And the Word Was

And the Word Was

by Bruce Bauman
     
 

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When the tragic death of his son compels Dr. Neil Downs to flee New York City for India, he takes a job as the resident physician at the American Embassy, where he is introduced to the paradoxes of Indian social and political life. Unable to mourn, and angry about a betrayal on the part of his wife, Sarah, Neil seeks philosophical refuge in the writings of Levi

Overview

When the tragic death of his son compels Dr. Neil Downs to flee New York City for India, he takes a job as the resident physician at the American Embassy, where he is introduced to the paradoxes of Indian social and political life. Unable to mourn, and angry about a betrayal on the part of his wife, Sarah, Neil seeks philosophical refuge in the writings of Levi Furstenblum, whose work grapples with the nature of language and god after Auschwitz. At the same time, he becomes involved with a prestigious Indian family and forms a bond with Holika, the rebellious, activist niece of the family's industrial and political doyen. With this relationship, Neil discovers the intrigues and the horrors that plague a society not dissimilar to the one he left behind. Through a complex interplay between the external and internal, foreign and domestic, the promises of faith and the ineluctability of evil, Neil slowly unravels the lies and misrepresentations that had woven the texture of his life.

This tightly plotted novel will be irresistible to anyone who yearns for affirmation in spirituality and matters of the heart. A stunning reinterpretation of the Abraham and Isaac sacrifice myth, And the Word Was is guaranteed to leave readers profoundly moved.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This West Coast writer's first novel is an ambitious effort to show how, in the aftermath of devastating personal tragedy, people begin to question their faith in God and in themselves. Neil Downs, a New York-based Jewish physician, and his talented painter spouse, Sarah, lose their only child in a high school massacre. With their lives unraveling, Neil flees to New Delhi, where he takes a job as resident doctor at the American Embassy. The socioeconomic disparities of his new situation prove both a diversion and a challenge, and he soon becomes involved with a range of diverse characters, from an educated widow working to better the lot of Indian women and the lower castes to a world-renowned Jewish scholar-philosopher who survived the Holocaust. This is not an easy book to read; just as Neil strives to make sense of his changed life, so the reader must pull together the story's threads. But the text eventually coheres, providing much food for thought on a number of contemporary concerns, from the invasive intensity of media scrutiny to the growing chasm between the rich and the poor. A brave work; recommended for larger public libraries.-Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With contemporary India as backdrop, this debut tale of grief and recovery follows the quest of an American doctor to rediscover meaning after the violent death of his son. When nine-year-old Castor is fatally shot in a Columbine-style school massacre, Neil Downs is unfortunate enough to be the ER surgeon on duty as the casualties come in. He hears his own child's final words and helplessly watches him die. His wife proves hard to contact, finally turning up in the bed of a colleague. Furthermore, Neil finds himself famous overnight, prey to journalists wanting to know how it feels to have his child shot to pieces. This background story is rendered with such emotional power that a reader can overlook blunders in style, while the remaining bulk of the narrative, set in a contemporary Delhi that teems as much with cliches as it does with beggars, is less gripping. Seeking release from his grief, Neil finds a Holocaust survivor and writer, Levi Furstenblum, who lectures him on means of surviving when robbed of a belief in God's goodness. This plot line, embellished by excerpts from Furstenblum's philosophical writings, is undercut by the fact that none of the characters has ever at any time believed in God. Neil's affair with the radical, and radically wealthy, Holika is likewise enfeebled since she's engaged, contented to be so, and has no intention of pursuing her liaison with Neil, whose appeal to her never quite becomes clear. A complex subplot involving local political chicanery, political art espousing the cause of Indian womanhood, and corporate deal-making, dilutes more than enriches the tale. A quick-fix, unconvincing close leaves the reader with an aftertaste of the saccharine. Amoving setup is followed by lugubrious musings and digressions, achieving the remarkable feat of making India dull. Author tour

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590514337
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
06/20/2010
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
360
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

I LIVED ALONE. In New Delhi. Before moving there, I lived my whole life, thirty-nine years, in New York City. Please, no Second Avenue New Deli Borsht-Belt and famed, Holy Cow bagel chip jokes. I’ve heard them all.

I did not choose Delhi because I was a Pepsi-Generation hippie turned dyspepsia generation yuppie, who long ago got stoned and laid to the ragas of Ravi Shankar and yearned for the gloried conquests of youth; no, his music bored me into stupefaction; I did not choose Delhi because I was a midlife-crisis New Ager with a self-indulgent belief that I’d find a drivethru guru who would instantly end my emptiness and infuse me with internal peace; no, because I must’ve set a record when I was, ever so politely, asked by the enlightened Desiree Prana (born Rene Kerstein of Roslyn, Long Island) never to come back to her yoga class because I disruptively murmured “shit” and “fuck” every time I couldn’t contort my body into Gumbyesque position; I did not choose Delhi because I craved Indian food and hung out in the dingy restaurants on East 6th Street; nope, because even the odor of curry upset my delicate digestive system. I did not choose Delhi because I was infatuated by the literature, the art, or the movies; I knew almost nothing of the Indian arts. I did not choose India because I wanted to conquer the languages of Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, or any of the hundreds of other languages and dialects spoken by over one billion people; no, I wanted to be deaf to the world around me. I did not choose Delhi because of my lustful desire to experiment with the innumerable sexual entanglements of the Kama Sutra; I almost never expected to have sex again after I left New York. Nor did I choose Delhi because of my mystical belief in the reincarnations of Hinduism.

Meet the Author

Bruce Bauman

Bruce Bauman's work has appeared in Salon, BOMB, Bookforum, and numerous anthologies and literary magazines. He is an associate editor of Black Clock magazine and is adjunct professor in the CalArts MFA Writing Program. He is married to the painter Suzan Woodruff, and lives in Los Angeles.

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