Ascension by Steven Galloway
A Novel

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The acclaimed author of Finnie Walsh turns from small-town hockey to the extraordinary intrigues of circus life during the heyday of the Big Top through the story of Salvo Ursari, undisputed master of the high wire.

As the novel opens, it is the summer of 1976. Salvo is 66 years old and has decided he can never retire. Already famous thanks to his days in an American circus, he has made a living in recent times performing solo walks of extraordinary difficulty. And so he finds himself attempting to accomplish the most difficult feat of his career: to walk a wire strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, 1350 feet from the ground.

Transylvania in 1919 is a place of poverty and persecution for the Rom people. Salvo follows his father to a village church, where the senior Ursari -- the only man who volunteers for the task -- is to climb the steeple to replace a large iron crucifix that had been removed for safe-keeping during the war. He restores the cross, but it is not properly attached and as they are leaving, it falls, killing a priest. When the villagers exact their revenge, Salvo’s parents are killed and he is separated from his brother and sister. Thus begins nearly a lifetime of being forced to flee from suspicion and misfortune that takes the reader from Europe to the US to British Columbia’s Fraser Valley and back to Manhattan.

Ascension combines powerful storytelling -- including stories of the Romany people, poverty-stricken but resourceful, and rich in legend -- with great surprise and originality; Steven Galloway makes it clear why he is one of the hottest young writers in Canada today.

Excerpt from Ascension

“Once a newspaper man had asked him what it felt like to walk high above the crowd, with death looming beneath you and success a long way off on the other platform. Salvo had told the man that it was like being a bird, an eagle, but he knew that wasn’t true at all. He was a man, nothing more. Still, he was a man who dared do things other men watched and admired and were jealous of. He walked for these people as much as for anyone. But today he was walking only for himself. That was the difference with these solo walks. When he was among them, he was one of them, but here he is timeless, one man on a wire far above it all, in a separate place. He was not free, but he was as free as he would ever be.”

From the Hardcover edition.

About Steven Galloway

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Steven Galloway teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia.
Published July 27, 2011 by Vintage Canada. 288 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, History. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Ascension

Publishers Weekly

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Carroll & Graf, $23 (280p) ISBN 0-7867-1208-2Life literally turns into a high-wire act for the European Gypsy family at the center of Canadian writer Galloway's second novel (after Finnie Walsh), as they escape persecution in Hungary just before WWII and go on to become a featured circus act in t...

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New York Journal of Books

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The parallels between Salvo’s smashing of the glass figurine, the fragility of the human body, and the strength of its spirit trickle through the story as he learns to walk the high wire, at first for money, but later as the one place where “he is as free as he will ever be.” Reunited with the br...

Aug 12 2003 | Read Full Review of Ascension: A Novel

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