Synopses & Reviews
Here is an extraordinary new novel from one of our most admired and acclaimed writers, a creator of stunning, never predictable, glimmering fiction, full of mischief and insight (Los Angeles Times
During Nathaniel Mason's first few months as a graduate student in upstate New York, he is drawn into a tangle of relationships with people who seem to hover just beyond his grasp. There's Theresa, alluring but elusive, and Jamie, who is fickle if not wholly unavailable. But Jerome Coolberg is the most mysterious and compelling. Not only cryptic about himself, he seems to have appropriated parts of Nathaniel's past that Nathaniel cannot remember having told him about. It is Jerome who seems to trigger the events that precipitate Nathaniel's total breakdown, and Jerome who shows up 30 years later Nathaniel having finally reconstituted his life to suggest, with the most staggering consequences, that Nathaniel's identity may in fact not be his own.
In The Soul Thief, Charles Baxter has given us one of his most beautifully wrought and unexpected works of fiction: at once lyrical and eerie, acutely observant in its sensual and emotional detail and audaciously metaphysical in its underpinnings. It is a brilliant novel one that is certain to expand both his already-stellar reputation and his readership.
"The author of the National Book Award-nominated The Feast of Love, Baxter returns with this ninth book, an assay into the limits of character, fictional and otherwise. The first half of the novel follows the brief arc of Nathaniel Mason's graduate career in 1970s Buffalo, N.Y., which centers on his friendship with the sexy but self-dramatizing Teresa ('which she pronounces Teraysa, as if she were French') and her lover Jerome Coolberg, 'a virtuoso of cast-off ideas.' Coolberg, obsessed with Nathaniel, begins taking his shirts and notebooks, and claiming that episodes from Nathaniel's life happened to him. Coolberg drops a hint that something bad will happen to Jamie, Nathaniel's sometime lover; when it actually comes to pass, Nathaniel's world begins to collapse. In the novel's second half, decades after these events have occurred, Coolberg enters Nathaniel's life again for a final, dramatic confrontation. Baxter has a great, registering eye for the real pleasures and attritions of life, but the book gets hung up on metafictional questions of identity (the major one: who is writing this first-person narrative?). The results cheat readers out of identifying with any of the characters, perhaps intentionally." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Threading his bluesy magic with traces of Calvino, Gertrude Stein, and Auster, Baxter creates a ravishing twilight tale of breakups and breakdowns, stories pilfered and reclaimed, souls stolen and liberated." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Though the novel's menacing academic setting recalls Donna Tartt's brainy thriller, The Secret History, this is basically a lightweight doppelgnger tale infused with 1970s nostalgia. The real fun comes in decoding Baxter's cultural allusions." Library Journal
"[S]hrewd and mischievous....Whoever wrote The Soul Thief knows that we write about what keeps us up at night, that a writer gets to inhabit many lives, and that he who tells the story makes the meaning." The Boston Globe
"[I]t's exceedingly rare to come across writing as seamless and engrossing as Charles Baxter's." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"The Soul Thief, scene by scene and sentence by sentence, sparkles with a tender energy and a tongue-in-cheekiness, lending it a wry quality overall." Chicago Tribune
"[F]illed with references that those who love books will delight in finding....Baxter is a lyrical and gifted wordsmith, and many of his descriptions will haunt the reader long afterward." Seattle Times
"In The Soul Thief
, Baxter ups the metaphysical ante once again. There are doubles, dreams, impersonations and a climactic bit of trickery that turns the entire novel into a kind of narrative Möbius strip." James Marcus, Los Angeles Times
(read the entire Los Angeles Times review
In his extraordinary new novel, Baxter delivers one of his most beautifully wrought and unexpected works of fiction: at once lyrical and eerie, acutely observant in its sensual and emotional detail and audaciously metaphysical in its underpinnings.
About the Author
Charles Baxter is the author of eight previous works of fiction, including Saul and Patsy, The Feast of Love (nominated for the National Book Award), Through the Safety Net, and Believers. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.