The Study of Animal Languages (Hardcover)

A Novel

By Lindsay Stern

Viking, 9780525557432, 240pp.

Publication Date: February 19, 2019

List Price: 26.00*
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"An exuberant, wise, and darkly funny novel from an essential new voice in fiction." --Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, author of The Nest

This astonishing first novel tells the story of a married couple - both experts in language and communication - who nevertheless cannot seem to communicate with each other.

Ivan is a tightly wound philosophy professor whose reverence for logic and order governs not only his academic interests, but also his closest relationships. His wife, Prue, is quite the opposite: a pioneer in the emerging field of biolinguistics, she is bold and vibrant, full of life and feeling. Thus far, they have managed to weather their differences. But lately, an odd distance has settled in between them. Might it have something to do with the arrival of the college's dashing but insufferable new writer-in-residence, whose novel Prue always seems to be reading?

Into this delicate moment barrels Ivan's unstable father-in-law, Frank, in town to hear Prue deliver a lecture on birdsong that is set to cement her tenure application. But the talk doesn't go as planned, unleashing a series of crises that force Ivan to finally confront the problems in his marriage, and to begin to fight - at last - for what he holds dear.

A dazzlingly insightful and entertaining novel about the limitations of language, the fragility of love, and the ways we misunderstand each other and ourselves, The Study of Animal Languages marks the debut of a brilliant new voice in fiction.

About the Author

Lindsay Stern is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the recipient of a Watson Fellowship and an Amy Award from Poets & Writers magazine. She is currently pursuing a PhD in comparative literature at Yale University. The Study of Animal Languages is her first novel.

Praise For The Study of Animal Languages: A Novel

“Lindsay Stern is an essential new voice in fiction. Her exuberant, wise, and darkly funny first novel grapples with love (romantic and familial), talent, ambition, envy, and the bungled ways we try to connect and care for each other in a world that often defies understanding.” 
—Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney, New York Times bestselling author of The Nest

“An unabashedly smart philosophical exploration and affecting psychological portrait of the final strains of a marriage. Finely wrought, marvelously dramatic, riveting—a debut of stunning maturity.”
—Ayana Mathis, New York Times bestselling author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

"Lindsay Stern’s The Study of Animal Languages is so artful and astute, funny and unnerving, too. It brilliantly captures how easily we can mistake our impressions of the world, and the models we make of them, for the world itself. A knockout.”
Paul Harding, author of Tinkers

“A fascinating, original meditation on a human relationship and the non-human world from a very talented new writer. Quietly provocative.”
—Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Reach Trilogy

“When it is done well, there is no greater literary pleasure for me than the novel of self-deception. Lindsay Stern calls to mind the sly humor of Ishiguro and Nabokov with The Study of Animal Languages, brought to us by the ambitious but foundering epistemologist Ivan Link. I loved this novel.”
Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen

“The Study of Animal Languages
is the rare novel of academia that has as much in its heart as it does on its mind. Remarkably lucid and eloquent, it highlights the difficulty of communication not only between species but between individuals. Reading it, you wonder whether, like the birds, we’re all just whistling tunes at each other, but also the opposite—whether, like us, the birds are sharing disquisitions of the soul.”
—Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Brief History of the Dead and A Few Seconds of Radiant Films

“With fearless emotional precision, Lindsay Stern performs a literary hat-trick: The language and philosophical ideas she tenders with acuity here are, in the hands of her stumbling, sharp-elbowed and often misguided characters, woefully inadequate as a means of communication. I’d say that the novel was an auspicious debut if it were not for the fact that Stern seems to have appeared fully formed as a writer, alert to our weaknesses, our moral missteps and the ways in which the mind and the heart so often work at cross-purposes to one another.” 
—Marisa Silver, author of Mary Coin and Little Nothing

“Magnificent . . . Not only will The Study of Animal Languages make a reader's mind race with fascinating thoughts, but it mesmerizes with addictive storytelling. Lindsay Stern has Nabokov's trinity of attributes that distinguish the greatest novelists: storyteller, teacher, and enchanter.” 
—Benjamin Hale, author of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore
“With Ivan as our troubled (and troubling) guide, we ask where all our certainties have gone—those fond ideals we hope to find in love, marriage, and family. A hard question, and yet the beauty and solace of this wonderful novel is that everything is finally affirmed, line by line, in the music of Stern's lean and lucid prose.”
—Charles D'Ambrosio, author of The Dead Fish Museum and Loitering

“Thought-provoking…A taut, brainy tale that tracks the breakdown of an academic couple’s marriage while dissecting differences between language and communication, knowledge and truth, madness and inspiration.” –Publishers Weekly
“[An] intelligent first novel…The many discussions of communication, animal and human alike, add depth to [Stern’s] depictions of relationships.”Booklist