God without men. – Honoré de Balzac, Une passion dans le désert, 1830
Jaz and Lisa Matharu are plunged into a surreal public hell after their son, Raj, vanishes during a family vacation in the California desert. However, the Mojave is a place of strange power, and before Raj reappears inexplicably unharmed — but not unchanged — the fate of this young family will intersect with that of many others, echoing the stories of all those who have traveled before them.
Driven by the energy and cunning of Coyote, the mythic, shape-shifting trickster, Gods Without Men is full of big ideas, but centered on flesh-and-blood characters who converge at an odd, remote town in the shadow of a rock formation called the Pinnacles. Viscerally gripping and intellectually engaging, it is, above all, a heartfelt exploration of the search for pattern and meaning in a chaotic universe.
About the Author
Hari Kunzru is the author of the novels The Impressionist, Transmission, and My Revolutions, and is the recipient of the Somerset Maugham Award, the Betty Trask Prize from the Society of Authors, a British Book Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Granta has named him one of its twenty best young British novelists, and he was a Fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. His work has been translated into twenty-one languages, and his short stories and journalism have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, the London Review of Books, Wired, and the New Statesman. He lives in New York City. www.harikunzru.com
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