Exiles in America [NOOK Book]


Zack Knowles, a psychologist, and Daniel Wexler, an art teacher at a college in Virginia, have been together for twenty-one years. In the fall of 2002, a few months before the Iraq War, a new artist in residence, Abbas Rohani, arrives with his Russian wife, Elena, and their two children. But Abbas is not quite what he seems, and he begins an affair with Daniel. Soon politics intrude upon two families thrown together by love, threatening the future of both in ways no one could ...

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Exiles in America

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Zack Knowles, a psychologist, and Daniel Wexler, an art teacher at a college in Virginia, have been together for twenty-one years. In the fall of 2002, a few months before the Iraq War, a new artist in residence, Abbas Rohani, arrives with his Russian wife, Elena, and their two children. But Abbas is not quite what he seems, and he begins an affair with Daniel. Soon politics intrude upon two families thrown together by love, threatening the future of both in ways no one could have predicted.

A novel that explores how the personal becomes political, Exiles in America offers an intimate look at the meaning of marriage, gay and straight.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bram uneasily weds religion and the politics of sexual orientation in his tepid eighth novel. Daniel Wexler, 47, and Zachary Knowles, 48, together for 21 years, live in Williamsburg, Va., where Daniel teaches painting at William and Mary College and Zack maintains a psychiatry practice. The other, more literal, exiles are Abbas and Elena Rohani. A painter, Abbas is a visiting faculty member at the college and embodies the swarthy, omnisexual, selfish and impossibly handsome artist stereotype. Daniel's initial artistic jealousy of Abbas turns into an attraction that, thanks to the convenient open status of everyone's relationships, barrels toward consummation. The affair becomes more intense than intended, precipitating pages of fights between Daniel and Zack. It also crystallizes the unlikely alliance between Zack and Elena. After the affair founders, the FBI begins investigating Abbas's relationship with his brother, sparking even more emotional turmoil, but the novel falls short of its dramatic potential. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Bram's (Gods and Monsters) previous work has received critical approval, but there is little to praise in his eighth novel, save the plot, which might have blossomed with less mechanical prose. Zach, a 48-year-old psychiatrist, and Daniel, a 47-year-old art teacher, are involved romantically and live together in a small Virginia college town. Everything seems normal until Iranian artist Abbas, his Russian wife, and their two kids move into town. Soon, relationships collide, jealousy escalates, and Abbas is investigated as a terrorist by the U.S. government. Set in 2002 and 2003 as the Iraq war looms, Exiles attempts to portray love, discrimination, and the difficulties of feeling at home in a war-torn world. The novel shows great promise in that Bram has something fresh to say, but the writing itself is poor; very rote prose and unnatural dialog make for a difficult read. One might expect more from a previously published author. Not recommended. Stephen Morrow, Columbus, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The comfortable marriage of a gay couple is tested by a new friendship with a complex foreign couple. Critic and novelist Bram (Lives of the Circus Animals, 2003, etc.) takes on big and small issues in a thoughtful domestic melodrama set in the last days before the beginning of the current war. Artist Daniel Wexler and psychiatrist Zack Knowles came to Williamsburg, Va., from New York so that Daniel could teach painting at the College of William and Mary. Their seemingly rock-stable relationship, long open by agreement, has been sexless for years; Daniel has affairs, Zack has drifted into celibacy. But they are content and devoted. And they are the first couple in town to show hospitality to Iranian Abbas Rohani, this year's visiting resident artist, Elena, his Russian wife, and their young son and daughter. When the Rohanis come to dinner, Zack and Daniel find them intelligent, combative and fascinating. Zack and Elena Rohani quickly develop a strong friendship, but Daniel finds the handsome Abbas arrogant and cocksure. He impulsively offers to show the Rohanis his own paintings, which Abbas finds wanting. Daniel is hurt and angry, but when he sees Abbas's work, he has to admit that the man is hugely talented. And the sexual vibrations that Daniel picked up from Abbas go two ways. Abbas is also gay and also in an open marriage. The two artists begin an intense affair that becomes far more complicated than is good for either marriage, testing Zack's psychiatric skills to the limit along with the relationship when Daniel falls in love. The affair eventually burns out, but there are scars. Then Abbas's older brother Hassan, a religiously observant, big-time Tehran financier, drops inand things fall even farther apart. Hassan wants the family back in Iran, where he can protect them when the situation in Iraq blows up. A carefully crafted effort to bring some rather specialized relationships into the mainstream.
Washington Post Book World
"The predicaments Bram has set up for his characters are interesting . . . [and] compelling."
"Potent and intoxicating…sexy, riveting and psychologically satisfying."
USA Today
"What is love?. . . [Bram’s] enthralling . . . story challenges us to broaden our search for answers."
The Guide
"A major ‘gay novel’—however you define that…Bram pulls it off…empathetic and enlightening, politically savvy and emotionally sophisticated."
The Advocate
"Christopher Bram’s latest novel, Exiles in America, is so compulsively readable it’s easy to overlook its brimming wisdom."
Providence Sunday Journal
"This intricate, emotionally layered novel is one of the best I’ve read in years…brilliant, soul-wrenching, heart-penetrating."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061852763
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 598,300
  • File size: 510 KB

