Central Square by George Packer

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When Joe arrives in Boston and is mistaken for African-- rather than African American-- he quickly discovers that letting the illusion stand generates magic. A job, a place to live, even a kind of deference he's never known before are suddenly casually endowed upon him, a man who surely must have a closer connection to life's hidden possibilities.

Central Square bustles with the complexities and contradictions of today's urban existence as it tells what happens when the enigmatic Joe meets up with several other disparate characters. There is Paula, the social worker whose loneliness is intensified with each sad story she hears; Eric, the writer who struggles in a world that ignores his work and whose wife has abandoned him for pregnancy; the mysterious community group that has posted titillating "feel-good" signs around the city.

As characters collide with circumstances, and each other, George Packer's bold novel explores the conflict between personal desires and social constraints, and the unattainable balance between private life and the life of a community. Unafraid to expose the difficult truths about contemporary society, Central Square asks how we can find something decent to which to commit our lives.

About George Packer

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George Packer is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, which received numerous prizes and was named one of the ten best books of 2005 by The New York Times Book Review. He is also the author of two novels, The Half Man and Central Square, and two other works of nonfiction, The Village of Waiting and Blood of the Liberals, which won the 2001 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. His play, Betrayed, ran in Manhattan for five months in 2008 and won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play. His most recent book is Interesting Times: Writings from a Turbulent Decade. He lives in Brooklyn.
Published September 1, 1998 by Graywolf Press. 360 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Evocative rendering of life in a Boston community, although contemporary themes—race, poverty, class—become the tail of —issues— wagging the dog of character and plot.

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