By Kate Christensen
(Anchor, Paperback, 9780307473356, 320pp.)
Publication Date: June 12, 2012
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In the gentrifying neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, rests a huge rose-colored apartment building called The Astral. For decades it was the happy home of the poet Harry Quirk, his wife, Luz, and their two children: Karina, now a fervent freegan, and Hector, now in the clutches of a cultish Christian community. But when Luz finds poems that ignite her long-simmering suspicions of infidelity, Harry is summarily kicked out, leaving him to reckon with the consequence of his literary, marital, and parental failures. With tremendous grace and acute perception, Kate Christensen details Harry’s floundering attempts to find his way back into Luz’s arms—and back to his better self—in a novel that is funny, bittersweet, and terrifically moving.
Kate Christensen is the author of five previous novels, most recently Trouble. The Great Man won the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She has written reviews and essays for numerous publications, most recently the New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Tin House, Elle, and Open City. She lives in New York City.
The Astral is a new novel from Kate Christensen. Set in contemporary Brooklyn, it's the story of a middle-age poet who is trying to make sense of his life. More at NPR.org
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- Harry Quirk’s obsession with his imploding marriage forms a central arc in The Astral. Do you trust his narrative of the marriage and its dissolution? How does your opinion of him evolve as you read the novel?
“Spectacular. . . . The Astral, artfully composed and emotionally tender, is evidence of true literary genius.” —The Miami Herald
“Impossible to put down. . . . Harry Quirk, living up to his own name, is a gem.” —The Oregonian
“The Astral is a work of art, a prose poem, and a finely told tale. . . . [A] tender, aching marvel of a book.” —The Huffington Post
“An ode to Brooklyn and broken marriages, endings and beginnings, and the spaces in between.” —The Boston Globe
“Christensen has somehow—again—created a captivatingly believable male narrator.” —The Washington Post
“An object lesson on the current realist novel. . . . The Astral is structured as a journey—a poet’s trip through an interior and exterior landscape—and Christensen manages each step with quiet deliberation.” —The New York Times Book Review
“[Christensen’s] characters’ ruminations on how the forces of love and deception work in tandem within a relationship are both searing and concise. . . . [She] is a forceful writer whose talent is all over the page. Her prose is visceral and poetic, like being bludgeoned with an exquisitely painted sledgehammer. She is a portrait artist, drawing in miniature, capturing the light within.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A tart, compassionate story of marriage gone wrong.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“[A] sharp perceptive novel. . . . Christensen’s The Astral is provoking and at times profoundly moving.” —Associated Press
“Ah, urban beauty: Christensen gets what’s funny about it, and also what’s disappointing. She’s a mischievous writer with a keen eye and ear for comedy, one who sets up precarious scenarios and then lets her characters hash things out.” —The New York Observer
“[This] novel, by turns funny sad, and wise, is glittering with insightful and lovely descriptions, and Harry is so far my favorite fictional character of 2011: he’s complicated, stubborn, smart, foolish, vulnerable, and—man oh man—does he feel real.” —Edan Lepucki, The Millions
“The tinder for this fire lies in moments most often small: Kate Christensen doesn’t fan the flames so much as reveal the embers as they spring to life. . . . Christensen’s prose is clean and her characters enthralling. . . . The novel is a wonderful investigation of the pitfalls that arise in even the longest of marriages” —The Denver Post
“Harry Quirk . . . [is] an unexpectedly irresistible hero in this delicious social satire.” —People
“The best exploration of a middle-aged man’s psyche since Bellow, all the more brilliant for having been written by a woman.” — Shelf Awareness (starred)
“Christensen is a gifted novelist who knows how to deliver the goods when it comes to ruefully funny, bittersweet character sketches.”—Christian Science Monitor
“Christensen perfectly embodies the voice of a male poet in crisis, Harry Quirk. . . . Readers will be sucked into extremely realistic familial dramas while Christensen perfectly captures her Brooklyn backdrop—from dive bars to hipsters drinking overpriced coffee in trendy cafes.” —BookPage
“As always in Christensen’s writing, like it or not, the gritty human truths she reveals apply to us all. . . . Christensen is formidable when it comes to psychological observation. What truly sets her writing apart, however, are the disturbing, touching, confounding discrepancies she articulates between inner experience and external behavior, the compassion she brings to bear in her analysis of the fraught, misguided ways in which people interact.” —The Brooklyn Rail