The Illusion of Separateness (Paperback)
Harper Perennial, 9780062248459, 224pp.
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
In The Illusion of Separateness, award-winning author Simon Van Booy tells a harrowing and enchanting story of how one man’s act of mercy during World War II changed the lives of strangers, and how they each discover the astonishing truth of their connection.
Whether they are pursued by Nazi soldiers, old age, shame, deformity, disease, or regret, the characters in this utterly compelling novel discover in their, darkest moments of fear and isolation that they are not alone, that they were never alone, that every human being is a link in an unseen chain.
The Illusion of Separateness intertwines the stories of unique and compelling characters who—through seemingly random acts of selflessness—discover the vital parts they have played in each other’s lives.
About the Author
Simon Van Booy is the author of two novels and two collections of short stories, including The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books and has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.
Praise For The Illusion of Separateness: A Novel…
— San Francisco Chronicle
“Masterful prose....From minimalistic sentences he wrings out maximum impact, stripping away artifice and elaboration in favor of stark, emotional clarity and honesty.”
— Boston Globe
“His writing is consciously poetic and at times aphoristic, and he deftly portrays his characters’ raw emotions.”
— Wall Street Journal
“Van Booy writes like Hemingway but with more heart. It’s a gorgeous story about people whose lives are connected all because of a baby who is saved during World War II. Warning: don’t read this in public, or you might sob in front of strangers.”
— New Hampshire Public Radio
“World War II flashbacks, random acts of kindness, and the amazing thing that happens when seemingly disparate story lines come full circle.”
— Daily Candy
“Using restraint and a subtle dose of foreshadowing, Van Booy expertly entangles these disparate lives; but it’s what he leaves out that captures the imagination. Full of clever staccato sentences bookended by snippets of inner monologue -- obvious, but ripe with meaning, the writing is what makes this remarkable book soar.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A spare, elliptical story of human connection, framed by the horror of World War II….The story snaps together beautifully. A brilliant if elusive novel that shows how a single act can echo through time.”
— Library Journal
“This short and deceptively simple novel, which affords the pleasure of discovering its well-wrought patterns, is likely to grow in stature as it lingers in memory.”
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- Define the phrase "illusion of separateness." The author uses it three times—in the epitaph, as the name of a photo exhibit curated by one of the book's characters, and as the book's title. How do all three tie together? What is the author's message to the reader about "separateness"? Is it a part of the human condition that we feel isolated and alone? Describe the ways in which all the characters in the novel are connected.generic viagra price canada
- In your group, have each member play the game "six degrees of separation." What, if any, links do you share that you had not realized—or consciously recognized—before?generic viagra price canada
- Think about the various characters. How did their choices unite the circle of their connection? Focus on one. What might he or she have done that would have broken the link?generic viagra price canada
- Does it matter that at the end of the novel, the various characters do not recognize their importance to each other? Is it enough that you, the reader, understand the link between them? How do such invisible links shape our lives?generic viagra price canada
- At the beginning of the novel, after Martin discovers the truth of his existence, the author writes, "He had been reborn into the nightmare of truth. The history of others had been his all along." What is the author conveying with these words?generic viagra price canada
- Amelia describes being blind. "Being blind is not like you would imagine. It's not like closing your eyes and trying to see. I don't feel as though I'm lacking. I see people by what they say to others, by how they move and how they breathe." Think about this. Do you think that while sight affords us much, it also closes us off to other aspects of life, and makes us "blind" in another kind of way? Do you "see" with all of your senses? How can doing so change your perception?generic viagra price canada
- Amelia tells us that she believes, "people would be happier if they had admitted things more often. In a sense we are all prisoners of some memory, or fear, or disappointment—we are all defined by something we can't change." Do you agree with her? How are each of the characters defined by something they cannot change? How do they adapt to this defining element? What about your own life? Is their something that you cannot change that would like to? How do you cope with this?generic viagra price canada
- Discuss the origin of Mr. Hugo's name. Is this an apt moniker for him? Is he reminiscent of a character from a Hugo novel?generic viagra price canada
- Analyze the structure of the novel. Why do you think the author chose this structure versus straight linear narrative? Would the story have the same emotional impact if it had been told from one or two character's points of view alone? What makes this a novel rather than a collection of short stories?generic viagra price canada
- What was your emotional reaction to the book? Did you relate to one character more than another? What did you take away from reading The Illusion of Separateness?generic viagra price canada