Meet the Author

Christopher Bram

Christopher Bram is the author of eight other novels, including Gods and Monsters (originally titled Father of Frankenstein), which was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Bram was a 2001 Guggenheim Fellow and received the 2003 Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement. He lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

Exiles in America

A Novel

By Christopher Bram

William Morrow

Copyright © 2006

Christopher Bram

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-06-113834-7

Chapter One

Zachary Knowles and Daniel Wexler had been together for
twenty-one years. They did not describe themselves as
"married." Their generation distrusted the word.

Zack was forty-eight, Daniel forty-seven. They lived in
Williamsburg, Virginia, in a 1930s colonial brick house on
Indian Springs Road, a quiet residential street near the
College of William and Mary. Daniel taught studio classes in
painting at the school. Zack was a psychiatrist, Dr. Zachary
Knowles, with a small practice in town and an office at home,
just off their living room.

Nothing much ever happened in Williamsburg, and people at the
college tended to become set in their routines. When an
Iranian painter, Abbas Rohani, came to town to be artist in
residence in September 2002, nobody thought to invite him and
his wife to dinner. Daniel persuaded Zack that they should
have them over.

"What if they don't like homosexuals?" said Zack.

"Hey, they're Muslims," said Daniel. "What if they hate Jews?"

Only Daniel was Jewish, born in Brooklyn and raised on Long
Island. Zack was a native Virginian, a lapsed Methodist who
had escaped to New York after med school to finish his
training in the city of psychoanalysis. He had met Daniel in
New York. They had moved south to Zack's home turf tenyears
ago, when Daniel took a teaching job at this small state

Daniel left a message in Rohani's voice mail inviting him and
his wife to dinner. It was the wife who called back.

"This is Elena Rohani. We shall be delighted to come. Do we
need to bring anything? Is it-how do you say?-potluck?"

Daniel assured her that all they needed was their appetite.

And so, late one afternoon early in September, the Friday
before classes started, Daniel stood in the kitchen, slicing
fresh tomatoes and squash from Zack's garden to grill on the
hibachi while he talked to their good friend Ross Hubbard, who
stood by the back door with a glass of red wine. The door was
wide open-the weather remained warm and humid-and looked out
on a narrow concrete terrace with an iron railing. A small
wooded ravine sloped behind the house, its curtain of trees
level with the railing. The last cicadas of the summer chirred
in the leafy branches. Zack was at the other end of the house,
seeing his last patient of the day.

"An artist who paints paintings?" asked Ross in his deep,
leisurely drawl. "Isn't that kind of old-fashioned? I thought
you said painting was what the dinosaurs did."

