Fault Lines

Fault Lines

3.2 16
by Nancy Huston
     
 

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A best seller in France, with over 400,000 copies sold, and currently being translated into eighteen languages, Fault Lines is the new novel from internationally-acclaimed and best-selling author Nancy Huston. Huston's novel is a profound and poetic story that traces four generations of a single family from present-day California to WW II¨Cera Germany.

Overview

A best seller in France, with over 400,000 copies sold, and currently being translated into eighteen languages, Fault Lines is the new novel from internationally-acclaimed and best-selling author Nancy Huston. Huston's novel is a profound and poetic story that traces four generations of a single family from present-day California to WW II¨Cera Germany. Fault Lines begins with Sol, a gifted, terrifying child whose mother believes he is destined for greatness partly because he has a birthmark like his dad, his grandmother, and his great-grandmother. When Sol's family makes an unexpected trip to Germany, secrets begin to emerge about their history during World War II. It seems birthmarks are not all that's been passed down through the bloodlines. Closely observed, lyrically told, and epic in scope, Fault Lines is a touching, fearless, and unusual novel about four generations of children and their parents. The story moves from the West Coast of the United States to the East, from Haifa to Toronto to Munich, as secrets unwind back through time until a devastating truth about the family's origins is reached. Huston tells a riveting, vigorous tale in which love, music, and faith rage against the shape of evil.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“All told, Fault Lines is thrilling, a masterpiece of unconventional form that fulfills the age-old promise of the novel: to imagine other lives with an unparalleled intimacy and so to convince ourselves that our own lives might too someday be intelligible, to ourselves and to the people we love. Huston has given us one of the most engaging, evocative novels of the year.” — Anne Julia Wyman, The San Francisco Chronicle

“Vivid and lush. . . . Huston keeps us invested in smaller moments . . . These exquisitely evoked scenes are just as formative as the awful secrets at the novel’s deepest strata. They may well be the parts that sink deepest into the reader’s memory.” —New York Times Book Review

“An intelligent and perceptive writer, has scored handsomely with her 11th novel, which has garnered wide praise in her adopted country of France. . . . Huston writes movingly of the role of history in our lives—how the past is not just a memory, but an affliction that seeps into the blood and gets passed on to subsequent generations, its effects unpredictable and unquantifiable.” —Vikram Johri, St. Petersburg Times

“Masterful and ambitious . . . [Huston] has a fast-paced style, as breathless as Philip Roth’s, deceptively light though deeply engaged in current events.” —Salon

“The author writes with power” —Amanda Heller, Boston Globe

"Winner of France’s Prix Femina and shortlisted for the Orange Prize, Huston’s 12th novel captures four generations of a family and examines the decades-long fallout of a dark family secret. The novel proceeds in reverse chronological order from 2004 to 1944 and begins with six-year-old Sol, who is sheltered and coddled by his mother as he immerses himself in all the perversities the Internet can offer. After surgery to remove Sol’s congenital birthmark turns out poorly, the extended family takes a trip to great-grandmother Erra’s childhood home in Munich. A turbulent history underlies the visit, and after Sol witnesses a tussle between his great-grandmother and great-aunt, the novel skips backwards in time through the childhood of Sol’s father, Randall; grandmother Sadie; and finally Erra. Huston’s brilliance is in how she gradually lets the reader in on the secret and draws out the revelation so carefully that by the time the reader arrives at the heart of the matter in Munich 1944, the discovery hits with blunt force. Huston masterfully links the 20th century’s misery to 21st-century discomfort in razor-sharp portraits of children as they lose their innocence." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Huston [is] . . . at her most ambitious in this new novel. . . . The multiple viewpoints are well handled and show how children are so often more aware of the poor behavior of adults than adults themselves.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“A tragic historical saga and an engaging and often surprisingly funny story. Huston’s prose is attuned to the breathless pattern of her children’s voices . . . a captivating read.” —Observer (UK)

“Huston’s layering of narratives lends an increasingly integrated understanding of family history, and the structure is so seamlessly handled that we are left with neither dangling ends nor any of the usual sense of mystified frustration inherent in reverse chronology. This is an immaculate novel.” —The Guardian (UK)

“The adventurous, polyphonic structure of Fault Lines . . . testifies to the intricate care [Huston] takes with structure . . . the fault lines of the title are the moments when civilization is stressed to the point of fracture; the clear-eyed six-year old narrators evoke the stress with a disarming absence of rhetoric and complexity that puts into focus the corrupting horrors that adults visit on their world.” —Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“Huston . . . skillfully hooks her readers; each section throws light on its predecessor . . . a compelling and affecting novel.” —Mslexia (UK)

“Cleverly crafted . . . you will be rewarded with a surprisingly satisfying novel.” —Daily Express (UK)

