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And the Word Was Paperback – April 17, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bauman's ambitious, uneven debut novel travels from New York to India to explore overwhelming loss, faith and belonging. Neil Downs is a Jewish emergency room physician whose only son, Castor, is shot in a Columbine-like massacre and then dies under Neil's care. Further complicating the tragedy is the possibility that Neil's wife, Sarah, a painter, may have cheated on him with a famous artist at the time of their son's murder. Unable to cope with Castor's death and the ensuing media frenzy, Neil flees to New Delhi, where his friend Charlie Bedrosian, the American ambassador, gives him a job as embassy physician. There he searches out Levi Furstenblum, a Holocaust survivor whose writings serve as a kind of guidebook for angry bereavement. Neil also falls into an affair with Holika, a beautiful, well-connected Indian woman whose politics challenge Indian social mores. With these new companions, Neil searches for meaningful direction for his life amid the brutal poverty of New Delhi. At its best, Bauman's prose evokes with a staccato fierceness Neil's alienation and desperate need to find meaning. At other times, Bauman relies on clichés ("How could I have been so blind," Neil utters during one crucial exchange) that sink the novel in melodrama. Despite the bumpy narrative, the book explores some difficult emotional and theological territory. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Bauman's first novel is a magnificent debut, smart and intense, but accessible and riveting. Its central character, Neil Downs, is embraceable and human, a doctor for all the right reasons; and though he has led a good life, it is overturned by a random act of violence. His treasured young son, a brilliant and lovable pre-teen, is gunned down in a school shooting, and Downs finds later that day that his wife has betrayed him. When Downs' medical expertise cannot save his son and his spirituality cannot save his faith in his marriage, he turns to the universe in utter despair and moves to India, hoping to find either oblivion or hope. What he finds is a fascinating play of world politics encompassing a wide cast of characters. This story at first seems a strange foil for his internal turmoil, but as the two plots weave together, the connections become clearer. The binding thread of this narrative is the integration of suffering into one's worldview. Downs' favorite writer, Holocaust survivor Levi Furstenblum, denies all meaning in the universe, and his writings are interspersed within the book and espoused in real conversations between him and Downs, since Furstenblum is now living in India. In the end, the world does turn again, for all the characters, and the resolution is hopeful and fulfilling. This is simply a great novel, and hopefully only the first in what will be many more from the author. Debi Lewis
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (April 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590512243
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590512241
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,594,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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See all 11 customer reviews
The prose is incisive and satirical which complements the emotional journeys of his vivid characters.
M. Carter
Bauman draws realistic three-dimensional characters as he tells intertwining stories wrapped around a compelling central plot.
Gary Commins
Even the matter of perception plays a critical role especially when cultural differences come into play.
Med Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Classics girl on June 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is an absorbing tale that picks you up like a tornado and drops you down into the main character's very contemporary life. His deep feelings for his wife and son are movingly portrayed. I like that the author doesn't shrink from truth even when it punctures the received sanctimony. I also enjoyed this book's layers - political, philosophical, and emotional - and the biting satire. I'm going to suggest this novel to my book group because there's so much in it that I'd like to talk about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Susan Henderson on January 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I like books that grapple with the big, unanswerable questions. Bruce Bauman's And the Word Was (Other Press) asks this: "How much must you love god to accept Auschwitz? Or whatever happened to you? To accept that god exists after that?"

Neil Downs, an ER doctor living in NYC loses his only child in a Columbine-like school shooting. Unable to save his son in his own ER, he waits hours for his wife to arrive, learning then that she had spent the day with another man. In a tailspin against which his Judaism seems useless, he flees to India, not to set off on a spiritual quest so much as to become lost in a place as different and far way as he can imagine.

Downs seeks out one person there: his favorite author, the controversial Levi Furstenblum. A Holocaust survivor who lost his wife and child in Auschwitz, Furstenblum later penned (among other works quoted within this novel) the chilling and satirical novella, "Chamber of Commerce" --a story about Hitler's winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Downs hopes to learn from the cranky and reclusive Furstenblum how to persevere in what seems to be a cruel, meaningless world. Instead, his mentor teaches him a powerful lesson about the anguish of victims mirroring the hate of their oppressors. Downs faces a number of other challenges as the story progresses: a dogged media, a lawsuit filed against him by the parents of one of the gun-wielding students, an affair with an activist named Holika, and a surprising revelation from his grieving wife whom he'd hoped to stop loving. The triumph of this book is its ultimate hopefulness without any pat answers. Downs' spirituality remains elusive but life continues to engage him, and he has not lost his ability to love. He's retained enough, at least, to manage the pain and uncertainty of life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gary Commins on October 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have rarely read a novel that has stayed with me for so long afterwards. And the Word Was is richly textured, engrossing, and deeply satisfying. Bauman draws realistic three-dimensional characters as he tells intertwining stories wrapped around a compelling central plot. He convincingly conveys the morass of Neil Downs' feelings as Downs wades through life shattered by grief, mistrust, and misunderstanding. Within the context of the story, Bauman links Downs' personal tragedy with the Holocaust and the archetypal story of Abraham and Isaac, raising the philosophical and spiritual stakes to their highest level. To read a book of such depth while still finding surprising plot twists is a rare treat. Bauman generates sympathy for Downs and a passionate interest in seeing where Downs' personal search for healing and his philosophical quest for meaning will lead him. Simply, it is the best novel I have read in a long time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Heather Miles on April 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Neil Downs' escape from and search for answers brilliantly emblematizes the human condition. His character moves through layers of paradox: beauty and bitterness, nurture and apathy, spirituality and emptiness. It's storytelling at its finest. There's something in this novel for everyone: philosophy, history, love, loss, politics, art, sensuality; even a hint of baseball for those of us who still revere the sport. A sad and sophisticated meditation with moments of hope, "where the least articulate mumbler to the most able versifier is in possession of the same interminable ache." It's a smart, smart book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Passionate Reader on April 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This compelling, tightly written novel chronicles Dr. Neil Downs as he copes with the shocking death of his son and the betrayal of his wife. Set with eloquent and honest beauty in Delhi, India, this novel is well paced and deeply challenges the reader's assumptions on the nature of God and the meaning of life. It is a brilliant book that quite simply deserves a space on everyone's bookshelf.
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Format: Hardcover
Bauman is amazing in putting forward a modern and fascinating story deeply rooted with passion and emotion towards the real issues of life and the soul. The story line is absolutely captivating and clear. Nothing is left untouched; issues of life, death, faith, relationships, medicine, legal drama and humanity are explored and experienced. Even the matter of perception plays a critical role especially when cultural differences come into play. This is a good book for readers who love stories about life and hold interests in culture, drama with happy endings, straightforward dialogue and even medicine. I am a medical student at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Happy readings...
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