"He's Iranian. Maybe he doesn't know any better," said Daniel.

"You joke, but you may have hit on something. He could be in a
time warp. Fundamentalist Islam forbids graven images.
Figurative painting could be very avant-garde."

Ross was a courtly Southerner of the old school, handsome and
hetero, almost sixty, much married and much divorced. He owned
and managed the movie theater on Merchants Square, an art
house that showed foreign and independent films and occasional
classics. Zack and Daniel were among his handful of regulars.
Ross was a rare kind of straight man. He loved books, art,
music, and old movies. He had served in Vietnam but broke the
stereotypes there, too. He loved to travel-he'd visited the
Middle East twice. He might have been happy if he didn't fall
in love with a new woman every five or six years. Currently
between marriages, he seemed like the perfect extra guest for

"What're the paintings like?" he asked. "Have you seen any?"

"I've seen slides and a catalog from a show in Paris. They're
figurative, but in an abstract way. Like Picasso or Klee. But
not pastiche. Kind of neo-Expressionist, like Francesco
Clemente from a few years back. But I like his stuff." Daniel
liked it very much, in fact.

"So it's not ethnic or primitive?"

"Hardly. He studied in Paris and Berlin. He's probably better
trained than I am."

They could hear Zack out front, bidding goodbye to his
patient, an elderly woman who responded with a deliberate,
end-of-the-session cheerfulness. Daniel knew that chirpy tone
all too well.

"It must make you glad," said Ross. "To have a real painter in
town, someone you can talk shop with."

Daniel frowned. "Not really. I don't especially like other
artists. I just want to be friendly. I remember what it was
like when we first came here and nobody gave us the time of
day." Daniel wasn't entirely sure why he wanted to know the
man. "It's not like I'm an artist myself anymore. I'm a
teacher now. Full-time. I don't miss all that
my-paintbrush-is-bigger-than-your-paintbrush macho bullshit."

There was a tread of shoes coming toward the kitchen, and a
clack of toenails against the hardwood floor. A large black
poodle with a pink tongue trotted into the room, Jocko,
followed by Zack, a solemn man with a pale beard and a
starched blue shirt.

"Hey there, Jock," Ross sang out, crouching down to scratch
the happy dog behind its ears. The poodle wasn't trimmed like
topiary but left woolly all over. "Hey there, Zack. How you

Zack only nodded, looking preoccupied, distant, sad.

"Bad session?" said Ross.

"Who-what?" Zack snapped his eyes open and saw Ross. "Oh,
Ross. Sorry. No. Good session. Actually. Very good. Hi."

Zack was often like this after seeing a patient, spacey and
distracted, still listening to the conversation in his head.

He went over to Daniel and kissed him on the temple. "That's
right. We got company. Need any help?"

"No, dollface. We're fine," said Daniel. "Why don't you pour
yourself some wine?"

Gay male couples are said to grow more alike over the years,
like people and their dogs, but it isn't true. More often,
each man looks more different over time, half-consciously
marking out a territory of his own. Zack and Daniel were
roughly the same medium height, but Daniel was trimmer,
clean-shaven, and bald-not entirely bald but with two ...


Excerpted from Exiles in America
by Christopher Bram
Copyright © 2006 by Christopher Bram.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2007

