The Folded World
By Amity Gaige
Other Press, Hardcover, 9781590512487, 300pp.
Publication Date: May 17, 2007
List Price: $23.95*
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September 2007 Booksense Notable
Acclaimed for her excquisite prose and crystalline insights, Amity Gaige returns with The Folded World, the story of an idealistic young social worker drawn into the lives of his mentally ill clients. Charlie Shade was born into a quiet, prosperous life, but a sense of injustice dogs him. He feels destined to leave his life of "bread and laundry," to work instead with people in crisis. On his way, he meets his kindred spirit in Alice, a soulful young woman, living helplessly by laws of childhood superstition. Charlie's empathy with his clients — troubled souls like Hal, the high-school wrestling champion who undergoes a psychotic break, and Opal, the isolated young woman who claims "various philosophies have confused my life" — is both admirable and nearly fatal. An adoring husband and new father, Charlie risks his own cherished, private domestic world to help Hal, Opal, and others move beyond their haunted inner worlds into the larger world of love and connection.
A collision of extraordinary characters, The Folded World addresses the universal dilemma of love, wherein giving to another can seem like "the death of the world of oneself." With an unerring eye for both the joys and devastations of life, Amity Gaige once again reminds us of the pleasures and depths to be found in her fiction.
Amity Gaige is a graduate of Brown University and the Iowa Writer's Workshop. She is the author of the acclaimed novel O My Darling, chosen by the National Book Foundation for its "5 Under 35" program to recognize the achievements of five first-time fiction writers each year. She teaches creative writing at Mount Holyoke College and lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. Visit her website at www.amitygaige.com.
Nancy Pearl Book Reviews - NPR
Nancy Pearl Puget Sound Public Radio
"In reading [The Folded World] I was struck by three things: Gaige's crystalline prose, the three-dimensionality of all of her characters, even the minor ones, and her ability to convey the darkness in the mind's of Charlie's clients, who are suffering from schizophrenia or other mental illnesses. Gaige takes what is really just an ordinary plot (boy meets girl; boy marries girl; problems ensue) and offers us something very special indeed"
[T]his darker story connects the romance of coupledom to the territory of madness... Gaige’s off-beat orientation, wit and piercing insights... [offer] greater breadth in exchange for sweetness.
Indeed, it is exhilarating to see Alice... transform herself into a competent woman. This alchemy, in concert with a beautiful story wonderfully told, makes this highly recommended for all fiction collections.
In her exquisitely written second novel, Gaige explores the ups and downs of a fragile, mostly joyful young relationship: Charlie's overcommitment to his mentally ill clients; Alice's fleeting attraction to a bookstore clerk; their infant daughter's first, tentative steps. The bitterness and disillusion of marriage have been thoroughly plumbed in contemporary fiction; Gaige is one of the rare novelists who is more interested in its potential for happiness and grace.
Christian Science Monitor
Gaige (one of the National Book Foundation's "5 under 35") writes elegantly, and she makes the survival of this young marriage a question of grace. Grade: A-
The New York Times Book Review
"[A] tightly written and emotionally satisfying novel….Gaige, the author of the well-received novel “O My Darling”…[is] extraordinarily adept at revealing her characters’ personalities in just a few words.”
Colorado Community Newspapers
[A] beautifully written second novel.
Curled Up with a Good Book
In this eulogy on life and loyalty, Gaige beautifully dissects the language of marriage and gets right to the heart of what it means to be in love. Full of profound observations on the nature of intimacy, The Folded World also shows how happiness can turn to bitterness and adversity, how the loss of love or the possibility of never finding love can ultimately drive people crazy with defeat.
The Boston Globe
Idealistic young social worker Charlie Shade tries to save his psychiatric patients, but puts his marriage and sanity at risk. Gaige offers striking prose and layered explorations of relationship boundaries and madness.
More are the wonders awaiting you in Amity Gaige's The Folded World. Strands of memory and thought intersect in this sensitive tale of a social worker Charlie Shade and his wife, Alice...In Charlie, Ms. Gaige has created fully developed character with whom we come to empathize. Then there's Alice, a woman who has escaped the droning misery of her small-town past and made a life for herself with Charlie. There is nothing patently grand about her, yet in describing the motions of her life, Ms. Gaige demarcates her individuality as clearly as any other's in fiction.