Christodoraby Tim Murphy
In this epic, ambitious, and deeply poignant novel, Tim Murphy follows a diverse group of people whose fates intertwine in an iconic building in Manhattan’s East Village, the Christodora. Moving kaleidoscopically from the Tompkins Square Riots and the activism of the 1980s to a future New York City of the 2020s where subzero winters are a thing of the past,
In this epic, ambitious, and deeply poignant novel, Tim Murphy follows a diverse group of people whose fates intertwine in an iconic building in Manhattan’s East Village, the Christodora. Moving kaleidoscopically from the Tompkins Square Riots and the activism of the 1980s to a future New York City of the 2020s where subzero winters are a thing of the past, Christodora recounts the heartbreak wrought by AIDS, portrays the allure and destructive power of hard drugs, and brings to life a bohemian Lower Manhattan of artists and idealists.
On Avenue B in the East Village, the Christodora is home to Milly and Jared, a privileged young couple with artistic ambitions. Their neighbor, Hector, a gay Puerto Rican man who was at one point celebrated for his work as an AIDS activist but has now descended into the throes of drug addiction, becomes connected to Milly and Jared’s lives in ways none of them can anticipate. Meanwhile, Milly and Jared’s adopted son Mateo grows to see the opportunity for both self-realization and oblivion offered by New York City. As the junkies and protestors of the 1980s give way to the hipsters of the 2000s and they in turn to the wealthy inhabitants of the glass towers of the 2020s, enormous changes rock the personal lives of Milly and Jared and the constellation of people around them.
Christodora is a panoramic novel that powerfully evokes the danger, chaos, and wonder of New York Cityand the strange and moving ways in which its dwellers’ lives can intersect.
Murphy’s (The Breeders Box) vivid account of the AIDS crisis and its aftermath centers on the venerable Christodora, a 16-story apartment building in New York’s East Village. Erected in 1928, the building has gone through as many changes as the neighborhood. Its current tenants include Jared and Milly, an artistic couple, and Mateo, their adopted son. Mateo, also an artist, is a drug addict (first trying heroin in 12th grade), which turns out to be a part of a complicated legacy of other characters: Hector, an early AIDS activist mourning the loss of his lover; Issy, a young woman who contracts AIDS and becomes pregnant; and Milly’s mother, Ava, an AIDS researcher with a history of mental illness. These characters witness the spread of AIDS, its ultimate politicization, and the attempts to first control and then eradicate the disease in the following decades. Mateo and the other surviving characters come together in an environmentally transformed Manhattan in 2021, where they have one final reckoning with the past. Murphy has written The Bonfire of the Vanities for the age of AIDS, using the same reportorial skills as Tom Wolfe to re-create the changing decades, complete with a pitch-perfect deployment of period detail. Skipping back and forth in time over 40 years, and projecting itself into the near future, the novel achieves a powerful evocation of the plague years. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Aug.)
Murphy, who has long reported on HIV/AIDS, LGBT issues, pop culture, travel, and the arts for a wide range of publications, here travels through New York City from the AIDS-scarred 1980s to the hipster-dominated 2000s to the wealth-drenched 2020s, all by focusing on a single East Village building and a well-bred and aspirational couple named Jared and Milly. With an eight-city tour.
An ambitious social novel informed by an extended perspective on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, from the early 1980s to the near future. Murphy, an experienced reporter on the disease, is plainly inspired by Larry Kramer, whose journalism thundered against anti-gay power structures and whose plays like The Normal Heart dramatized AIDS victims. In his novel, Murphy wants to bring Kramer's vision into the 21st century, though he goes about it with more artistry and less polemic. At the novel's center is Mateo, the adopted son of Milly and Jared, two affluent East Village artists (the title refers to the stately apartment building where they live). In 2009, just as Mateo is leaving high school, he begins a slow slide into heroin addiction, enabled by Hector, a former Christodora resident with a meth habit. Hector was formerly an activist focused on access to AIDS medications, Milly's mother worked for New York's health department when AIDS exploded, and that's just where the convenient coincidences begin. But if Murphy's characters can feel all too neatly arranged amid the plot, fracturing the novel's timeline—leaping from 2001 to 1995 to 1989 to 2021, etc.—helps make these connections more organic and unforced. And the author is expert at inhabiting a variety of mindsets, from Milly's bourgeois anxieties to Mateo's mother's despair as an HIV-positive Latina to Mateo's own capacity to manipulate people to feed his habit. Murphy's big theme is that drugs are a persistent and radically reshaping force, whether it's antiretrovirals, antidepressants, or crystal meth—and are chased after in almost equal measure in a search for a feeling of home. Murphy can't manage every plot thread with equal depth—Mateo's parents are comparatively wan figures. But when Mateo's at the center, as he often is, Murphy has a potent symbol of loss and redemption. A poignant, if carefully manicured, exploration of a health crisis that hasn't yet ended.
