…Christensen has…created a captivatingly believable male narrator…creating a voice so rich with the peculiar timbre of lived experience that you feel as though she's introduced you to a witty, deeply frustrated (and frustrating) new friend…a passionate, sexist, loving, complex man named Harry Quirk. Alive, like us. Go meet him.
The Washington Post
On the best of 2011 list. "A satisfying redoing of a man undone." - Booklist
Starred Review. "...unremittingly wonderful…Christensen takes a singular, genuine story and blows it up into a smart inquiry into the nature of love and the commitments we make..." - Publishers Weekly
"Christensen succeeds impressively in inhabiting Harry's point of view. Donald Corran brings Christensen's large cast of characters, of which Brooklyn itself is one, to vivid, eccentric life." - AudioFile Magazine
"A masterpiece of comedy and angst." - Kirkus Reviews
"...sharp, perceptive...provoking and at times profoundly moving...succeeds in its fond descriptions of a neighborhood virtually unknown outside of New York." - The Associated Press
"Kate Christensen’s insights into the psyche of a middle-aged banished husband are astonishing...she has surpassed herself as a writer...a middle-aged male perspective that feel as true as anything written by Philip Roth or John Updike." - New York Journal of Books
"She's a spectacular author who's only beginning to get the attention she so richly deserves...Her style is unique in that her work is more based on fascinating and real - maybe too real - characters rather than upon on the same three or four basic plots we've seen a million times...Christensen is amazing at capturing male voices and desires...I can't wait to see how Christensen's work develops over the coming decades. She has the makings of a major American author. Her storytelling derives organically from a firm grasp of characterization and how people work, flaws and all. The Astral, artfully composed and emotionally tender, is evidence of true literary genius." - Miami Herald
"***** Editor’s Pick." - eMusic
"...lovely, hilarious...From the precision with which she dissects her characters' foibles to the Brooklyn landscapes she brings to vivid life, Christensen's meditation on marriage is viewed through a poet's eye, and tempered at times with a satirist's soul." - Barnes and Noble Review
"Kate Christensen is a gifted novelist who knows how to deliver the goods when it comes to ruefully funny, bittersweet character sketches." - Christian Science Monitor, "11 Excellent Novels for Summer"
"Christensen is a forceful writer whose talent is all over the page. Her prose is visceral and poetic..." - The Salt Lake Tribune
"...a wonderful investigation of the pitfalls that arise in even the longest of marriages...Christensen's prose is clean and her characters enthralling." - The Denver Post
"The Astral is Kate Christensen at the pinnacle of her craft...an unashamedly bittersweet comedy of manners..." - Anniston Star
"Readers will be sucked into extremely realistic familial dramas while Christensen perfectly captures her Brooklyn backdrop…With acute perception and witty humor, this bittersweet novel moves along at a tremendous pace, entertaining until its climactic final scene." - BookPage
"Christensen writes incredibly beautiful narrative...Her dialogue rings realistic...masterful characterization...a stellar read. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys strong character-driven novels." - Lit Stack
"A genial, smart, gently satirical tale of the joys and woes of bougie New York life." - The Millions
"...the best Brooklyn novel...Christensen’s best take ever on the human heart...fascinating." - Three Guys One Book
The Astral, a big, rose-hued apartment building in Brooklyn, NY, has long been home to poet Harry Quirk and his family. But Harry's wife, Luz, has discovered poems that seem to confirm her suspicions of infidelity, and she's tossed him out. Harry, sensing that he's failed as a poet, husband, and father (son Hector is trapped in a crazy Christian cult), decides to straighten out. This latest from Christensen arrives with some promise, as her recent The Great Man won a PEN Faulkner Award. This could be a real charmer; watch.
Christensen (Trouble, 2009, etc.) knows her way around aging characters. Having won the PEN/Faulkner Award for her lively septuagenarians inThe Great Man (2007), she now creates a charmingly ribald bohemian poet flailing about in late middle age.
The title refers to the apartment building where Harry Quirk and his wife Luz, a devoutly Catholic Mexican nurse, have lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, for all of their 30-year marriage. Now Luz has kicked Harry out and burnt his latest manuscript of poetry—eschewing popular trends, he writes in rhyme and meter—because she thinks his love poems are proof that he's been carrying on an affair with his friend Marion. Righteously claiming the poems are written to an imaginary woman, he fights hard to convince Luz of his fidelity and win her back. Meanwhile, he hangs out in his Greenpoint neighborhood, finds work at a Hasidic lumberyard where he's the only non-Jew, drinks at his local bars, visits Marion and discusses why they have never been and never will be lovers and moves from living space to living space until he ends up staying with his daughter Karina, a 25-year-old vegan dumpster-diving activist. He and Karina make visits to Karina's older brother Hector, always Luz's favorite, who has abandoned her Catholicism and joined a Christian cult led by a sexy charlatan who plans to marry Hector. While Harry wanders through his days, drinking, conversing, picking fights, trying to talk to Luz, who says she wants a divorce and won't see him, his Brooklyn world of aging bohemians comes vividly to life. There's not a lot of active plot here, but each minor character is a gem. As for Harry, by the time he faces the truth about his marriage and finds a measure of hard-earned happiness, or at least self-awareness, he has won the reader's heart. He's a larger-than-life, endearing fool.
A masterpiece of comedy and angst. Think Gulley Jimson of Joyce Cary'sThe Horses Mouthtransported from 1930s London to present-day Brooklyn.