Against Gravity

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Overview

Set in Houston in the mid-1980s, Against Gravity is a harrowing story of three lives colliding— Madison Kirby, an angry, dying intellectual; Ric Cardinal, a social worker dedicated to helping others but tormented by the son he cannot save; and Roya, a struggling Iranian immigrant who has traveled for years through the war-torn Middle East to arrive in Texas to eke out the most tenuous life for herself and her daughter. They each tell of their own lives, yet as their stories intertwine a portrait of shared ...

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Overview

Set in Houston in the mid-1980s, Against Gravity is a harrowing story of three lives colliding— Madison Kirby, an angry, dying intellectual; Ric Cardinal, a social worker dedicated to helping others but tormented by the son he cannot save; and Roya, a struggling Iranian immigrant who has traveled for years through the war-torn Middle East to arrive in Texas to eke out the most tenuous life for herself and her daughter. They each tell of their own lives, yet as their stories intertwine a portrait of shared struggle and loss emerges. A devastating and beautiful novel.

“AGAINST GRAVITY is an intense novel, ambitious in its reach, intriguing in its structural complexity and the sophistication of its narration. It is the highly satisfying work of a mature writer that will leave the reader wanting more. I enjoyed it.”
—Nuruddin Farah, author of Links, and the Blood in the Sun Trilogy

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Editorial Reviews

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Three strangers. Three lives. Three different worlds. Houston in the early '90s might seem an unlikely venue for their dramatic collision, but in this subtly provocative novel by Iranian Moshiri, the distance between Tehran and Texas is measured not in miles but in city blocks and chance encounters.

Alone and dying, Madison Kirby is embittered by the hand that fate has dealt him, and his desperate search for warmth and intimacy becomes an obsession with tragic consequences. Ric Cardinal, a social worker who has selflessly dedicated his life to helping others, is seemingly incapable of saving his own damaged family and paralyzed by the thought of a committed relationship. Roya, an Iranian refugee, struggles to make a life with her young daughter after fleeing the war-torn Middle East. Working as a waitress and holed up in a shabby garage apartment, she soon learns that while this new land may offer them sanctuary, it is not trouble free.

Alternating between the voices of these three characters, Moshiri has woven a morally complex tale that she slowly brings to the boiling point, challenging our notions of safety and how we keep ourselves whole. (Spring 2006 Selection)
Publishers Weekly
Iranian-born Moshiri's poignant, semiautobiographical third novel (after 2003's The Bathhouse) carefully observes the effects of loss on three people in 1980s Houston. Ric Cardinal is a devoted social worker; his former client, Madison Kirby, is a bitter former philosophy professor stricken by AIDS; Madison's neighbor, Roya, is an Iranian political refugee with a young daughter. Each protagonist narrates a story, and it is Roya's tale, which bears some resemblance to Moshiri's own, that most compels. While the other two fall prey to such utterances as Madison's upon meeting Roya for the first time ("Something stirred in my guts again and I wanted her the way I'd never wanted a female in my life") and are either sinner (Madison) or saint (Ric), Roya simmers with complexity and nuance. As Ric tries to counsel the increasingly difficult Madison and contend with his own schizophrenic teenage son, Roya recounts her days of wandering through the Middle East ("I didn't mention my dark thoughts-despair, dread of the unknown future, and the constant presence of death, real or imagined, in my dreams and wakefulness. Madness at times''). Her unlikely journey to Houston proves just as alienating, and Moshiri deftly conveys Roya's plight-and ultimately her courage-which are the novel's greatest strengths. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The stories of three protagonists are told successively, then intertwined, in the Iranian-American author's third novel (The Bathhouse, 2001, etc.). In Houston in the mid-1980s, former philosophy professor and AIDS patient Madison Kirby broods over a history of emotional distance inherited from his aloof father, and seeks a sustaining connection with his new neighbor, Iranian immigrant single mother Roya Saraabi. Madison's increasingly angry fulminations and fantasies also involve People's Aid Center social worker Ric Cardinal and Madison's doctor Marlina Haas. Following Madison's story, Roya tells hers-of political persecution, imprisonment and rape; the deaths of her husband and family members; and flight throughout the Middle East and India with her daughter Tala, to Houston, where her intellectual capacities are wasted on menial jobs, and her rejection of Madison's attentions makes him her sworn enemy. Finally, we get Ric Cardinal's history of rootlessness, neglect and abandonment by parents and spouses, and a commitment to political engagement and humanitarian aid that takes him into dangerous territories, then a relationship with Roya that may alleviate Ric's deepest sorrow: the loss of his son Sam to depression and drug addiction. Each story resonates throughout the other two, unfortunately failing to avoid numerous repetitions-and falling flat in a contrived denouement that ironically fulfills Madison's "mad" dream of self-assertion through vengeance. There's the germ of a good idea in the book: the connection between familial instability and global conflict and catastrophe. But the labored narrative obscures the larger theme. Earnest to a fault, but a step backward in the giftedMoshiri's still promising career. Agent: Elizabeth Wales/Levant & Wales, Literary Agency Inc.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143035688
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/27/2005
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 4.92 (w) x 7.34 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Farnoosh Moshiri was born in Iran, fled the country in 1983, and immigrated to the United States four years later. Currently an associate professor of English at Syracuse University, Moshiri is the author of three previous books, including The Bathhouse.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2006

    Wonderful Literature!