Praise for Christodora:
Longlisted for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
Named a Best Book of the Year by the Guardian
An Indie Next Selection
An Amazon Editors’ Top 100 Best Books of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Big Indie Book of Fall 2016
“A powerful novel about the AIDS crisis and its legacy . . . Hugely ambitious . . . [A] rich, complicated story . . . Murphy offers a compelling portrait of the community of activists that transformed queer life in the 1980s and ’90s . . . His depictions of the day-to-day business of activists and bureaucrats have uncommon authority. He vividly captures the diversity and tensions within the AIDS movement . . . No book has made me feel so intensely not just the ravages of AIDS but also the devastating cost of activism . . . Christodora recounts a crucial chapter in the history of queer life, which is to say in the history of American life. It’s also, for all the despair it documents, a book about hope.”Garth Greenwell, Washington Post
“[A] thrillingly accomplished novel . . . [The] varied minds and voices are realized so convincingly that Christodora sometimes seems the product of spirit possession. And it is joyous despite its subject matter . . . Murphy’s skills are most nakedly on display as he describes the addictions in which Mateo and others find solace, and their electrical-shocking, soul-warping, mind-annihilating trips . . . Desperately intense, it is the kind of scene that requires putting a book down for a moment to take a breather.”New York Times Book Review
“A rich and complicated New York saga . . . An exciting read . . . Christodora has the scope of other New York epics, such as Bonfire of the Vanities, The Goldfinch and City on Fire . . . Capacious yet streamlined, it is a very fine book.”Newsday
“An ambitious, time-traveling novel textured with the detail and depth of a writer who spent years reporting from the front.”New York (8 Books You Need to Read This August)
“In the East Village, the Christodora has long symbolized gentrification, luring well-heeled professionals (and celebrities like Iggy Pop, Julia Stiles and Vincent D’Onofrio) to a once-gritty neighborhood that was a hotbed of boundary-pushing art and transgressive lifestyles. The building’s totemic power is a driving force in Christodora . . . A sprawling social novel in the Tom Wolfe tradition.”New York Times (Style)
“Christodora . . . has got it all: drugs, sex, music, race, class, art, activism, adoption, and tears . . . [Murphy’s] prose has an easy, fluent style . . . He’s good at building scenes into dramatic, sometimes scary climaxes. He’s especially vivid on the subject of drug addiction . . . Christodora is itself a response to that isolation instinctit’s a graceful reaching-out following what must have been, for the author, a long and tortuous reaching-within.”Slate
“[I] fell hard for Tim Murphy’s Christodora . . . A sprawling account of New York lives under the long shadow of AIDS, it deals beautifully with the drugs that save us and the drugs that don’t.”Guardian (Best Books of 2016)
“[A] brilliantly sprawling period novel about New York in the age of AIDS . . . Richly populated and delicately nuanced, Christodora seems poised to . . . take its place on any bookshelf of literary classics about New York City.”Village Voice
“Murphy isn’t only a ‘gay writer,’ as evidenced in his skillfully written and highly readable new novel, Christodora. He transcends such labels, writing beautifully of the human condition and on issues that touch many of our lives. Modern-day struggles with addiction, mental illness, as well as the AIDS pandemic, are written about with skill and sensitivity.”Advocate
“[An] ambitious novel . . . Powerful and compelling. It feels deeply relevant even when it covers events set several decades in the past . . . This is a novel that abounds with ambition, but it largely succeeds in grappling with a host of grand themes.”Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[A] must-read . . . Murphy masterfully unpacks issues of family, identity, and home across the kaleidoscopic-life stories of his characters.”Out.com
“A big old-fashioned epic novel . . . One of the most ambitious novels I’ve read in a long time . . . The book just has tons of twists and turns all the way up to the end and you just have to keep reading.”RoundTable, WAMC/Northeast Public Radio (Book Picks)
“Christodora . . . [is] this year’s most ambitious and devastating contribution to the New York City realist novel . . . It’s the beauty of [Murphy’s] storytelling that anchors this all-encompassing novel . . . It’s the rare kind of book that not only stays with you, but haunts your entire neighborhood after you read it . . . Christodora is a massive achievement.”Interview
“Christodora is a page-turner, the sort of sprawling novel that most people refer to as Dickensian. It is written in a heated spirit of urgency . . . Murphy has an imaginative talent for exploring the subjectivities of his characters . . . Murphy’s rough, passionate, splatter-the-walls style is filled to bursting with a reporter’s interest in different people’s lives and a novelist’s tough-tender intuition about what goes on inside their heads.”Brooklyn Magazine
