Love among the Ruins: A Novel

Love among the Ruins: A Novel

4.0 1
by Robert Clark
     
 

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When William Lowry writes to Emily Byrne–I don’t know if you know that you know me–the seventeen-year-old hardly suspects that his life, along with the rest of America, is about to change forever. But the day Emily receives the letter and composes a response–I know who you are. In fact, I remember you from a bunch of

Overview

When William Lowry writes to Emily Byrne–I don’t know if you know that you know me–the seventeen-year-old hardly suspects that his life, along with the rest of America, is about to change forever. But the day Emily receives the letter and composes a response–I know who you are. In fact, I remember you from a bunch of times–is also the day that Robert Kennedy is shot. In Minnesota, even as the tumultuous summer of 1968 has begun, first love cares little for matters of time and place.

William and Emily fall hard, despite the fact that he and his family are determined to wrestle with the system while she and hers are conservative, God-fearing Catholics. Together, the young lovers grow into each other and decide to escape to the wilderness to start anew. Left behind to grapple with the shifting mores of the nation and the sundering of their families, the Lowrys and the Byrnes must search for both their children and their own lost innocence.

Masterfully rendering both young love and the unrest of the 1960s Robert Clark has crafted a work that is at once intimate and grand.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A memorable novel; sharply observed and keenly felt.” –Los Angeles Times

“Clark has written a deeply felt portrait of private human feeling.”–The Washington Post Book World

“Mesmerizing and heartbreaking. . . . Clark uses fiction in its highest and best sense, to explore questions that haunt the human heart.”–The Seattle Times

“Shockingly humane, decent, kindly. Yet it’s not soft-minded. And it absolutely works. . . . Clark holds you spellbound with his wickedly clean-hearted tragedy.” –The Baltimore Sun

Patricia Hampl
This is a novel that deftly traces an enduring fissure in American family life and culture.
Charles Baxter
Wonderful....so beautifully constructed that it's breathtaking.
Pico Iyer
Clark is a master of intimacy, and the moral complexities of life.
Seattle Times
Clark uses fiction in its highest and best sense, to explore the questions that haunt the human heart.
Entertainment Weekly
Clark manages to avoid all '60s age-of-innocence nostalgia by exploring the emotional terrain of first love without sentimentality.
Portland Oregonian
[A] sorrowful tale that is not bleak; instead, Clark's insistent authorial presence in the story makes it rich.
Baltimore Sun
Clark holds you spellbound with his wickedly clean-hearted tragedy.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
This is a wonderful, even remarkable novel that grapples fearlessly with important issues of real life—love, passion, faith, responsibility.
Publishers Weekly
Edgar Award-winner Clark (Mr. White's Confession) abandons the psychological murder mystery genre of his earlier work to plumb the emotional depths and dangers of young love and mature infidelity in this literary fiction set in 1968 Minnesota. Clark rambles through the hearts and minds of Bill Lowry, 17, and Emily Byrne, 16, in wordy, reflective fashion, treating teenage passion with serious intensity. Bill's divorced, politically active mother, Jane, is a delegate to the Democratic convention in Chicago. The riots there and Humphrey's selection as the Democratic candidate find her disenchanted with the system and skeptical about the chances for an early end to U.S. participation in the Vietnam war. Bill will be graduating from high school next year and the specter of the draft hangs over him as he begins his romance with Emily by letter. Emily's parents, Edward and Virginia, are a loving, Catholic, middle-class couple whose comfortable marriage contains neither pain nor passion. As Emily and Bill's romance progresses from letters to coffeehouse dates to surprisingly mature sex, Clark effectively evokes the youthful yearnings for freedom and a return to nature that characterized the '60s. Swept away by their love, Bill convinces Emily that their only chance to remain together is to run away to the north woods of Minnesota and live off the land. When the two teenagers disappear, their parents react to the stress in decidedly different ways. Readers will be drawn in by Clark's languid rhythms and his careful period detail, and the novel's tragic conclusion will serve baby boomers as a bittersweet reminder of a time when the nation was jerked painfully from adolescence into adulthood. (July) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A foray into the "war summer" of 1968 that illuminates well the complexities, sensibilities, and passions of the time, if stumbling a bit in its storytelling. Robert Kennedy has just been assassinated when 17-year-old William writes to 16-year-old Emily, asking her on a date. He's a good boy who reads the Beats, Alan Watts, and Paul Goodman, writes his own youthful, angst-ridden poetry, and cruises around nighttime St. Paul with his one friend, never getting into trouble. His single mom is an Evergreen Review-reading, Eugene McCarthy-loving, grape-boycotting liberal who gives him plenty of independence. Emily, Irish Catholic with a father in pharmaceuticals, would at first seem the more uptight, except she's developed her own belief system-culled from Emily Dickinson and Barrett Browning-that permits her a whole lot more freedom than the nuns would ever allow. Within weeks of their first coffeehouse date the two teenagers are locked in powerful passion, as isolated from the rest of the world as they are absorbed by each other. With the war spiraling in Vietnam and the Chicago convention ending in riots, the world is something these lovers instinctually move away from. When they run off together, pursuing an ill-formed, romantic dream of life alone in the woods, it feels inevitable-as inevitable as the tragedy that brings the story to a close. Clark (Mr. White's Confession, 1998, etc.) so loves this time and place that his details, the fullness of his characters, and his pitch-perfect evocation of the period become eerily hypnotic. His one misstep-and it's a major one-is to enter the narration and tell us what to think-or, even worse, feel; it's a sort of avuncular, Walter Cronkite-esquevoice that reveals the novelist's distrust of his creation. Fortunately, it's infrequent enough to never really distract from the slow-motion crash before us. Slow-motion, but a crash just the same.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400030309
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/13/2002
Series:
Vintage Contemporaries Series
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
925,257
Product dimensions:
5.13(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.72(d)

Read an Excerpt

When William Lowry writes to Emily Byrne–I don’t know if you know that you know me–the seventeen-year-old hardly suspects that his life, along with the rest of America, is about to change forever. But the day Emily receives the letter and composes a response–I know who you are. In fact, I remember you from a bunch of times–is also the day that Robert Kennedy is shot. In Minnesota, even as the tumultuous summer of 1968 has begun, first love cares little for matters of time and place.

William and Emily fall hard, despite the fact that he and his family are determined to wrestle with the system while she and hers are conservative, God-fearing Catholics. Together, the young lovers grow into each other and decide to escape to the wilderness to start anew. Left behind to grapple with the shifting mores of the nation and the sundering of their families, the Lowrys and the Byrnes must search for both their children and their own lost innocence.

Meet the Author

Robert Clark is the prize-winning author of In the Deep Midwinter, Mr. White's Confession, My Grandfather's House, and other books. He lives in Seattle with his wife and two children.

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Love among the Ruins 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The only reason I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 is because it was a little slow going to start. I wish the author had included the detail of emotion in the beginning of the book and the beginning of Emily and William's relationship as he did in the end. I never cry over books and I actually teared up at the end. The way he ties it all together is powerful, and you actually feel remorse for the lost relationship. I highly suggest you read it.