    This book reminded me a lot of the movie CRASH. The way that three different people from different parts of our world found one another intertwined. It is a realization that all of us has a unique story to tell.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2006

    Creativity and the American Male

    Farnoosh Moshiri¿s ¿Against Gravity¿ takes readers into the life-problems posed by our globalizing culture. In the novel, we meet an array of differently-displaced personalities. Moshiri combines the dramatic and dialogic sensibility of a playwright, the profundity of characterization of the literary fiction writer, and a poetic appreciation of image and metaphor to bring the voices of Madison Kirby, Roya Saraabi and Ric Cardenal to life in her text. Interspersed within and between their portraitures, the hues of other characters complete the canvas. Marlina Haas, physician, young Bobby Palomo, restaurant worker, and Tala, daughter of Roya add to the composition, selectively revealing aspects of themselves in a tableau where light struggles against gravity. Moshiri writes perceptively on the crisis of the North American male in ¿Against Gravity¿. Madison Kirby confronts the reader with the taut bleakness of a great soul in decline, revealing an abiding desire for love, life, connectedness: a desire frustrated through intoxication, cynical intellect, and self-hatred. Facing death, Madison desires life, objectified at the expense of dark, beautiful Roya. Ricardo Cardenal¿s colloquial vignettes convey deep personal tragedies. Sharing with Madison a disillusioned idealism, Ric resists cynicism. To cope, he combines weakly perceived personal needs with a strong social responsibility, failing in personal relationships until Roya. In her, he recognizes the possibility, finally, of commitment, intimacy and family. Moshiri¿s character Bobby Mandola sounds the depths of the male¿s crisis. The childhood disappearance of Bobby¿s gangster father reverberates in a confused and self-destructive young adult. Gender, identity and perspective baffle Bobby, contributing to persistent immaturity. Roya, an Iranian displaced into a global U.S. megapolis, struggles for recovery/wholeness. The other characters conduct similar struggles. Roya¿s losses, of husband, friends and country, evade expression in her attempt at memoir. Ric advises her to write fiction. In adopting English, western writers Conrad and Nabokov confronted major challenges, but Roya confronts even greater ones. At close, ¿Against Gravity¿ addresses the ultimate problem all face, creativity, in a writerly manner: ¿ `Could I ever make up such stories?¿ The young writer sighs and steps out of Dawn¿s courtyard.¿

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2006

    Like a feather floating in the sky

    Gracefully honest and skillfully written, Against Gravity by Farnoosh Moshiri centers on the lives of three main characters - Madison, Roya, and Ric - who are seeking to find hope and meaning in life. With a plethora of rich experiences, the core of the novel dialectically revolves around the opposing forces of love and loss, life and death, and floating and gravity. The synthesis is the text, whose words permeate the very marrow of the reader¿s bones. Moshiri¿s characters in Against Gravity, like her other novels, are concerned with the permanent feeling of imprisonment in a world wherein the horror of living constantly haunts them. ¿We are all refugees in a way. Many of us, many Americans, live worse than refugees.¿ P152 Like Moshiri herself, - whose craft of thinking and writing is digging and exploring the deepest part of human existence -, her fictional characters have also the immediate, urgent need to struggle against sinking, to free themselves from the complexity of conditions, and mystification of reasons. Altering the cast of characters, the lives of the main characters interweave together in the most diverse ways, in both content and style. In each sequence of historical moments, they face many 'what if' questions, which lead them toward this conclusion: no matter if it is right or wrong, it is a relative matter. Moshiri touches upon the fundamental social problems of today¿s civilization: loneliness, distrust, disattachment, displacement, isolation, alienation, lack of balance, lack of human touch, lack of tenderness and love. ¿We lie down together in our suspended cage, straining to hear that lonely Child.¿ P201 In their motherless and fatherless society, all the characters suffer the loss of loved ones. Lack of emotional support in a ruthless society leads Roya to conclude: ¿In America almost everything is a deal.¿ P175 Moshiri, generously lends her own rich experiences in life to the newly born characters, allows them to speak their minds, narrate their stories in a unique, distinctive voice, and creating a land within a land which can be more real than the reality itself. Like characters in Akutagawa¿s story ¿In a Grove,¿ none of the characters repeat the same sequences twice. Timely in content, meticulously structured and organic in the narrative voice, Against Gravity has many layers to be discovered for future reviewers.

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    Posted November 5, 2010

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    Posted June 25, 2011

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    Posted October 9, 2009

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