    Open Marriages: Stabilities and Consequences

    That Christopher Bram is one of our finer novelists today is a given (The Notorious Dr. August: His Real Life and Crimes, Gods and Monsters, Life of the Circus Animals, In Memory of Angel Clare, etc). EXILES IN AMERICA is a very astutely constructed novel, one that explores the concept of displaced persons, whether those persons be gay men in a straight homophobic town, artists in a world of grounded minds, immigrant visitors in the land of the free, or Muslims in a path of fear guarded closely by the Christian ethic. Mix these possible people in a country post 9/11 and prior to America's (read Bush's) declaration of war on Iraq and there is a story brooding. For the most part Bram finely tunes this novel with well-drawn characterizations, a gift he continues to elucidate in his writing. But something has entered Bram's writing mind that is a bit disturbing: he seems to have lost some of the respect for his readers that has never happened prior to his novel. There are moments of 'dumbing down' the reader by excessive explanations of obvious knowns and even stumbling at the close of the book to speak not in the voice of the characters he has created but in his own vacillating voice as a writer - a section of this otherwise fairly tense read that breaks the magic and adds little. Daniel, an artist with painter's block who now only teaches art in Williamsburg, VA, and Zack, a psychiatrist who has given up his New York practice to follow Daniel to his present college teaching position, have been together as a couple for twenty one years, the last ten years at least of which have been an 'open marriage': both men are agreed that transient liaisons outside of their marriage are acceptable as long as they talk about them. Daniel, though in his late forties, has fears of aging and continues to pursue flings, while Zack has settled into a nearly asexual state. Into their milieu come a new guest faculty artist, Iranian Abbas and his Russian wife Elena (a couple with two children who also have an open marriage), and soon enough Daniel and Abbas are lusting after each other in what continues long enough to become an affair. The story is centered on how these four people react not only to each others' needs and fears, but how Zack and Daniel become enmeshed in the growing American suspicion of Middle Eastern 'potential terrorists', a factor surfacing when Abbas' older brother Hassan arrives from Tehran insisting that Abbas, Elena and their children return to Iran because of the incipient war between the US and Iraq. These conflicts focus the instabilities and consequences of the lifestyles of the four friends and introduces an entirely new attitude to Exiles in all its meanings. Bram writes brilliantly and moves his story at a terrific pace: EXILES IN AMERICA is a difficult book to put down once started. For this reader the only problem other than the ones mentioned above is the lack of charisma: it is difficult to truly care about any of the people in this book. But perhaps that is another 'alienation' Bram wants to introduce - a metaphor for the isolation among people that has been heightened by the current preoccupation with distrust of intimacy and people outside our individual realm. Bram poses questions, delivers the goods, and once again proves that he can create a fine story based on a tough theme. Grady Harp

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a reviewer

    In Williamsburg, Virginia, in their late forties William and Mary professor Daniel Wexler and psychiatrist Zachary Knowles have been a happily ¿unmarried¿ couple for over two decades yet. However, they look so solid to everyone who knows either of them that they assume the pair will remain together until one dies. However, their close loving relationship no longer includes sex between them instead Daniel has affairs while Zack has become celibate. When the college¿s resident artist of the year arrives, Iranian Abbas Rohani and his Russian spouse Elena with their two children, Zack and Daniel are the first to truly welcome them by inviting them to dinner. While Zack and Elena hold an intelligent discussion, Daniel tries to impress the arrogant attractive Abbas by showing him his paintings. Zack and Elena begin to forge a close friendship, but Abbas devastates Daniel by saying his paintings are poor. After seeing Abbas¿ superior work, Daniel and the Iranian hunk begin an affair that threaten both marriages at the same time that Abbas¿ pious older brother Hassan demands he and his wife return to Iran immediately. --- This is a well written interesting relationship drama starring four fascinating protagonists that is a modernizing of the late 1960s movie ¿Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice¿. The story line digs deep into the four prime players mostly through their relationships with the other three in a sort of rectangular connection. Though at times Christopher Bram seems to want to normalize the coupling which takes away from the prime premise that relationships come in all forms, fans who appreciate a deep character study will enjoy this fascinating look at Zack and Daniel and Abbas and Elena. --- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2006

    An original and thought-provoking story

    Christopher Bram has written his most thought-provoking novel to date. He delves sensitively but deeply into a number of topics currently rocking the American cultural psyche: the definition of marriage and family, the gulf between East and West, the tension between security and xenophobia, etc. It's a great read that will leave you asking yourself questions for which there are no easy answers.

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