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The Book of Life Paperback – September 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur / Back Bay Books; 1 Original edition (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316126470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316126472
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Stuart Nadler addresses tradition, but he captures the right-now as well as anybody. He's heart-breaking, yet he's funny. He writes beautifully, tersely, masterfully."—Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng and Half a Life

"A writer of keen perception and sensibility, Nadler describes the difficult thresholds that separate absence and presence, arrivals and departures, the sacred and profane, bright memory and dark nostalgia. His writing reminds me why I love to read."—Gina Ochsner, author of The Russian Dreambook of Colour and Flight

"Stuart Nadler is an artist of secrets. Line after line of clear, revealing prose turn out to be incendiary. These are stories that expand without warning. A striking, rousing collection of people waking up fast. Nothing in The Book of Life is without consequence."—Rosecrans Baldwin, author of You Lost Me There

"In The Book of Life, Stuart Nadler offers a fresh, funny, perceptive take on the current state of the Jewish family, including the families we make with our friends and lovers. Like Bernard Malamud, Nadler has a gift for comic/ironic dialogue and for setting thoroughly modern characters on a collision course with the distant past. A truly talented writer."—Sharon Pomerantz, author of Rich Boy

Stuart Nadler treats his characters like people. The Book of Life is a fitting title for this collection-that's what it's about: life. Here's a Chekovian fascination with the human condition-the pleasures and tortures of family, love, sex, money, work, religion. These are stories about fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, friends, lovers-people with complex lives, troubled souls, deep hearts and messy desires. Nadler is a writer, who, like Alice Munro, John Cheever or Bernard Malamud, does not write about "ordinary people" because he knows there's no such thing as an ordinary person. Each of these carefully wrought stories is as moving and masterful as a Chopin sonata; the notes and the silences between them will resonate with the reader for a very long time after they're done.—Benjamin Hale, author of The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore

"Stuart Nadler has written seven of the most gorgeous, poignant, intricately crafted, and compulsively readable stories I have read in a long time. His flawed protagonists tend to be forever on the brink of heartbreak, yet the unlikely effect of Nadler's fiction is that life is continually reaffirmed."—Frederick Reiken, author of Day for Night

About the Author

Stuart Nadler is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where he was awarded a Truman Capote Fellowship and a Teaching-Writing Fellowship. Recently, he was the Carol Houck Smith Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin. His fiction has appeared in The Atlantic.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 17 customer reviews
I sat down to read the first story and had read the entire book over the next 36 hours.
JRL
This collection is great and satisfying: direct writing that allows you to be absorbed very quickly into the stories and unique plots that pique your interest.
Allison Wonderland
In the Book of Life Abraham has an affair with Jane, the daughter of his best friend and business partner Larry.
Janet Babins

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. McFarland on September 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
In case any potential readers are thinking that the blurbs above and other comments make the collection sound overly literary, stiff or narrow, I am here to say that I found the stories to be totally absorbing and full of surprises along with bracingly hilarious dialogue exchanges between characters that have had enough with polite evasions and now are getting down to the business of family business.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 17, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've never been a fan of short stories til they started sneaking up on me in the last few years. I have always loved Joseph Epstein's books of short stories, but I usually felt cheated when they ended. I wanted more and that was not the intent of Joseph Epstein to give me more. No, he gave me what he could in brilliant small packages. Now Stuart Nadler, in his wonderful book of short stories, "The Book of Life", is also cheating me! But I'll take them and appreciate them for what they are.

Nadler, like Joseph Epstein, writes generally about Jewish men. Many of Nadler's are from a younger generation than Epstein, but he has found the right words to build pictures of these men who are on the threshold of life. Just beginning jobs and love lives, these young men do and say things that will sometimes come back to haunt them later, but for now, they're trying to live in the here-and-now. An exception to this is the middle age man in the story, "The Moon Landing", who returns from Los Angeles to Boston after the death of his parents. He hasn't been in Boston in years - having exiled himself to LA - and now finds it difficult to clear out his parents' house with his younger brother, who had stayed in Boston and built a life there. What he remembers of his parents and brother is sadly reflected in the detritus of his parents' belongings. It's a spare and sad story, but compellingly interesting at the same time. Other stories by Nadler are about generation gaps between fathers and sons. All are brilliant.

I can't recommend Nadler's "The Book of Life" strongly enough. The reader doesn't have to be Jewish to appreciate the stories; men are the same the world over. As are their loves and thoughts and dreams.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Luiz on February 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is an absolutely fabulous collection of stories. In my view, it's the best kind of writing because there aren't any writerly tricks to keep you conscious of the fact that you're watching a writer at work. Here you get so absorbed by the characters and the situations they're caught up in that you forget you're reading fiction. Almost all of the characters have romantic complications - marriages that don't quite work, and infidelity is a problem that keeps getting examined from a variety of angles. There are a lot of parental relationships examined, too, particularly ones that left so many scars that the son and parents didn't see each other or speak for years. Many of the characters are Jewish, but most are secular ones and there aren't a lot of heavy religious themes, other than the basic one of how it's possible to believe or not. If you enjoy straightforward, compelling characters, great dialogue, and thought-provoking premises, I think you'll find this collection thoroughly worth your while.

The 7 stories, most of which are set in New York or Massachusetts, are:

1. In the Book of Life - 22 pp -- A great story right out of the chute about a man who begins an affair with the daughter of his boyhood friend and business partner, an entanglement that sets off a host of unexpected discoveries and complications.

2. Winter on the Sawtooth - 18 pp - A father is embarrassed when his son makes his first trip home from college and has to discover the shambles his parents' marriage is in. The husband and wife still share the same house, but the wife has taken on a new lover whom she sleeps with in the house she shares with her husband. But the son's return could change the entire dynamic.

3.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By southernreader on September 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
I overheard a conversation at the office and mistakenly assumed it was the play-by-play of a new "water cooler" sensation on HBO. When I inquired however I discovered the twists and turns in these short stories in The Book of Life were the topic of debate. Could you believe she did that? I didn't expect it would be the wife! And so on.

These are people who can make very bad decisions but like the people in our own families have so many redeeming qualities that you want to give them another chance. And you want to hear more about them. I think a good test of a story is whether the reader is left wondering what happens next and this is true of this collection.

Anybody who likes Ian McEwan will enjoy these stories.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By JRL on September 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
I will be the first to admit that although I am an avid fiction reader, I often pass over collections of short stories. This book changed my mind. I sat down to read the first story and had read the entire book over the next 36 hours. Perhaps I've been influenced by recent novels that resemble short story collections, (see, e.g., Cloud Atlas, The Imperfectionists, A Visit from the Goon Squad), but I found this collection to nearly resemble a novel in its strong thematic undertones. Adultery and parent-child relationships figure prominently in these deceptively simple, plot-driven stories. The prose is elegant and efficient and I can't wait to read more from this author.
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