Synopses & Reviews
A richly imagined novel--set in wartime Vietnam, Thailand, Mexico, Sicily, and contemporary America--about men and women whose jolting encounters with the unfamiliar force them to realize how many "riffs there are to being human." Travelers, colonials, immigrants, and returned ex-pats meet or pass one another in narratives spanning lifetimes.In the book's opening, an engineer in Vietnam is shaken to discover why his company's planes are getting lost. A modern marriage between a Thai Muslim and an American woman leads to a terrible family fight. In 1920s Siam a young woman experiences the colonial stance of her tin-prospecting brother. The last section returns the brother to the States, older now but ever in love with Asian women.Love, loss, yearning, self-delusion, and forgiveness are here in ways fresh and surprising. And in the tradition of E. M. Forster, seeing the size of the world changes the meaning of home-sickness for all the characters.
"War, love and culture shock take various forms, but the size of the world, in Silber's magnificent fiction, is often no larger than the distance to the person in bed beside you. Like NBA finalist Ideas of Heaven (2005), Silber's sixth work of fiction consists of interlinked stories where minor or passing characters in one piece become the narrators of others, roaming from WWII Sicily to roaring '20s Siam, and from Vietnam-era Mexico to 9/11-era Bloomington, Ind. All six stories turn on the tensions between home, exile and otherness, but to follow any of the threads would be to give away the subtle connections among the characters, from a male Sicilian-American postcolonialist professor from Hoboken to a Florida woman named Kit who can sum up an old boyfriend as 'the sort of boy who seemed startled when having sex. At the time his awe and confusion were endearing.' The frankness of Silber's characters is deliciously at odds with the delicacy of their observations as they absorb children, affairs, fractured and repaired families and early death in environments familiar and alien to them. The characters' many lifetimes pass with a page-turning effortlessness that belies their intense, moving depths. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
An intricate web of crossed paths and enlightening journeys teach each of Joan Silber"s characters something about 'the size of the world' in this richly imagined novel. A National Book Award finalist for her last book, Silber here addresses the timeless topics of love, loss, yearning, and forgiveness. She 'does brilliant justice to the many ways we have of being human' (Seattle Times
) and 'offers a dizzying array of insights as she cuts back and forth between stories set in the U.S. and Asia' (Chicago Tribune
Silber's richly imagined novel--set in wartime Vietnam, Thailand, Mexico, Sicily, and contemporary America--follows men and women whose jolting encounters with the unfamiliar force them to realize how many levels there are to being human.
Love and family loyalty meet up with the allure of far-off vistas in elegant new fiction by an acclaimed novelist.
'\'\\\'A sublime and humane jigsaw puzzle of a novel.\\\' \\\'\\\"Boston Globe
About the Author
Joan Silber is the author of six previous works of fiction. Among many awards and honors, she has won a PEN/Hemingway Award and has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City.