The Frequency of Souls

( 2 )


George Mahoney suspects he is getting a little stale at redesigning refrigerators, after fourteen years in the same job. With the arrival of his new office mate, Niagara Spense, George is forced to re-evaluate everything in his life from love and family, to science itself. Obsessed by the six feet tall Niagara, the very foundations of George’s belief in facts and the physical world are shaken when she reveals that she is on an incredible quest for electrical evidence of life after death—“audible fossils” she ...

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The Frequency of Souls: A Novel

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George Mahoney suspects he is getting a little stale at redesigning refrigerators, after fourteen years in the same job. With the arrival of his new office mate, Niagara Spense, George is forced to re-evaluate everything in his life from love and family, to science itself. Obsessed by the six feet tall Niagara, the very foundations of George’s belief in facts and the physical world are shaken when she reveals that she is on an incredible quest for electrical evidence of life after death—“audible fossils” she calls them. As Niagara Spense seeks the dead, and George seeks her, everything suddenly becomes possible in a novel that makes engineering funny, and mixes the world of icemakers and buttersofteners with the miraculous.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Beguiling and wildly inventive...A funny and wholly original love story that weds the everyday to the supernatural." --Chicago Tribune

"Read this book! Zuravleff fashions small moments of comic wonder in this novel of family and FM frequencies, magic and flirting, metaphysics and doughnuts." --San Diego Tribune

"Engaging...Zuravleff's insightful yet gentle rendering of the absurd [allows] readers to connect fully with her quirky and endearing characters." --The New York Times Book Review

"Page after page, the descriptions of the novel are laugh-out- loud funny. Smart and refreshingly tender...with a stylish ebullience reminiscent of Anne Tyler." --News & Observer (Raleigh)

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Zuravleff's impressive literary debut is as unassuming as its hero, mild-mannered engineer George Mahoney, whose wife describes him as "a textbook passive-passive." At 39, George embarks upon a tentative voyage of self-discovery when he develops an unlikely crush on his awkward office mate, Niagara Spense, who wears a hearing aid, sews her own ill-fitting dresses and is the complete antithesis of his attractive and hyper-organized spouse, Judy. One of Niagara's chief attractions is that she views her job designing Coldpoint refrigerators as a prosaic way to support her quest to hear and record the electrical sound waves of the dead. Set in Washington, D.C., this comedy of manners revolves around quirky, domestic details: George's lifelong passion for dinosaurs; Judy's single-minded attempts to control the weight problem of their son, Harris; and Harris's entry in the school science fair. Zuravleff is a clever and entertaining writer with an eagle eye for the farcical aspects of mating and marriage. Perhaps she too carefully rations offbeat traits one to a character-as if a sprinkling of eccentricities might distract the reader from the basic characterizations. But that doesn't muffle the success with which she portrays how George finds it in himself to bring an engaged wonder to everyday life. (June)
Library Journal
George Mahoney is a refrigerator engineer, married with two children, whose routine life is ready for a change when Niagara Spense is hired to replace a retired engineer called the Veteran. Niagara is a hefty, six-foot-tall woman who wears outrageous clothes and does not cover up the fact that she wears a hearing aid. She spends every moment outside the office in a trailer she has converted into a laboratory listening for the voices of deceased people she feels convinced are carried over sound waves. George is a witness to her successful theory when the Veteran, who dies shortly after his retirement, speaks to them over her radio. George's obsession with Niagara leads him to discover not only the truth about his own past from his deceased family but also the significance of his voice as a husband and father. Pulled together with heartfelt and humorous situations and characters, this delightful first novel keeps us entertained to the very last page. Recommended for all collections.-David A. Beron, Westbrook Coll. Lib., Portland, Me.
Kirkus Reviews
Polished first novel toying with the possibility that dead souls are all around us, "broadcasting" at weak radio frequencies.

That, at least, is Zuravleff's premise, but actually her story is mostly about George Mahoney, an engineer working for a company called Coldpoint. George is a walking dead man. He has labored for 14 years on "improvements" for refrigerators—his triumph having been the first ice maker—but now he spends all of his time fending off his foulmouthed boss and trying to avoid the "Veteran," his taciturn, burnt-out officemate. And there's trouble at home: a meticulously organized, fiercely middle-class wife who seems increasingly rigid and unimaginative, and a troubled young son who is either brilliant or disturbed. The Veteran is forced into retirement, and a homely engineer with a hearing aid, Niagara Spense, takes his place. Niagara could excel in academic life except that she'd be labeled a crackpot, since her research involves using old radios to listen in on the dead. George falls in love with her, but he merely bemuses her since she's fallen for the Veteran's son, a rock musician who also seeks to commune with the dead. Jealous George breaks into Niagara's home and, bent on sabotage, accidentally tunes in his dead mother. What she says is so startling that George's life flops over completely: He sheds the guilt his mother long ago imposed, realizes how foolish an affair with Niagara would be, and, after his son wins the science fair with an ingenious refrigeration project, comes up with the best idea he's had in years.

Zuravleff backs off from her dead souls theme just when it becomes interesting. Nonetheless, her narrative offers a wry and original meditation on office politics, midlife crisis, and even mortality. Thumbs most of the way up.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312424855
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 5/1/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,155,247
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Kay Zuravleff is the author of The Bowl Is Already Broken. A former editor of books and exhibition texts for the Smithsonian Institution, she lives in Washington, D.C., with her family.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2014

    Creative and engaging

    How did the author think it up? I loved this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2010

    I found myself loving this book

    I read this book and thought that there was something so interesting and special about it. It was a little dark and sad, but yet a love story. If you a feeling trapped or in a rut, this book is a great escape to see how these characters got out of that and took risks. I have recommended this book to a lot of people. It is a very quirky read, but well worth it, and short too. I think this book will be something that stays on my shelf for a while. It really resonated with me at a weirdly deep level!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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