“The novel captures monumental neighborhood moments as it traverses the 1980s and ’90s straight into the early 2020s. The early gentrification of the area . . . and the AIDS epidemic all figure centrally in the novel, and it’s a subject Murphy is well-versed on.”Bedford + Bowery
“Christodora locates pleasure in the interstices of seemingly multiplying apocalypses . . . The novel deftly navigates an interconnected cast of Dickensian intricacy . . . resulting in a convincingly rendered portrayal of the textures and rhythms of New York City, past and future . . . Even in his characters’ lowest moments, Murphy’s writing exudes exuberance . . . Murphy allows us to see how AIDS has rippled out from its locus to irrevocably affect the very fabric of society . . . Christodora amounts to much more than a New York novel . . . Christodora is an accomplishment.”ZYZZYVA
“Epic in scope, [Christodora] cannily grapples with many of the seminal touchstones of contemporary New York City life . . . Murphy is a gifted writer . . . For those invested in HIV/AIDS, and the ongoing response, Christodora is a must read. It is the work of fiction many within the movement have been waiting for . . . What emerges is imagination and experience refracting onto the page. It is a beautifuland often painfulsight to behold.”Lambda Literary
“Several times a year, a few books are published that are so compelling and immersive they simply demand the unadulterated free time of the reader. Tim Murphy’s Christodora is one of those powerful, ambitious sagas . . . Murphy has truly outdone himself with a perceptive and accomplished novel that is captivating and immensely entertaining.”Bay Area Reporter
“This is in severe contention for my Favorite Book of 2016 . . . This sweeping tale of AIDS activists and the incredible changes they inspired is heart-wrenching, hopeful and beautiful . . . Pick it up immediately!”Book Riot (The Best Books We Read in July 2016)
“Massive and fearless . . . A sweeping and moving novel filled with vivid and complex characters who engender empathy and affection . . . Murphy’s epic family saga acts as a microcosm of the massive changes in New York City over four decades . . . Christodora is an epic told with compassion, surprising humor and a strong sense of history and pacing.”Shelf Awareness
“[A] perceptive debut novel . . . Murphy vividly recaptures 1980s and ’90s New York, dampening any pop-culture nostalgia with reminders of the crude pharmacology and callous bureaucracy imposed upon those struggling with AIDS . . . His multigenerational tale is a clever inversion of the usual addiction-begets-AIDs narrative . . . It never wavers in its warmth toward its characters, or its insistence upon the possibility of healing.”Booklist (starred review)
“[A] vivid account of the AIDS crisis and its aftermath . . . Murphy has written The Bonfire of the Vanities for the age of AIDS, using the same reportorial skills as Tom Wolfe to re-create the changing decades, complete with a pitch-perfect deployment of period detail. Skipping back and forth in time over 40 years, and projecting itself into the near future, the novel achieves a powerful evocation of the plague years.”Publishers Weekly
“An ambitious social novel informed by an extended perspective on the HIV/AIDS epidemic . . . In his debut novel, Murphy wants to bring [Larry] Kramer’s vision into the 21st century, though he goes about it with more artistry and less polemic . . . A poignant . . . exploration of a health crisis that hasn’t yet ended.”Kirkus Reviews
“Murphy . . . travels through New York City from the AIDS-scarred 1980s to the hipster-dominated 2000s to the wealth-drenched 2020s, all by focusing on a single East Village building.”Library Journal
“Tim Murphy’s book is a masterful and panoramic story of New York City and the East Village from the 1980s to the present.”Ira Sachs
“Christodora tells a compelling story of family, friendship, love, and loss that spans decades, but manages to fully immerse you in an important and difficult time in downtown Manhattan . . . [An] outstanding book.”Cary Fukunaga
“An impassioned, big-hearted, and ultimately hopeful chronicle of a changing New York that authoritatively evokes the despair and panic in the city at the height of the plague.”Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life
“A moving portrait of New York in the time of AIDS, Tim Murphy’s honest and insightful writing gives Christodora a particular vibrancy that causes the characters to leap, whole, into the reader’s imagination. This spectacular novel is an important addition to literature that captures New York in all its glory and despair.”Candace Bushnell
“An intimate portrait of a bohemian family, Christodora is also a capacious historical novel that vividly recreates the lost world of downtown Manhattan in the eightiesa nuanced portrait of an era in which artists were unwitting agents of gentrification and the bright dawn of gay liberation was brutally interrupted by the AIDS epidemic.”Jay McInerney
