In his long-awaited new novel, Norman Rush, author of three immensely praised books set in Africa, including the best-selling classic and National Book Award-winner Mating, returns home, giving us a sophisticated, often comical, romp through the particular joys and tribulations of marriage, and the dilemmas of friendship, as a group of college friends reunites in upstate New York twenty-some years after graduation.
When Douglas, the ringleader of a clique of self-styled wits of “superior sensibility” dies suddenly, his four remaining friends are summoned to his luxe estate high in the Catskills to memorialize his life and mourn his passing. Responding to an obscure sense of emergency in the call, Ned, our hero, flies in from San Francisco (where he is the main organizer of a march against the impending Iraq war), pursued instantly by his furious wife, Nina: they’re at a critical point in their attempt to get Nina pregnant, and she’s ovulating! It is Nina who gives us a pointed, irreverent commentary as the friends begin to catch up with one another. She is not above poking fun at some of their past exploits and the things they held dear, and she’s particularly hard on the departed Douglas, who she thinks undervalued her Ned. Ned is trying manfully to discern what it was that made this clutch of souls his friends to begin with, before time, sex, work, and the brutal quirks of history shaped them into who they are now––and, simultaneously, to guess at what will come next.
Subtle Bodies is filled with unexpected, funny, telling aperçus, alongside a deeper, moving exploration of the meanings of life. A novel of humor, small pleasures, deep emotions. A novel to enjoy and to ponder.
This ebook edition includes a Reading Group Guide.
About Norman RushSee more books from this Author
The premise of this tiresome new novel by...author Norman Rush sounds as if it had been lifted straight from “The Big Chill”: a group of now middle-aged college friends reunite to commemorate the death of one of their own. The result not only lacks that movie’s humor and groovy soundtrack but is also an eye-rollingly awful read.Read Full Review of Subtle Bodies | See more reviews from NY Times
A creaking of novelistic machinery can be heard as the gathering’s darker purpose is winched into action...It’s the length of our residence on the premises — as the author had worried — that’s a matter of some regret. We actually wish we could have booked in for a bit longer. I mean, what’s the rush?Read Full Review of Subtle Bodies | See more reviews from NY Times
Subtle Bodies is half the length of Mating and a third that of Mortals. Its prose is less dense, and its erudition less intimidating. Unlike its predecessors it is set in America instead of Botswana. It’s an enjoyable read on its own terms...Read Full Review of Subtle Bodies | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books
Marriage, we come to see, is what has taken over from Ned's college friendships as the true meaning of his life. This fulfillment is beautifully portrayed, so much so that...when we see Ned protesting in total certainty that he has helped to prevent the war, we still envy him more than we pity him.Read Full Review of Subtle Bodies | See more reviews from WSJ online
Abstract comedy, it turns out, just isn't that funny, and Rush's plot never really congeals. That's not a fatal shortcoming in itself, but unfortunately all the reader is left with is these sad, petulant clowns talking past one another in a series of awkward encounters.Read Full Review of Subtle Bodies | See more reviews from NPR
Because of its slim size, and because Rush set the bar so high with his hefty earlier books, Subtle Bodies feels somewhat minor but fans will find it, nevertheless, a crisp, enjoyable read.Read Full Review of Subtle Bodies | See more reviews from Financial Times
If “Subtle Bodies” feels a bit contrived and constricted, that’s intentional. As Nina puts it, thinking of the men in Douglas’ estate, “the problem was that around there it was like a novel.”Read Full Review of Subtle Bodies | See more reviews from Star Tribune
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