The Astral by Kate Christensen

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From the PEN/Faulkner Award–winning author of The Great Man, a scintillating novel of love, loss, and literary rivalry set in rapidly changing Brooklyn.

The Astral is a huge rose-colored old pile of an apart­ment building in the gentrifying neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. For decades it was the happy home (or so he thought) of the poet Harry Quirk and his wife, Luz, a nurse, and of their two children: Karina, now a fer­vent freegan, and Hector, now in the clutches of a cultish Christian community. But Luz has found (and destroyed) some poems of Harry’s that ignite her long-simmering sus­picions of infidelity, and he’s been summarily kicked out. He now has to reckon with the consequence of his literary, marital, financial, and parental failures (and perhaps oth­ers) and find his way forward—and back into Luz’s good graces.

Harry Quirk is, in short, a loser, living small and low in the water. But touched by Kate Christensen’s novelistic grace and acute perception, his floundering attempts to reach higher ground and forge a new life for himself become funny, bittersweet, and terrifically moving. She knows what secrets lurk in the hearts of men—and she turns them into literary art of the highest order.

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Kate Christensen's Blue Plate Special.

About Kate Christensen

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KATE CHRISTENSEN is the author of six previous novels, most recently The Astral. The Great Man won the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award. She has written reviews and essays for numerous publications, most recently The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Tin House, Elle, and Open City. She also has a new column in The Wall Street Journal, "With a Twist." Her blog can be accessed at:

Author Residence: Portland, Maine

Author Hometown: California
Published June 14, 2011 by Doubleday. 322 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Astral

Kirkus Reviews

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Meanwhile, he hangs out in his Greenpoint neighborhood, finds work at a Hasidic lumberyard where he’s the only non-Jew, drinks at his local bars, visits Marion and discusses why they have never been and never will be lovers and moves from living space to living space until he ends up staying with...

May 04 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

The New York Times

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Quirk meets a new woman only to hear her say, “Women want attention, we want closeness, whether we admit it or not.” He sees his son perform in a cult ritual only to be told, “I was a soul in the wilderness, crying out, and now I’ve found my true home.” And when Quirk and his supposed lover, Mari...

Jul 29 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

New York Journal of Books

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“Kate Christensen’s insights into the psyche of a middle-aged banished husband are astonishing.” Harry Quirk, midlist poet, Brooklyn dweller, father of two grown children, and rejected husband of Luz, introduces himself: “I was hungry and in need of a bath and a drink.

Jun 14 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

Book Reporter

In a moment, though, he has lost even that, as Luz --- in typically dramatic fashion --- destroys his latest poetry book manuscript (a collection of sonnets about other women --- imaginary, Harry swears) and accuses him of having an affair with his decades-long best friend, Marion.

Jul 20 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

AV Club

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Through this medium, and the gropings toward reason that occur to Harry Quirk, Christensen lets him arrive at a sensitive elegy for his unconsciously lived life and his figurative rebirth.

Jun 23 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

Huffington Post

The protagonist, Harry Quirk, is based on men she saw walking by in the neighborhood, "energetic, shambling slightly down-at-heels men of a certain age who walk the Greenpoint streets looking solitary and full of stories."

Oct 07 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

Oregon Live

There is the thread about the 20-something son who's been swept up and mind-controlled by a Sag Harbor cult, but the family's attempt -- fueled and orchestrated by Harry and Luz's vegan, lesbian daughter -- to rescue the young man is as weak as the wine the boy (mistaken by the group as the retur...

Jul 23 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Hector gives Harry and Karina someplace to go and something to do but, more important, he gives Christensen yet another landscape to explore, another cast of characters to parse.

Jun 20 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

Denver Post

At one point Harry tells Marion that they would be justified in having an affair, at least then Luz would be right.

Jun 19 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

Look At OKC

“The Astral” (Doubleday, $25.95) by Kate Christensen is named for an aging and somewhat seedy apartment complex in Brooklyn where poet Harry Quirk and his wife, Luz, have lived for decades.

Aug 07 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

Bookmarks Magazine

Although some critics grew weary of Harry's navel-gazing, they were consoled by his searing observations, rendered in Christensen's graceful but visceral prose ("like being bludgeoned with an exquisitely painted sledgehammer," notes the San Francisco Chronicle.) Engaging and heartfelt, The Astral...

Jun 21 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

Every week, we'll be letting you know about new releases the editors at O and couldn't stop reading.

Jun 14 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

Austin Chronicle

Not to put too fine a point on it, but for a novel that strives to be very "now," the characters and events feel a bit stale, from the Dumpster-diving freegan daughter to the bevy of hipsters that litter Harry's path to even the tilt-shift photography on the cover.

Jun 24 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

Time Out New York

Christensen knows her landscapes—both Quirk's emotional interior and his scruffy, industrial neighborhood—and she renders them with a casual grace and humor, rich in detail, both observed and imagined.

Jun 29 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

Kate Christensen’s most recent comedies of contemporary manners have had at their centers women who carry on despite being left dangling by the men in their lives, men who Christensen seems to leave in the background.

Aug 26 2011 | Read Full Review of The Astral

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