“An exuberant, ambitious, funny, gorgeously written epic, Tim Murphy’s Christodora not only makes us privy to the most intimate secrets and dreams of a group of unforgettable diverse characters, this brilliant tale also sweeps us up into the spirit of our age, from the AIDS crisis to now and even into the future, so that we can see and feel the devastating effects of time as it changes us forever.”James Hannaham, author of Delicious Foods
“Every once in a while a writer truly gets this town with its buffet of hipsters, crazy characters, and endearing troublemakers. Christodora is a bit of Tom Wolfe, a streamlined City on Fire, and, well, something special and all its own. Tim Murphysmart, perceptive, and streetwiseis an author with a dazzling eye and ear who delivers a real New York narrative with an absorbing storyline and a gallery of characters fit for a twenty-first century Manhattan mural. It came, I sat, I read and read. I emerged completely satisfied.”George Hodgman, New York Times bestselling author of Bettyville
“Murphy dives into the story of one of the East Village’s most storied buildingsand returns with a moving novel, a love letter to the complicated families we make here in New York, and to the city itself.”Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night
“Breathtaking . . . Murphy has created a sprawling, intimate historical novel. It is a powerful and rewarding reading experience . . . One of the finest novels we are likely to encounter this year.”Toronto Star
“[An] outstanding and judicious novel . . . A breathtakingly vibrant and nuanced portrait of a diverse family of characters . . . This . . . panoramic saga feels lithe and refreshingly current . . . The most exciting New York novel since Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.”Attitude, “Book of the Month” (UK)
“Tim Murphy’s lively new novel of late 20th-century New York packs it inAIDS, activism, art, addiction: you name it . . . Murphy injects fresh vim into this tale . . . Murphy jumps back and forth through the decades here, creating a fractured structure that neatly reflects the fractured lives of those caught up in the epidemic and its aftermath.”Daily Mail (UK)
“[An] ambitious novel . . . Murphy’s characters are fresh and complex . . . But where he really excels is in evoking the despair, panic and anger that swept the city as HIV/AIDS was discovered and developed into an epidemic . . . Intelligent and absorbing, ingeniously structured and steeped in the deepest empathy . . . Epic in scope . . . A tremendous achievement.”Winq (UK)
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Meet the Author
Tim Murphy has reported on HIV/AIDS for twenty years, for such publications as POZ Magazine, where he was an editor and staff writer, Out, Advocate, and New York magazine, where his July 2014 cover story on the new HIV-prevention pill regimen PrEP was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Magazine Journalism. He also covers LGBT issues, arts, pop culture, and travel for publications including the New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Details, and Yahoo! Style. He is the author of Getting Off Clean and The Breeders Box. He lives in Brooklyn.
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I couldn't put this book down. The interlocking stories kept me so interested. There were parts that made me happy and others that were dark and haunting and I felt so connected to the characters..especially Mateo. It was fascinating hearing about the AIDS epidemic and how far our society has come since the 80s. This was a great read and one that I couldnt stop thinking about even after I had finished it. Definitely would recommend.
About damn time I had a five star read!!!! Tim Murphy has done an excellent job showing us what the AIDS crises looked like in 1984 and beyond.
What a journey I have just been on while reading this book. A journey that spanned over 40 years and introduced me to many of the people who lived in a building called the Christodora. It's amazing how the author intertwined their lives in and out those 40 years. A lot of the book dealt with AIDS and drugs. It really delves into the issues of why it took so long to come up with a cure and why the disease wasn't recognized. And what people had to go through before it became so. I remember this time somewhat. I was pregnant in 1988 and one of my very good friends had AIDS. He was dying and I could not go see him to tell him goodbye. No one knew a lot about this disease and I could not subject my unborn child to it. It still tears me apart. It also dealt with the issues of drugs becoming commonplace in the 1980's and how talented and intelligent people can willing use and accept them to "escape". Actually, there are so many other issues that this book dealt with as well. I just know that I spent a whole day with these characters and I was mesmerized. I could not put the book down. I was so sad when it ended. I was not ready to say goodbye to these people. I knew these people, They had become a part of my life. My emotions for some of them changed so many times during my journey. I just can't say it enough how much I enjoyed reading and spending the day with this book. I highly recommend it. It was wonderfully written and it really appealed to me in so many ways. Thanks Grove Atlantic and Net Galley for the free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.