“[Huston’s] writing is graceful and fluid and her characters believable and, at times, terribly human. Through four small windows into the lives of four children, she paints a vibrant portrait of a family and its love, loss, and shame.” —Melbourne Times

“A novel of compassion, humor, [and] insight.” —Good Reading Magazine (Australia)

“This ambitious, tightly crafted novel combines the psychological tension of a thriller with sweeping literary brilliance. . . . An intimate novel often at its best chronicling life’s smaller, domestic issues . . . Savor it.” —Sydney Morning Herald

“Explosive in its control and its ambition.” —Le Figaro

“Nancy Huston writes with grace and power, and a wisdom that can only come from the heart.” —Chris Bohjalian, author of Midwives

“[Huston] weaves a powerful story, working a thread with love from generation to generation. The acts of one mark the destiny of the next, and for us readers the discovery is fascinating, as we travel back in time. A novel . . . that celebrates the human ability to resist, to have hope and joy, to love, and to start over.” —Máxima (Portugal)

“Nancy Huston’s new novel displays the inventiveness, toughness, and technical brilliance we expect from the Governor General’s Award-winning author . . . Huston dispenses with the trite devices so prevalent among run-of-the-mill novelists. There are no diaries or love letters uncovered in attics or archives; there is, quite simply, the human voice. . . . The balance of elements simple and complex is masterful; the language is direct and arresting; the story is engaging to the end. It’s both a very human story and a novel of ideas, and it’s challenging on both levels.” —Michael Basilières, Globe and Mail (Canada)

“Delicately, Nancy Huston is able to give life to those silent tragedies of childhood. With extreme delicacy, she extorts tears from the reader for those daily nothings against which youthful illusions or expectations crash: an unfulfilled promise, a lack of attention, absence of love. No judgment, no demonstration, everyone is, in turn, both victim and executioner.” —France 3

“The greatest achievement of this novel, which unfolds counter-chronologically from 2004 to 1944, is that it makes the reader feel everything at every moment on every level. A true accomplishment, humorous, moving, political: that is what Nancy Huston’s latest work is.” —Le Point

“Through the life of a family with troubled and complex roots, Nancy Huston reflects on the atrocities committed by the Nazis by sprawling their consequences over sixty years of modern history. . . . She invites the reader to go back in time and follow the crack that has, for generations, inexorably scarred this family. From one childhood to another, the reader must find the source of beauty marks—the seal of blood—find that imprint of destiny that will lead to the truth, to the original crack. . . . Lined with cynicism, discretely humorous, this novel, structured at times as a genealogy tree with four branches, at others as a family saga, will enrapture you, literally. . . . A novel written in a brisk and fluid manner, immersed in humanity.” —Evene (France)

“The four narrators of Fault Lines are plagued by questions of identity, and it makes absolutely no difference that each one of them is 6 years old . . . their voices are sophisticated, their understanding of the world nuanced, and it doesn’t hurt that Huston’s language is practically rippling with energy . . . In the final pages, the four narratives come together seamlessly. The questions are answered, the mysteries revealed, and what we’re left with is a complete and troubling portrait of a family undone by its own history.” —Haaretz

Susann Cokal
The author who tells a story backward is taking a risk. After the reader has already pieced together its turning points and traumas, the emotional payoff may not be there at the end. Novice writers can use such gimmicks to bolster a shaky narrative, but happily that's not the case here. The events of Huston's novel…are strong enough to work just as well, if not better, when arranged chronologically, and the book rewards rereading.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Winner of France's Prix Femina and shortlisted for the Orange Prize, Huston's 12th novel captures four generations of a family and examines the decades-long fallout of a dark family secret. The novel proceeds in reverse chronological order from 2004 to 1944 and begins with six-year-old Sol, who is sheltered and coddled by his mother as he immerses himself in all the perversities the Internet can offer. After surgery to remove Sol's congenital birthmark turns out poorly, the extended family takes a trip to great-grandmother Erra's childhood home in Munich. A turbulent history underlies the visit, and after Sol witnesses a tussle between his great-grandmother and great-aunt, the novel skips backwards in time through the childhood of Sol's father, Randall; grandmother Sadie; and finally Erra. Huston's brilliance is in how she gradually lets the reader in on the secret and draws out the revelation so carefully that by the time the reader arrives at the heart of the matter in Munich 1944, the discovery hits with blunt force. Huston masterfully links the 20th century's misery to 21st-century discomfort in razor-sharp portraits of children as they lose their innocence. (Oct.)

