The Origin of Species
The Origin of Species
Other Press (NY), Paperback, 9781590513491, 472pp.
Publication Date: April 6, 2010
Winner of the 2008 Governor General’s Award for Fiction
Montreal during the turbulent mid-1980s: Chernobyl has set Geiger counters thrumming across the globe, HIV/AIDS is cutting a deadly swath through the gay population worldwide, and locally, tempers are flaring over the recent codification of French as the official language of Quebec. Hiding out in a seedy apartment near campus, Alex Fratarcangeli (“Don’t worry. . . . I can’t even pronounce it myself”), an awkward, thirty-something grad student, is plagued by the sensation that his entire life is a fraud. Scarred by a distant father and a dangerous relationship with his ex Liz, and consumed by a floundering dissertation linking Darwin’s theory of evolution with the history of human narrative, Alex has come to view love and other human emotions as “evolutionary surplus, haphazard neural responses that nature had latched onto for its own insidious purposes.” When Alex receives a letter from Ingrid, the beautiful woman he knew years ago in Sweden, notifying him of the existence of his five-year-old son, he is gripped by a paralytic terror. Whenever Alex’s thoughts grow darkest, he recalls Desmond, the British professor with dubious credentials whom he met years ago in the Galapagos. Treacherous and despicable, wearing his ignominy like his rumpled jacket, Desmond nonetheless caught Alex in his thrall and led him to some life-altering truths during their weeks exploring Darwin’s islands together. It is only now that Alex can begin to comprehend these unlikely life lessons, and see a glimmer of hope shining through what he had thought was meaninglessness.
“Ricci’s dry, sardonic prose is sharp, with the cadence of natural thought that tumbles forward without getting lost....There’s a biting truth to Ricci’s stunning, cerebral look at the randomness of experience and how our life choices shape us.” —Boston Globe
"I loved this book. It's a wonderful novel, unpredictable and hugely entertaining, full of big ideas and great, great, unforgettable characters."—Roddy Doyle, author of The Deportees and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
“Canadian writer Ricci’s fifth novel, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, is a masterly coming-of-age story… Highly recommended, especially for fans of fellow Canadian writer Alice Munro, with whom Ricci shares a knack for irony and a talent for characterization.”—Library Journal
“Ricci’s masterstroke to date. This novel does so well, on so many levels, that it’ s hard to know where to begin tallying up the riches. . . . An ambitious, thrilling novel that resists encapsulation and takes not a single misstep . . . it is also bitterly, achingly funny.”—Toronto Star
“The Origin of Species is a profoundly moving novel that lovingly creates a world of flawed but very real characters.”—Winnipeg Free Press
“An entertaining and emotionally rewarding read, this book will transport Nino Ricci to further heights of literary stardom and could well overtake his first, Lives of the Saints, as his signature work–much as the original Origin of Species did to the career and life of Charles Darwin.”–Ottawa Citizen