Synopses & Reviews
A haunting, enigmatic novel about a woman who is given a second chance — and isn't sure whether she really wants it.
Elisa Brown is driving back from her annual, somber visit to her son Silas's grave when something changes. Actually, everything changes: her body is more voluptuous; shes wearing different clothes and driving a new car. When she arrives home, her life is familiar — but different. There is her house, her husband. But in the world she now inhabits, Silas is no longer dead, and his brother is disturbingly changed. Elisa has a new job, and her marriage seems sturdier, and stranger, than she remembers. She finds herself faking her way through a life she is convinced is not her own. Has she had a psychotic break? Or has she entered a parallel universe? Elisa believed that Silas was doomed from the start, but now that he is alive, what can she do to repair her strained relations with her children? She soon discovers that these questions hinge on being able to see herself as she really is — something that might be impossible for Elisa, or for anyone. In Familiar, J. Robert Lennon continues his profound and exhilarating exploration of the surreal undercurrents of contemporary American life.
"A woman falls into an alternate version of her life but fails to convince anyone that her life was ever different in this stealthy and thought-provoking literary thriller. While on her annual pilgrimage to Wisconsin to visit her son Silas's grave, Elisa Brown discovers, in a blink, that she's wearing unfamiliar clothes and driving an unfamiliar car en route to an academic conference, where she is known as the graduate studies coordinator for a biotech center at an upstate New York university. It seems she's exchanged her lab job for a less intellectual role; her 'habitual, practical, inert' union with Derek is now a loving relationship (due to counseling, it turns out). And Silas did not die in a car accident, but he and his brother, Sam, are estranged from their parents and living in California, for reasons Derek won't discuss. With no one to confide in about her growing sense of alienation and unease, Elisa seeks out specialists in alternate universes in her old field while going through the motions of her new routine. Lennon (Castle) succeeds by setting his odd, uncommon narrative in intimate terms that delve into Elisa's sense of confusion. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Over the last decade, J. Robert Lennon's literary imagination has grown increasingly morbid, convoluted and peculiar — just as his books have grown commensurately more surprising, rigorous and fun." Scott Bradfield, The New York Times Book Review
"J. Robert Lennon's Familiar is so breakneck and harrowing, so grab-you-by-the-lapels astonishing, that you may not notice until nearly the end how many questions about your own life it makes you ask. Haunting, beautiful, a horror story about parenting, complicated — it's a wonderful book." Elizabeth McCracken
"Lennon has a gift for stretching the borders of character....[Familiar is] a surrealistic tale about the enigma to be found in second chances." Kirkus Reviews
"Fans of Lennon's other books will know he does nothing simply, and Familiar is just as beautifully complex and warped as one might hope. Elisa is compelling because of, rather than in spite of, her flaws, and her circuitous journey is like a highway accident — a complete wreck that you can't help but stare at. From a shattered family and a troubled marriage, Lennon crafts an intensely psychological thriller that is surprising, engrossing, and unforgettable." Jenn Northington, WORD Brooklyn
About the Author
J. Robert Lennon is the author of seven novels, including Castle and Mailman, and a story collection, Pieces for the Left Hand. His fiction has appeared in the Paris Review, Granta, Harpers magazine, Playboy, and the New Yorker. He lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches writing at Cornell University.