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Fear of Dying: A Novel
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Fear of Dying: A Novel

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by Erica Jong

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“Flashy, flip, and hilarious as well as smart and wise.” –Booklist (starred review)

Four decades ago, Erica Jong revolutionized the way we look at love, marriage, and sex. Her worldwide bestseller, Fear of Flying opened the doors for writers from Jennifer Weiner to Lena Dunham. Now she does it again by giving us a powerful, new


“Flashy, flip, and hilarious as well as smart and wise.” –Booklist (starred review)

Four decades ago, Erica Jong revolutionized the way we look at love, marriage, and sex. Her worldwide bestseller, Fear of Flying opened the doors for writers from Jennifer Weiner to Lena Dunham. Now she does it again by giving us a powerful, new perspective on the next phase of women’s lives. Full of the sly humor, deep wisdom and poignancy we know from her poetry, fiction, and essays, she delivers the novel women everywhere have been waiting for…


As the afternoon of life looms over Vanessa Wonderman, she watches her parents age, attends doctor appointments with her pregnant daughter, and sits by the hospital bed of her husband, Asher, twenty years her senior. With her best years as an actress behind her, she’s discovering that beginnings are easy but endings can be hard.

Could her fountain-of-youth fantasies be fulfilled on Zipless.com? A site inspired by the writings of her best friend, Isadora Wing, it promises “no strings attached” encounters—and Vanessa is so restless that she’s willing to try anything.

Fear of Dying is a daring and delightful look at what it really takes to be human and female in the twenty-first century. Wildly funny and searingly honest, it is a story for everyone who has ever been shaken and changed by love.

“I loved Fear of Dying. I found it irreverent, funny, tender, and very wise, and it made me feel more alive.” –Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for Fear of Dying

Fear of Dying proves Erica Jong’s sustained relevancy.” —The Globe and Mail

“(Jong) won me over with her honesty, humor and passion…as a writer she still has a lot to say.” —The Guardian

“Flashy, flip, and hilarious as well as smart and wise…Jong has created such an extraordinary direct and intimate narrative voice, one almost forgets that this bravura performance is a work of fiction. Jong is a beacon for several generations of readers, and her first novel in more than a decade will garner much excitement.” —Booklist (starred review)

“From the start, Jong has surged to the front, leading Baby Boomers where they fear to tread…Even in her 70s, Jong remains the brash, randy adventurer whose work curs of the world may piss on, but who isn’t about to let that stop her.” —The Atlantic

“Jong’s writing style is quirky and engaging, layering complex themes in a story that will make readers laugh and reflect.” –RT Book Reviews (four stars)

Fear of Dying is the perfect, spirited, funny bookend to Erica Jong’s classic, Fear of Flying. In this lighthearted, sexy, and wise romp of a novel, Jong explores some deep truths about aging, family, love, and marriage after sixty. This novel is a wonderful, readable blend of entertainment and wisdom. I loved it!” –Susan Cheever, bestselling author of Home Before Dark

Fear of Dying by Erica Jong is hysterical and touchinh, compelling and heartbreaking, and makes me want even more to live joyfully—forever! Jong’s writing rocks into your fantasies, your bed, and your brain. I love this book!” –Judy Collins, singer, writer, and survivor of the sixties

“Erica Jong has written a whip-smart, insightful, hilarious and ridiculously relatable new novel, Fear of Dying. In her latest novel, Jong revisits and renovates her old haunts. Destined to be called an instant classic, I could not put this stunning book down. In 1973, Fear of Flying was the book we needed, now the book we need is Fear of Dying.”—Julie Klam, bestselling author of Friendkeeping and You Had Me at Woof

“Erica Jong fans, rejoice! Her new novel, the cleverly and aptly titled Fear of Dying, is a truth-teller's dream. In it, Jong and her alter egos face life's most difficult challenges, head on and all at once. As the great poet William Butler Yeats wrote, "the only two things worth writing about are sex and death," and in Fear of Dying, Jong takes on both. Along the way, she also tells the story of a marriage that grows happier despite all. This wise book, written in prose gorgeous enough to make one swoon, will delight and enrich the lives of everyone who reads it.” –Rosemary Daniell, award-winning author of Secrets of the Zona Rosa: How Writing (and Sisterhood) Can Change Women’s Lives

"How Erica is able to deal with all these sensitive issues and still make the book funny is amazing. I loved reading it.” –Woody Allen

“Erica Jong has done it again! Fear of Dying is a big, bawdy, beautifully-written romp through online hookups, female friendships, children grappling with adulthood and parents negotiating with death. Fear of Dying is a big, warm-hearted, generous book that will satisfy Jong's longtime fans and delight her new readers.” –Jennifer Weiner, bestselling author of Who Do You Love

"Moving and deeply poetic, Fear of Dying is a compelling novel that truly understands the process of aging. With astonishing images on every page, Erica Jong gives us a veiled spiritual autobiography with an unstoppable quality, a narrative momentum that held me from first to last as it seamlessly unfolds from Jong's previous work, yet with sharp new edge, giving us a wise book, a book to savor." –Jay Parini, author of The Last Station and Why Poetry Matters

Erica Jong's 1973 Fear of Flying became a feminist classic, a lightning rod of controversy, and with 20 million plus copies sold, an international hit. Now, more than forty years later, women want to know, what happens next in women's lives. Fear of Dying, Jong's first novel in a dozen years, doesn't pursue Isabella Wing as its main character; instead, it tracks the story of her friend, narrator Vanessa Wonderman, an aging actress coping with daunting new challenges and, surprisingly enough, also some new possibilities.

