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The Man Who Walked Away: A Novel Hardcover – March 4, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Rhapsodic . . . Casey's book is a vivid chronicle of the time, bringing alive the mysteries and joys of a fledgling science . . . Casey evokes -- with no shortage of verve and gusto -- the romance of 19th-century Europe, when madness plagued more than asylums, and nomadism acquired an allure it had never had . . . Mesmerizing . . . As compelling a portrait as you will find of the co-dependence between psychiatrist and patient. (Washington Post)

Casey is a consummate stylist, and her new book is so richly engaged with language, so profligate with glorious sentences, that at times the prose ascends to the level of poetry. This is a writer who pays deep, sensual attention to the world. (Geraldine Brooks, The New York Times Book Review)

Unconventional and engaging . . . Our need for stories, our relationship with time, the inevitability of loss, and our startling endurance all resonate through her beautifully crafted interweaving of image and observation, fairy tale and fact. (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

Lyrical in its style and fascinating in its psychology, Casey's narrative provokes a host of intriguing questions. (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

Maud Casey's The Man Who Walked Away is a haunting, deeply empathetic, and rigorously intelligent novel. It is also a seamless marvel of construction and language. The Man Who Walked Away cast a spell from which I never wished to wake. (Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones and The Almost Moon)

Pay attention, this lovely novel urges. As Maud Casey spins this mysteriously urgent tale of patient and doctor entwining, her quicksilver prose yields one astonishing image after another: each moment fleetingly beautiful, each character here--here!--and nowhere else. As this novel is like nothing else. Reading it is a singularly moving experience. (Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and Archangel)

Only a writer as brilliant as Maud Casey could write a novel as understated, urgent, and mysterious as The Man Who Walked Away. In her deft and deeply empathetic hands, this book about dark things--terror, fragility, memory, and illness--shimmers with a rare and wondrous beauty. (Lauren Groff, author of Arcadia)

Maud Casey's ensorcelling marvel of a novel, The Man Who Walked Away, starts with a wind, the poet's element, that blows over, through and past all, transporting us, as great art will, to the wonderment of being in the world, or in Albert's case, not in the world. Only in "the vase" of the asylum, with its benign Director and staff, can Albert rest, find love (he hopes) and a history. Casey's novel, with its accounts of the asylum's correctives to the anguish of erasure--walks in nature and 'the song of Nurse Anne's voice'--is an axe to the ice-encased heart, musically wrought, deeply affecting, wise and consolatory. (Christine Schutt, author of Prosperous Friends)

The Man Who Walked Away is a book of enchantments of an extremely intelligent kind. Dreamlike and sharply real, the novel unfolds in a nineteenth-century asylum where all the inmates have their own poetry of delusion, fear turned to metaphor. Wildly original fiction, with a particular melancholy magic. (Joan Silber, author of Ideas of Heaven and The Size of the World)

About the Author

Maud Casey is the author of two novels, The Shape of Things to Come, a New York Times Notable, and Genealogy, and a collection of stories, Drastic. She is the recipient of the Calvino Prize and has received fellowships from the Fundación Valparaiso, Hawthornden International Writers Retreat, Château de Lavigny, and the Passa Porta residency at Villa Hellebosch. She lives in Washington, D.C., and teaches at the University of Maryland and in the low-residency M.F.A. program at Warren Wilson.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (March 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1620403110
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620403112
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,306,256 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D_shrink VINE VOICE on February 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a fictionalized account of a real person named Albert Dadas, who lived in 19th century France. He was about 20yo at the time the story takes place. Albert was hospitalized in a mental hospital named St. Andre in Bordeaux, France, in real life. The story takes place before much of what we know of mental illness in these times had yet to be uncovered, and believe me there is still much more to learn. Albert suffered from a Dissociative Disorder called Fugue. The author does a great job of explaining this disorder and all the other ones of the fictional characters who interact with Albert and the doctor treating him in the story. The basic manifestations of a Fugue state are that you wander about, sometimes for a few hours sometimes for months or intermittently for years as was the case with Albert. The problems is that the person seldom remembers much or anything that happened while they were in this fugue state. It should be stated that the person seems generally normal if not a bit strange to most people. Albert did engage in some rather strange behavior, but his biggest worry was that no one think him a vagrant as he saw that to be the lowest of the low. Let me give one brief quote from page 22 of the pre-release edition "He walks for days without stopping, without eating, without sleeping in order to feel the gift of astonishment." The problem is that the person experiencing this disorder, normally set off by some tragic occurrence as was Albert's case, is running away from something and never towards anything so that he can therefore never arrive.

The story revolves around the interplay between his psychiatrist and himself with the intermingling of other psychiatric patients stories woven into the main plot line.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ken Deshaies on April 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Reading some of the reviews here prior to reading this book, I anticipated a much different experience. While I found the story interesting, and some of the characters engaging, I also found the writing somewhat pedantic. You could speedread portions of this book and not miss anything. I kept moving forward just to find if (a) Albert's memory was going to be recalled or (b) if some solution to his problem was forthcoming. Neither happened, and it left me feeling more that I was, in fact, reading a bit of non-fiction rather than an engaging dialogue.

If phrasing repeated over and over, and dozens of times throughout the book, is considered poetry, then just consider me a non-poet. This read did not encourage me to pick up any other of Casey's books. (And I am fairly used to that happening with great authors).

Certainly the book will appeal to many (the reviews here make that clear), but if you prefer novels with tight writing that pulls you along, this will likely not be your cup of tea.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on March 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The setting for THE MAN WHO WALKED AWAY is the mental asylum at St. Andre in Bordeaux, France in 1886. It is a refuge for the patients who reside there, as they are treated with respect and dignity. The staff tries its best to keep things orderly, pleasant and under control, which is not always easy given the wide range of behaviors the patients exhibit. Psychiatry is still very much in its infancy. The patients suffer from illnesses/conditions that have neither actual names nor standard treatments. They live quiet lives and follow set schedules for meals and outdoor exercise. This structure gives them a sense of calm they all need.

One day, a new patient is brought to the asylum gates with a note attached to his waistcoat that reads "He is off his rocker." This stranger, named Albert, naturally causes a ripple of excitement and curiosity among the other patients. Marian believes the sun has stolen her stomach, Samuel wears an oversized coat no matter what the weather and fears everything, Rachel insists she has a frog in her stomach that tells her what piano music to play, and the veteran is jumpy and suspicious --- his mind is still back in the war.

Albert is a walker who has journeyed far and wide in an almost trance-like state for several years. He has wandered across Europe and beyond. He wears holes in his shoes, which he cushions with soft moss to protect his feet. He has no map and no purpose for his journeys, just the dogged need/obsession to be moving forward on his feet night and day. He has been jailed and chased out of villages as an unwelcome vagrant. He has ended up in unfamiliar cities and walked along river banks of many rivers. And the long walks are both enchanting and exhausting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Young@heart on May 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Very slow moving story that meanders all over the place. The plot line doesn't really explain anything that is happening, and overall the book was somewhat boring.
If you were looking for something profound and/or enlightening, you probably will not find it in this story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Ellingwood VINE VOICE on April 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Based on a true story, a young man in France has Fugue state which causes him to walk without remembering where he went and what he has done. He joins the military and walks away from it, is tied down by his father as a teen to keep him from wandering and finally ends up in a mental hospital where he feels safe because people are watching him. The doctor at the hospital also has his own obsession with the man's mental state but there is difficulty with an ending. Fugue state was unknown in the 19th century and it was confusing. Still the story is so moving and compassionate, I enjoyed it.
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