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Absolutionby Patrick Flanery
Synopses & Reviews
A bold and exciting literary novel set in South Africa that contemplates the elusive line between truth and self-perception.
Ambitious and assured, Absolution propels the reader to the final page in a drive to discover the secrets and truths at its core. How or why did a young antiapartheid activist disappear twenty years earlier? How does that event link the present-day characters? And how does it explain the choices they have made or the lies they may tell themselves?
Absolution is a big-idea novel about the pitfalls of memory, the ramifications of censorship, and the ways we are silently complicit in the problems around us. Its also a devastating, intimate, and stunningly woven story. Told in shifting perspectives, it centers on the mysterious character of Clare Wald, a controversial South African writer of great fame, haunted by the memories of a sister she fears she betrayed to her death and a daughter she fears she abandoned. Clare comes to learn that in this conflict the dead do not stay buried, and the missing return in other forms—such as the child witness of her daughters last days who has reappeared twenty years later as Clares official biographer, prompting an unraveling of history and a search for forgiveness. Part literary thriller, part meditation on the responsibility of the individual under totalitarianism, this is a masterpiece of rich, complicated characters and narration that captures the reader and does not let go.
"Flanery's intricate debut, full of shifting perspectives and temporal leaps, calls for disciplined sleuthing to fully realize its merits. Set mostly in a richly described postapartheid South Africa, the interconnected plot lines follow aging, contentious writer Clare Wald as she attempts to assemble the sordid details of her revolutionary daughter Laura's disappearance over two decades ago. She's also dealing with her own remorseless complicity in the assassination years ago of her sister and her sister's husband, a prominent figure in the National Party. Another plot finds Sam Leroux, a white South African whose parents died in a botched bombing and whose aunt was murdered in a robbery, returning to write Clare's biography, an act that slowly reveals complicated bonds between them. Yet many questions remain: what became of Laura? Was she involved in the death of Sam's parents? Who killed Sam's aunt, and was the death connected to a break-in witnessed by Clare? Which version of the truth, if any, is 'real'? Adeptly orchestrating multiple points of view, Flanery builds intrigue by allowing his characters' unreliable interpretations of history, but with mixed results. Early understanding of the novel's confusing form (chapters entitled 'Absolution' are from Clare's book, for one) would enable deeper, less frustrating reading. Still, this is a puzzle worth solving. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the critically acclaimed author of Absolution, a literary page-turner set in the American heartland.
Poplar Farm has been in Louises family for generations, inherited by her sharecropping forbearer from a white landowner after a lynching. Now the farm has been carved up, the trees torn down—a mini-massacre replicating the history of many farms before it, and the destruction of lives and societies taking place all across America.
Architect of this destruction is Paul Krovik, a property developer soon driven insane by the failure of his ambition. Left behind is a half-finished luxury suburb” of neo-Victorian homes on the outskirts of a sprawling midwestern city. To Paul it is a collapsed dream, but to Julia and Nathaniel, arriving from their small Boston apartment, it is a new start, promising a bucolic future. With their son, Copley, they buy Pauls signature home in a foreclosure sale and move in to their brave new world. Yet violence lies just beneath the surface of this land, and simmers deep within Nathaniel. The remaining trees bear witness, Louise lives on in her beleaguered farmhouse, and as reality shifts, and the edges of what is right and wrong blur and then vanish, Copley becomes convinced that someone is living in the house with them.
A renowned, reclusive grand dame of South African literature, Clare Wald has surprised everyone by choosing an unknown, Sam Leroux, to be her official biographer – allowing him into her home, and her life. Sam has his own reasons for accepting the position: he has followed Clare’s career obsessively for motives known only to him. Throughout their meetings neither Clare nor Sam acknowledges the deeply personal past that links them, but as their relationship unfolds, each begins to realize that the other knows more than he or she has let on. The key lies with Clare’s daughter Laura, whose disappeared twenty years earlier shine a powerful light on the elusive nature of truth and memory, forcing us to reconsider all we’d previously believed to be true.
About the Author
Patrick Flanery was born in California, and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford. He lives in London.
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