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Sea of Hooks (PEN Center USA Fiction Award) Hardcover – November 1, 2013


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Sea of Hooks (PEN Center USA Fiction Award) + The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) (National Book Critics Circle Award: Fiction Finalists)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 349 pages
  • Publisher: McPherson & Company; First Edition, Second Printing edition (November 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1620540061
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620540060
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #170,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This first novel by poet and one-time banker Hill is less a novel, in the traditional sense, than a spiritual biography. Christopher Westall, raised in San Francisco in the 1950s and heady '60s, is the only child of an alcoholic and distant father and an eccentric, meddling mother. The boy is alarmingly fragile and sensitive, and possessed by a soaring imagination and a slew of fascinating theories about sound, ice, knife people under his bed, and, most significantly, a world from which messengers communicate with him via random detritus he picks up in the street—slips of paper, foil from cigarette packs, etc. These he orders into a fantasy world. Repeated sexual abuse by a tutor makes escapism even more urgent for the 12-year-old, as do subsequent tragedies: his mother's suicide in his bed; his father's career misfortunes and early death. Not until Christopher is befriended by an older man named Dr. Thorn does a kind of mentoring occur; indeed, Dr. Thorn's counsel—and final messages—delivers Christopher to a form of peace, achieved through the practice of Buddhism and a pilgrimage to Bhutan when the latter is an adult. But it is Hill's language that dominates this story, which is told in fractured bits, not unlike the messengers. Christopher's mediations on death, memory, the relations of bones to the self, not to mention rain and snow and fog and the cosmos, are mystical, highly poetic and musically rendered—an almost impossibly sustained performance from beginning to end. Nearly every paragraph astonishes, every moment rich with magic and daring. Reminiscent of Robert Pirsig and Herman Hesse in its concern with authenticity, Sea of Hooks also has the unbearable anguish of Kafka's diaries—making for an unforgettable trip. (Nov.)

From Booklist

Christopher Westall was an awkward child with parents who never understood him and never took the time to try. Marked by odd hobbies and strange mannerisms, he rarely made friends, and though he did find some sympathetic allies to assist along the way, all too often his childhood was plagued by tragedies that shaped him in unpredictable ways. Now a young man, he is traveling to Bhutan in the wake of his mother’s suicide, seeking some kind of solace or new beginning. A fresh take on the coming-of-age theme, this maze of a story is told as a collection of irregularly interspersed thoughts, flashbacks, and current narratives, most no more than a paragraph long. The abrupt changes in time and place plus the briefness of each installment might make it hard for readers to feel invested in the story or its characters, but the method mirrors Christopher’s confused state of mind and perfectly sets the pace for a few surprising discoveries. Discerning readers in search of a uniquely woven yarn will especially appreciate first novelist Hill’s unusual style. --Cortney Ophoff

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mary Muir on November 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
What an amazing book! I'd never heard of Hill when I was asked to review this by my editor--and I was completely bowled over. Beautifully written, heartbreaking, unusual in format, in some ways demanding (I like that), with language to savor on every page. Astonishingly, this is a first novel--perhaps less astonishing when you know Hill is an accomplished poet. But it is not only the language that glows. Hill's characters are also compelling and believable. In a nutshell (which in no way does justice to this superb book), it is about a fragile young boy growing up in a difficult family (San Francisco, 1950s and 1960s), paralleled by the pilgrimage he takes later, as a young man, to Bhutan, seeking spiritual help to live with the pain of his past. This is wise, wonderful, and a beautiful read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Yours Truly VINE VOICE on November 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With lapidary precision, Lindsay Hill lays out the fragments of Christopher Westall's young life along with a growing body of dreams waking and sleeping, insights, and encounters to create a mosaic that the reader encounters piece by piece, making sense of things along with him. In spite of a review in Publishers Weekly that proclaimed this as the best novel you never heard of this year, it has yet to gather the attention I think it deserves. Although the telling is unorthodox, I quickly got accustomed to the absence of a narrator's voice; in fact, I effortlessly began to narrate for myself, re-reading puzzling patches as the story moved forward. One of my favorite passages came nearly halfway through when Dr. Thorn, a scientist who takes Christopher under his wing, says to him: "You may not believe in destiny. You may think that destiny is about things that are fated, but that's not what I mean by fulfilling your destiny at all. To discharge the obligation of your gift, that's what I mean by fulfilling your destiny..." By the time the adult Christopher visits Bhutan to explore Buddhism and heal his life, I was a willing pupil, even when some things escaped my grasp.

This may be one of those books that takes root slowly but goes on to become a classic. It's mostly about a boy, but the substance demands attention and some life experience. Certainly, it seems that Hill has discharged his obligation.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By captkeano on November 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Wonderful first novel from the poet, Lindsay Hill. I was lucky enough to catch his reading from it at Broadway Books, in Portland, OR, and fell for the simple, prose poem style of the book's vignettes. The cover and style may make the book seem like it's a piece of young adult fiction but do not let that put you off, there's great depth to the tale that is perfectly offset by Hill's unusual voice. Well worth a read and probably a text you'll come back to. Highly recommended!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By margo on February 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I've never read a book quite like this. It's utterly original and wholly engaging. Hill is a poet and it shows. Sea of Hooks is beautifully-wrought and heartbreaking and fascinating and it feels important and true.
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