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Library Journal
Huston's 2006 novel won France's Prix Femina; its 2008 English-language edition (Atlantic Bks., tr. by the author) was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. Told in part from the perspective of a six-year-old boy, the book works its way back through four generations of the same Jewish family, beginning in 2004 California and ending in 1944 Munich. Huston provides a fascinating look at this latter segment of history and imagines the consequences certain of its events might have set in motion. She has created realistic characters whose emotional scars and traumas reverberate through time. Narrator Edwina Wren (Ocean Pearl) does an outstanding job of providing unique voices for children and adults heralding from countries including the United States, Israel, Canada, and Germany. Fans of historical fiction and psychological thrillers will love this; strongly recommended. [The Black Cat: Grove pb also received a starred review, LJ 7/08.—Ed.]—Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Libs., Providence
Kirkus Reviews
Canadian born Huston (Dolce Agonia, 2001, etc.) won the Prix Femina in France for this novel, which traces four generations of a family while examining how unshared secrets shape each succeeding/preceding generation. In California in 2004, six-year-old Sol, a brilliant, spoiled brat, attends a Protestant church as a compromise between his Catholic-born mother Tessa and Jewish-raised father Randall. After surgery more or less removes the birthmark Sol inherited from Randall, Sol's grandmother Sadie orchestrates a trip to Munich with the whole family, including Sol's German-born great-grandmother Erra. The trip is not a success. Flash back to 1982 when six-year-old Randall, also brilliant but more sweet-natured than Sol, basks in the love of his father, a Jewish playwright in his 40s, and desperately tries to please his 26-year-old mother Sadie, a tense perfectionist. Randall loves the year he lives with his parents in Israel while Sadie, a graduate student of the Holocaust and recent convert to Judaism, does research. Then public and personal disasters conflate: Shortly after a controversial Israeli-backed massacre in Lebanon, a car accident leaves Sadie permanently crippled. In 1962, lonely six-year-old Sadie must live with her stern Canadian grandparents while her bohemian unwed mother Kristina finds herself. Sadie, who considers the birthmark on her bottom "dirty," is overjoyed when Kristina, who has changed her name to Erra, marries the kindly Jewish manager of her burgeoning musical career and brings Sadie to live with them. Then a strange foreign man shows up and shatters Sadie's fragile security. In 1944, Kristina considers herself the adored youngest daughter of a solid Germanfamily until her older "brother" explains that, like him, she was stolen by the Nazis from her real parents, and the two forge a secret bond. After liberation, Kristina is adopted by Canadian parents. To keep her "brother" close, she names her birthmark after him. An elegant if overly manipulated structural design parallels the insightful but overly simplified psychological evolution of vulnerable children (excepting demon Sol) into reactive adults. Agent: Michael Heyward/Text Publishing Company

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802170514
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
10/01/2008
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

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Fault Lines 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
buffalobibliophile More than 1 year ago
"God gave me this body and mind and I have to take the best possible care of them so I can put them to the best possible use. I know He's got high intentions for me, otherwise I wouldn't have been born in the wealthiest state of the wealthiest country in the world, with the most powerful weapons system capable of blasting the whole human species to kingdom come. Fortunately, God and President Bush are buddies." (page 4) The year is 2004 and six year old Sol, who is wise beyond his years, is pontificating about the state of the human species, among other things. He is the first of four related characters who tell the story of their childhood in Nancy Huston's brilliant 2008 Orange Prize short listed novel, Fault Lines. Huston uses a variety of literary devices to tell the story of four generations of this California family. She very effectively tells the story backwards chronologically, taking us from present day California to 1980's Hiafa, to 1960's Toronto, to 1944 Germany. Along the way the author slowly reveals the family's secret, by planting clues in each narrative and weaving the story together in a way that exposes the mystery as you peel away the narrative layers. Each character telling the story is about six years of age and very intelligent. Almost too intelligent; like the smartest kids I've ever heard of with language skills beyond belief. But if you can suspend disbelief here, you're in for a very enjoyable read. If I say much more I will give away the secret. So let me just say that if you like a mystery, if you enjoy peeling away layers of intrigue, if unexpected developments are right up your alley, if you like the charm of literary devices and smooth, poetic writing and excellent historical fiction, this may be the book for you.
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williamkeithmcculloch More than 1 year ago
I READ THE BOOK BECAUSE OF THE COVER; HER EYES. I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT IT. I'D RECOMEND THE SAME TO ANYBODY ELSE. DON'T READ THIS, READ THE BOOK. The tale starts with ten year old boy will only eat cream of wheat, has convenient asthma and his goal in life is to destroy the world with robots. It is not written that this little boy is a spoied rich kid who his parents are afraid of and you wouldn't let your kids near him. You are left to consider the title as the story goes back to the previous generation. His father,ten, is in Israel. He is going to school and meets an islamic girl; falls in love. When she rejects him,she says that her parents sent her to his school to learn hate and that he is the enemy. Another fault... Germany. 1942.The fathers grandparents.Wealthy. The grandfather, listening to the radio, screams"Dresden! Dresden!" and goes mad. (The American air force bombed the city. It melted.) This young girl came into their lives. She sang with sound only ,no words. And she comes to America...