Publishers Weekly
More than 40 years after the publication of the cultural touchstone Fear of Flying, Jong delivers a not-quite sequel—an exploration of the emotional and sexual consciousness of Vanessa Wonderman, an actress who threw herself into the role of wife of the kind, wealthy, 20-years-older Asher when Vanessa’s “acting career had gone to that place women’s acting careers used to go when they neared fifty.” Now sandwiched between ailing parents and a pregnant daughter, and unwilling to “retreat into serene sexlessness,” Vanessa is “just unhinged enough” to place an Internet ad looking for someone to “come celebrate Eros one afternoon per week.” So what makes this a sequel? The website where she posted the ad is Zipless.com, the name ripped off from her best friend Isadora Wing, who coined the term zipless to describe a certain kind of one-night encounter in the original Fear Of book. (Fear of Fifty, a memoir, was released in 1994.) With Isadora, Jong ushered in a bold new way for women to talk about their sex lives and their desire to pursue pleasure for its own sake. It’s canny of Jong to tie this story back to Isadora’s original quest for something like sexual fulfillment—and Isadora pops up in this story to act as a wizened guide. Unfortunately, it’s Vanessa who narrates this story, and while readers may be amused by Jong’s trademark humor, which reads like catching up with a very chatty and revealing friend, Vanessa as a character is too self-absorbed to provoke any feeling other than relief when it’s over. Agent: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, WME Entertainment. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Jong's first book in ten years is also a sequel to her most famous one—and the title signals immediately how much time has passed since the 1973 publication of Fear of Flying. In her sixties and still beautiful, former actress Vanessa Wonderman is caught between her ailing parents, aging husband, and pregnant daughter. Since her husband isn't up for sex anymore, she places an ad on a site called Zipless.com and must turn for help to friend Isadora Wing when the responses start upending her life.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

ERICA JONG is a poet, novelist, and essayist, best known for her eight New York Times bestselling novels, including Fear of Flying (which has sold 27 million copies in forty languages) and Fear of Fifty. Ms. Jong is also the author of seven award-winning collections of poetry. Her latest, Love Comes First, was released by Tarcher-Penguin in January 2009. In addition, Jong has written several nonfiction books. Her work has appeared all over the world.

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Fear of Dying 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
[ I received this book free from the publisherthrough NetGalley. I thank them for their generousity. In exchange, I was simply asked to write an honest review, and post it. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising] " So, this is a story about heaven and hell. Just so you know. The hell of writing is self-censorship. The heaven is the freedom of speaking the truth. Women have a particular problem with this." Vanessa is part of a sandwich: she's dealing, as we all do at some time, with end of life issues as her parents are both under pallitive care. And her husband has just had major surgery for an anuerism. And her daughter is expecting her first grandchild. And so on... and so on.... So Vanessa, one of three daughters, is rather retrospective. And, as is Jong's wont she pours it out in this book. Vanessa, in the end, is searching for herself. In her youth, Jong was searching for the "zipless f**k", then her searches brought her to exploring faith and spirituality, and now, she's intergrating all that she's learned into becoming an elder, in and ongoung process. Jong's writing style, once I found its intention, speaks volumes to me. I abhorred "Fear of Flying" because it just wasn't for my generation. However, I've used her work throught my thirty year career as sermon fodder, examples for Socratic dialogue, quoted it on the radio, argued in many venues about it and grown into an unique intergration and respect for the writings she dares to share. This may not be your cuppa and that's understandable. However, I really liked this book.
Anonymous 9 hours ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thought it was ok - read in a few days but the ending was disappointing and somewhat abrupt.
KateTall More than 1 year ago
Why do we want to read about a narcissist who goes out on a sex website looking for whatever while claiming to love her husband? The main character is so self-absorbed, I wanted to slap her silly! The parts about her aging/dying parents were sometimes touching, and the scene where she and her sister were going through the mom's effects reminded me of when my mom passed away. But we were poor, so there was no need to fight over any jewelry - there were only odd mementos that mom had kept. Thanks to her, I now have every report card from first grade through high school! I was in the middle of a divorce, my mom's death, and the death of a close friend when "Fear of Flying" was published, so I never read it. I thought it was a prequel to this one, so I read it just before taking this one on. Maybe it was too much meaningless sex and self-absorption in proximity, but I found both books annoying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read Fear of Flying when I was thirteen and I loved it. I was glad to see the return of Isadora Wing in the second half of the book (though she is not the main character) this book).. The first half of the book dragged. It was too much about the death of elderly parents. While the death of parents when they are old is sad these are not "tragic" deaths. Furthermore, I think Ms. Jong is the best as a writer when she writes humor/satire. (I happen to think good satire is just as important as good drama). During the second half of the book, the main character describes the death of her dog, meets up with her friend Isadora Wing, and has to deal with her husbands ex-wives. The story line picks up. Again Ms. Jong is her best as a writer when she makes us laugh about women, sexism and sex. It is in the second half of the book that she demonstrates the qualities. I received a free copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.