Synopses & Reviews
This is the story of a young African mother's journey to reclaim the infant son heartlessly stolen from her. Beginning in Tunisia, where she is employed as a hotel maid, the novel follows her as she makes an illegal, near-death crossing of the Mediterranean, then up the length of Italy, across the Alps, and on to Berlin, where her child has been given a new home. We learn the mother's story through the people she meets along the way, human links in the perilous chain of her journey: a taxi driver, a hunter, a snail collector, a street performer, a blind man. Most are generous, some malevolent, but all write their own deeply personal needs on the nearly blank slate of a mother whose needs are greatest of all. Finally, the woman herself picks up the narration, retelling her story in her own words. And only then do we understand the extent of the sacrifices she has been willing to make for the love of her child.
After eight novels, and following on the heels of his award-winning, bestselling Mister Pip, Hand Me Down World confirms Lloyd Jones's stature as one of the most provocative and important writers today. Dazzling in its literary effects, powerful in its emotions, this is a masterwork of contemporary fiction.
Praise for Hand Me Down World:
An extraordinary novel … [Jones] is becoming one of the most interesting, honest and thought-provoking novelists working today." -Guardian (UK)
"Compelling…vivid … intense…One of the most significant novelists writing today." -Sunday Times (UK)
"Jones's disturbing but beautifully written account of a wronged mother's long journey to find her son is a near unmitigated downer. An unnamed African woman's story is told by incidental witnesses, beginning with a fellow hotel worker in Tunisia who relates the story of her seduction by a German hotel guest, her pregnancy, and the abduction of the baby by her seducer. He has her sign papers at the hospital and leads her to believe he will take her and the baby with him back to Germany but instead abandons her and takes the baby. The unnamed woman sets out on a harrowing quest a few years later, nearly dying in her attempt to get into Europe. Then, with the cloudily motivated help of various strangers, she finds her way to Berlin, where her son lives with his craven father, whose greed and selfishness are almost a relief when contrasted with the subtler humiliating crimes of the other players. Learning all this history through the perspective of secondary characters has a frustrating effect, further marginalizing an already obscenely oppressed woman. When Ines an assumed name, the only one the unnamed woman is ever given at last has her turn to speak, there is little satisfaction. She seems at times simple and goodhearted and at other times, an unintelligent martyr. Even allowing for her being traumatized, her passive reactions to being sexually coerced, arrested, and denied access to her son are not easily justified. For his dedication to moral complexity and his wholly unsentimental portrayal of an outsized tragedy, though, Jones (Mister Pip) deserves praise. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Hand Me Down World
slowly reveals itself, like a jigsaw puzzle. This is the story of a mother's determined courage, yet Jones avoids sentimentality. It is also about those who have power and those who do not -- and this mother, with all her dignity and savviness, is an unlikely candidate for redemption. Still, she possesses a fierce kind of hope that no one can take from her." -Newsday
"What's most original about this novel is the structure….An absorbing work recommended for fans of Peter Carey, whose novels have a similar dreamy, shifting quality." - Library Journal
"Disturbing but beautifully written...For his dedication to moral complexity and his wholly unsentimental portrayal of an outsized tragedy... Jones deserves praise." - Publishers Weekly
We begin in Tunisia, where a young woman's son is stolen from her, taken by his father back to Berlin, far from reach. And yet this mother will do anything to reclaim him; she embarks on a journey first across the Mediterranean, and then across Europe. Her story emerges through a kaleidoscope of voices of the people she meets along the way-a taxi driver, a hunter, a snail collector, a street performer, a blind man-all of whom view the anonymous traveler through their own lens. But her sacrifices won't be fully understood until she retells her own story, bringing the novel to its powerful conclusion.
About the Author
Lloyd Jones was born in New Zealand in 1955. His many books include Biografi (a New York Times Notable Book), Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance, and Mister Pip, which was awarded the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.