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Fault Lines Paperback – October 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Winner of France's Prix Femina and shortlisted for the Orange Prize, Huston's 12th novel captures four generations of a family and examines the decades-long fallout of a dark family secret. The novel proceeds in reverse chronological order from 2004 to 1944 and begins with six-year-old Sol, who is sheltered and coddled by his mother as he immerses himself in all the perversities the Internet can offer. After surgery to remove Sol's congenital birthmark turns out poorly, the extended family takes a trip to great-grandmother Erra's childhood home in Munich. A turbulent history underlies the visit, and after Sol witnesses a tussle between his great-grandmother and great-aunt, the novel skips backwards in time through the childhood of Sol's father, Randall; grandmother Sadie; and finally Erra. Huston's brilliance is in how she gradually lets the reader in on the secret and draws out the revelation so carefully that by the time the reader arrives at the heart of the matter in Munich 1944, the discovery hits with blunt force. Huston masterfully links the 20th century's misery to 21st-century discomfort in razor-sharp portraits of children as they lose their innocence. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Winner of France’s Prix Femina and short-listed for the Orange Prize, Huston’s riveting novel traces the origins of one family’s tragic secret through four generations, beginning in California in 2004 and winding backward in time to Germany during World War II. Told in four sections, each narrated by a child, the story begins with the gifted Sol, whose hyperactive prose conveys both his acute intelligence and his neurotic behavior. Overprotected by his mother, he’s not quite sure how to process what he sees and feels, specifically the fraught relationship between his father, Randall, and his grandmother, Sadie, which stands in such stark contrast to the warmth and affection that flow between his father and his great-grandmother, Erra. A family trip to Erra’s childhood home in Munich reveals more of the puzzle as Erra, a famed singer with a vibrant personality, becomes more and more withdrawn as she approaches her destination. Each succeeding section, narrated in turn by Randall, Sadie, and Erra, brings the reader closer to the lie that has so warped the family dynamics and put in place the dysfunctional emotional patterns that will haunt them for years. Huston’s powerful novel combines the pacing of a thriller with the emotional intricacies that are the hallmark of the best family stories. --Joanne Wilkinson

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat (October 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080217051X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170514
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,080,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

65 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Felixa: on February 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
I grew up a child in Nazi Germany, therefore perhaps look at this novel with a more critical eye. After the first few pages bored me, and the little protagonist Sol disgusted me, I came across the word, Lebensborn, and curious, I read on. (for more information on the subject, go to [...])

I sadly could not connect. I found Huston's description of children unnatural, while some of their childish thoughts struck me as real. There is a contradiction in her writing that makes for arduous reading. Yet, sprinkled through the pages are passages of lyrical and magical prose. The last two segments of Sadie and then Krystina-Erra flowed better and the characters were driven by love. Love is an important ingredient in any book. It seems to me that the writer, despite her many prizes, had missed out on doing research. Her editors must be blamed as well. It is a novel, fiction, but since it deals with an important period of history, it should be accurate and researched. Examples: No one drank hot chocolate in the spring of 1945 (chocolate in any shape had not been available for years), no one had a big fat hunk of pork-bone to eat, the weather was not icy cold as January tends to be, but in 1945 it happened to be one of the warmest Januaries, however, Huston describes it as bitter-cold. After the bombing raid on Dresden, the worst on the 13th and subsequent one on the 14th of February, not as she limits the raid to Valentine's Day--when approximately 100,000 - 300,000 people died--the weather was like spring. My father's family camped out--safe from bombs in Dresden--in the open hills, since the weather was so warm. The Americans entered Saxony in April, not in June, and withdrew in July, ceding this part of Germany to the Russians.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By M. C. Crammer VINE VOICE on May 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
I won't describe the plot since so many others have done that.

First, I would advise reading it from back to front, reversing the order in which it was written so that you end up hearing the story in chronological order, not reverse chronology (going further back in time with each of the four sections). There was no advantage (or art) to doing it that way, and you didn't know as you read what might be important as you got further into the book (what happened to certain characters).

The children were utterly unbelievable and on the whole, the characters, including the children, were unlikable. Please, give me a character or two I can like!

Even more troubling for me (as a history major) was the author's ignorance of the periods she was writing about. For example, I personally find it hard to believe that a German facility during World War II bent on teaching Polish children to be German children would teach them to sing "Jingle Bells"! Aside from it not being a German carol (and there are lots of German Christmas carols), raising the question of whether they were trying to teach the children to be German or American, during a war people are unlikely to sing their enemy's songs!

Other mistakes had to do with the child in Toronto in 1962 (a year in which I was a child in the US). Six year olds (then or now) do not learn ballet wearing uncomfortable "pointe" shoes -- no way. They wear (wore) leather slippers -- aside from en pointe dancing damaging the feet of small children, their feet simply aren't strong enough yet to dance en pointe.

Brownies do not earn badges, and even when they get older, the badges are not given to the best in a competition -- they simply represent achievements of mastering skills.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mary Reinert on January 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book definitely got better as I got into it; in fact, I almost put it down during the first chapter. A six year old with a mind like Sol's is very disturbing and not even realistic. However, as the stories of the father and grandmothers were told, I found myself hooked.

War is messy and creates messy situations, events and families. I have never read about the Germanization of stolen children under the Nazis. This provides a fascinating read to anyone interested in stories of WWII; however, I must agree with some of the reviewers who pointed out the lack of connection with the characters. I did immediately go back to the first and reread parts that took on much more significance after I knew the ending.

Perhaps this story also demonstrates the profound effect mothers have on their children even when they aren't a part of their lives. I found this book interesting, readable, and thought provoking. I just wish I would have liked these people a bit better, but maybe that's the point: each generation was doomed to carry the baggage accumulated by those that came before them.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By OrchidSlayer VINE VOICE on July 31, 2008
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is written in a very interesting style: four different sections allow you to experience four generations of a family, each character when they were age six. Through the four separate stories, you see how each generation has formed the one that comes after it.

It starts with the youngest, a very spoiled and self-absorbed child, Sol, whose mother dotes on him and has taught him to believe that he is destined for greatness and is pretty much the center of the universe. We are also introduced to the other generations; his father Randall, grandmother Sadie, and great-grandmother Erra. Because of the unique format of the book, we form opinions of each character by seeing their interaction with the generations before and after them, but only by later reading about their own 6th year of life can we understand why they are the way they are.

Although I was sometimes a little confused by the "backwards" storytelling and had to flip toward the front of the book to re-read some parts, I liked the concept and thought it was much more interesting than if the story line had gone from Erra in 1944 to Sol in 2004. The characters still had the same strengths and weaknesses, but the hidden history was much more powerful than a "straight" novel would have been.

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