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The Life Room

Jill Bialosky


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (11/3/2008)


Eleanor Cahn is a professor of literature, the wife of a preeminent cardiac surgeon, and a devoted mother. But on a trip to Paris to present a paper on Anna Karenina, Eleanor re-connects with Stephen—a childhood friend with whom she has had a complicated relationship—that forces her to realize that she has suppressed her passionate self for years. As the novel unfolds, we learn of her hidden erotic past: with alluring, elusive Stephen; with ethereal William, her high school boyfriend; with married, egotistical Adam, the painter who initiated her into the intimacies of the "life room," where the artist’s model sometimes becomes muse; and with loyal, steady Michael, her husband. On her return to New York, Eleanor and Stephen’s charged attraction takes on a life of its own and threatens to destroy everything she has.

Jill Bialosky has created a fresh, piercingly real heroine who struggles with the spiritual questions and dilemmas of our time and, like Tolstoy’s immortal Anna Karenina, must choose between desire and responsibility.

Praise For The Life Room


"Jill Bialosky pierces the heart here until the reader feels just exactly what it means to have it all—husband, children, success—and yet to be achingly alone, longing for passion, of the kind Anna Karenina sacrificed everything for. Through Bialosky’s elegant prose and tremendous talents as a storyteller, desire reverberates across the pages to meet the reader’s own."— MARTHA McPHEE


"Like Michael Cunningham's The Hours echoing Mrs. Dalloway, Jill Bialosky's new novel has a literary ghost rattling around in its walls. Anna Karenina haunts The Life Room. Eleanor Cahn, a literature professor with a surgeon husband and two small sons, is torn in too many directions ... Instead of a single Vronsky, Eleanor faces several. Her resolute self-destruction, with love the prime weapon, gives this novel the feel of an oncoming train."

— Los Angeles Times

"What's most extraordinary about The Life Room is its unabashed honesty. In a novel that is daring and form-shifting and challenging in all the very best ways, Jill Bialosky still manages to keep it true to course. There is a texture in every sentence, but most importantly you emerge from the novel feeling as you have met a life that has glanced against your own, and gratefully your world has been shifted. A lovely, genuine, deep work of art."

— Colum McCann, author of Zoli

"In her exquisite, carefully observed exploration of a modern woman's inner life, Jill Bialosky has written a novel that poses an essential question: how do we reconcile our passions--love, work, erotic life, children? The Life Room is an elegant, daring book, driven by internal suspense."

— Dani Shapiro, author of Slow Motion

"The Life Room is patient in its investigations of love and erotically charged. By the end of this story, readers will be convinced that Eleanor Cahn knows more about Anna Karenina, let alone the inventive despair of the human heart, than anyone they are likely to have met in literature in a very, very long time. This is a stunningly honest and generous and finely crafted novel."

— Howard Norman, author of Devotion

"Jill Bialosky pierces the heart here until the reader feels just exactly what it means to have it all--husband, children, success--and yet to be achingly alone, longing for passion, of the kind Anna Karenina sacrificed everything for. Through Bialosky’s elegant prose and tremendous talents as a storyteller, desire reverberates across the pages to meet the reader’s own."

— Martha McPhee, author of L’America

"Bialosky's brightly burning novel of desire and aberration, and a woman's quest for deeper understanding, is remarkable for its insights into erotic compulsion and the unbearable awkwardness and pain of flawed and failed love."

— Booklist

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780151010479, 352pp.

Publication Date: August 6, 2007

About the Author

JILL BIALOSKY is the author of the acclaimed novel House Under Snow and two collections of poetry, The End of Desire and Subterranean. Her poems and essays have appeared in the New Yorker and O, The Oprah Magazine. She is an editor at W. W. Norton & Company and lives in New York City.