Salvation

Salvation

by Lucia Nevai
     
 

Slightly malformed, very brilliant, Crane Cavanaugh is born into the world of three former charlatan preachers, two siblings, and a dismal childhood. Eventually adopted by loud, loving Ollie, Crane becomes a budding scientist with a teacher as her mentor, but her abusive childhood left an imprint she has to confront.
Salvation is the sometimes funny, sometimes

Overview

Slightly malformed, very brilliant, Crane Cavanaugh is born into the world of three former charlatan preachers, two siblings, and a dismal childhood. Eventually adopted by loud, loving Ollie, Crane becomes a budding scientist with a teacher as her mentor, but her abusive childhood left an imprint she has to confront.
Salvation is the sometimes funny, sometimes eerie story of the coming of age of Crane Cavanaugh, a budding scientist. Crane narrates her early life with a rich awareness of the natural world and her own precarious spot in it. Raised below the poverty line in Arnold, Iowa, by depraved adults who’ve given up the life of charlatans on the gospel circuit, Crane’s first-person account traces her experiences from disfiguration in the womb to well-deserved elevation in the halls of academe. Along the way, there are surprises and reversals. Crane is separated from the sister and brother who tried to protect her in infancy and assigned by welfare workers to life in a convent. Here, science is taught directly from the Bible. Crane rebels. Her belligerence causes the nuns to put her up for adoption. Reborn as Princess Hopkins by an adoring, middle-class, adoptive mother, Crane develops a satisfying relationship of admiration and respect with a public school science teacher who becomes her mentor. Princess/Crane inhabits parallel worlds, using her scientific precocity and formidable intellect to juggle sobering deficits in nurture, stunted emotional development, and the inevitable disasters that derive from sadomasochistic sexual imprinting—yet she somehow retains an inner continuity that remains unfazed, unjudgmental, and cheerful. Witty and richly intelligent, arch and earnest, Salvation has a Dickensian narrative reach, an empathetic heart, and a naturalist's eye for both the vagaries and the logic of human nature.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"What a fantastic novel. Salvation is an absolute knock out. I read it without stopping (no, really!) and fell in love by the end of the day."
Alice Sebold

"In Salvation, Nevai presents a variety of characters in language precise and pristine, providing a marvelous juxtaposition to the imperfections and complexities of the lives so keenly observed. We cheer for this strange and endearing protagonist from the beginning of the book to the end."
Elizabeth Strout

"Lucia Nevai has written a tale with the savage wit and gothic plot twists of Katharine Dunn's Geek Love. Each page contains a shifting ratio of laughter and horror that will stop your heart for whole seconds; each sentence is a work of art. Nevai's young narrator, Crane, is a character I would follow anywhere."—Karen Russell, author of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

"Nevai's subtly barbed latest (following Seriously) portrays the secret agonies of an Iowa girl rescued from neglect by a loving foster family. Born in 1950 to a half-Indian prostitute living in a squatter's shack with a married “evangelist and healer” and his wife, Crane Cavanaugh suffers the disfigurement of her mother's attempted abortion as well as the privations of being unwanted and poor. Along with her devoted older half-siblings, Jima and Little Duck, she manages to scrape by: a kindly developer, Sam Fanelli, who is transforming farmland into postwar suburbia, feeds the children from his lunchbox. Eventually seized by the state, separated from her siblings and farmed out to a childless Methodist couple, Crane's identity changes completely—a change that is the crux of the book's meditation on chance, identity and circumstance. With skillful, wicked irony, Nevai poignantly evokes Crane's desperate childhood and fragile transformation, and creates a cast of sympathetic, memorable grotesques."
Publishers Weekly

"This is 21st century fiction, perfectly rendered. Sometimes, it's so beautiful, it breaks your heart."
January Magazine

"From laugh-out-loud hilarious to searingly poignant, Nevai crafts a powerful story about family, growing up, loss and redemption. Crane never loses sight of her own uncertain place in the world, and this honest book brings to life one of the most fiercely intelligent, delightfully quirky and strangely beautiful protagonists in contemporary fiction. You will reach the last page craving more of Crane Cavanaugh." —Laura Di Giovine, New Pages.com

"Nevai has an amazing way with words that translated exceedingly well to novel-length fiction. Salvation is proof of that. "—Writers Unboxed

"Nevai skillfully balances the bizarre with the everyday. She has a way of bringing out the way life often lands somewhere in between. Crane is a unique character, with some elements of the grotesque, but Nevai manages to pull it off with believability and poignancy." —Collected Miscellany

Publishers Weekly

Nevai's subtly barbed latest (following Seriously) portrays the secret agonies of an Iowa girl rescued from neglect by a loving foster family. Born in 1950 to a half-Indian prostitute living in a squatter's shack with a married "evangelist and healer" and his wife, Crane Cavanaugh suffers the disfigurement of her mother's attempted abortion as well as the privations of being unwanted and poor. Along with her devoted older half-siblings, Jima and Little Duck, she manages to scrape by: a kindly developer, Sam Fanelli, who is transforming farmland into postwar suburbia, feeds the children from his lunchbox. Eventually seized by the state, separated from her siblings and farmed out to a childless Methodist couple, Crane's identity changes completely—a change that is the crux of the book's meditation on chance, identity and circumstance. With skillful, wicked irony, Nevai poignantly evokes Crane's desperate childhood and fragile transformation, and creates a cast of sympathetic, memorable grotesques. (June)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780979419836
Publisher:
Tin House Books
Publication date:
05/28/2008
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.20(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Lucia Nevai is the author of Seriously, a novel, published by Little, Brown. Her short stories have appeared in Tin House, Iowa Review, Zoetrope All-Story, the New Yorker, Glimmer Train, and other literary magazines. Her first collection, Star Game, won the Iowa Short Fiction Award. Her second collection, Normal, was published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. A native of Des Moines, Iowa, she lives in upstate New York.

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