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Comment: This book has already been loved by someone else. It MIGHT have some wear and tear on the edges, have some markings in it, or be an ex-library book. Over-all it is still a good book at a great price! (if it is supposed to contain a CD or access code, that may be missing)
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A Town of Empty Rooms Hardcover – January 15, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Lately, Serena and Dan Shine are just going through the motions. Their marriage has been suffering since Serena’s father and Dan’s brother both died. Adding to the struggle is their recent exile from New York City to a small town in North Carolina after Serena was caught stealing from her company. In an effort to gain some sense of belonging, Serena becomes involved with the local synagogue, which is led by a charismatic rabbi whose strange behavior both fascinates and concerns her. Dan, too, looks for a way to fill an unexplainable emptiness. He and his son join the Boy Scouts, which is led by his elderly neighbor, who seems friendly enough but becomes overly demanding and subtly discriminatory. Despite being strangers in their own home, Dan and Serena must find a way to close ranks to defend their Judaism in the heart of the Bible Belt. Bender (Like Normal People, 2000) has created complex characters in a novel that provocatively considers our basic need to connect with other people, and how very fragile those connections can be. --Carolyn Kubisz

Review

Praise for A Town of Empty Rooms

“In the very best of fiction, an intimate, spiritual communion momentarily transpires between reader and author. In the case of Bender’s novel, these moments occur during these flawless passages of authentic longing and isolation. Like some of today’s best contemporary realistic authors, Bender skillfully excavates and animates the human fragilities and missteps of life, transporting the reader deeper into the narrative and the interior lives of her characters. Taken together, A Town of Empty Rooms elicits both great pleasure and heartache.” —Boston Globe

“Bender’s a keen observer of marriage and the psychological bonds that tie mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons. The novel excels in stirring the reader’s sympathy and outrage…Bender offers an absorbing and often touching look at the struggles of an urban middle-class family to adjust to an unfamiliar America—rural, provincial, and homogeneous.” —Publishers Weekly

“Bender has created complex characters in a novel that provocatively considers our basic need to connect with other people, and how very fragile those connections can be.” —Booklist

"Conversations — about love, faith, belonging, and the nature of God — rattle and hum throughout Karen Bender’s outstanding new novel, A Town of Empty Rooms. The book itself is a series of conversations, though it is the ones we don’t have, Bender suggests, that matter the most." —Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“I read this absorbing book in one sitting. It has everything to make you go on reading – conflict, hope, disappointment; displays of confusion, displays of ignorance, displays of foolishness; —and, at bottom, an affecting depiction of human isolation.” —Edith Pearlman

“Karen Bender’s novel is filled with subtle recognitions. As her exiled characters rebuild their lives, they discover the human heart’s resilient capacity for love. A Town of Empty Rooms does what all terrific novels do: it resonates with the reader long after its covers have been closed. Read the book; you’ll see.” —Tom Grimes, author of Mentor: A Memoir

"Bender portrays a marriage in crisis with heartbreaking accuracy." —Kirkus
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (January 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1619020696
  • ISBN-13: 978-1619020696
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,134,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

My, I sure am a picky one!
Marian K. Shapiro
Characters are meticulously drawn and constantly compelling.
Michael Roy O'Laughlin
The book held my interest till the very end.
sjshrink

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ilie Ruby on January 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Karen Bender's novel, A TOWN OF EMPTY ROOMS is the kind of book to curl up with, one that offers a gentle unfolding of passages that crescendo when you least expect them to, leaving you lingering on moments of uncommon courage and beauty. Bender writes with a fluid and deft hand about the many seasons of a marriage and the uncomfortable truths that edge their way into the vast roles we take on in a lifetime. A compassionate look at American-Jewish life as told through the eyes of a seasoned storyteller, this fabulous book is one of my favorites of the year.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By a reader and writer on January 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Start the new year off right and order Karen Bender's new novel, A Town of Empty Rooms! All strands of this story are so compelling I couldn't wait to see how things would work out. I loved the feeling of menace and danger throughout. The main characters--a couple with a troubled marriage and their young children, transplants from New York to a a small town in North Carolina--were so believable that I both loved them, feared for them, and wanted to shake them. The minor characters--some quirky, some mentally unstable, some kind and helpful-- bounced off the page as well. This novel is a treasure. If you are looking for a literary page turner--this is it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anne K. on February 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Based on my memory of Bender's first novel, I expected A Town of Empty Rooms to be a book to enjoy slowly, a savoring-and-pondering book. But much to my surprise it was both a finely-written literary novel and a suspenseful page-turner seemingly heading pell-mell towards personal disaster for everyone in the story. I galloped along because I could not wait to find out what would happen to the characters. Finally, I was able to take a deep breath and go back to the beginning to enjoy it more slowly.

Serena is a New Yorker who has had something of a nervous breakdown after the death of her father. The way she acts out in her depression leads to her losing her job, and her family has to relocate from urban New York to a small town in Bible Belt North Carolina. Many of the residents cheerfully admit they've never met a Jew and invite Serena and her family to try out their church instead. Serena and her husband Dan both react to this dislocation by trying to fit into a new group: Dan wants to be a leader in a Boy Scout troop led by a fiercely independent (survivalist?) neighbor, and Serena finds herself drawn to a charismatic, explosive young rabbi. If this sounds a bit dry, believe me it is not. Bender makes you care about the characters so much that you are gripped by the sense of how high the stakes are for these people.

This would be a great novel for a book group, because although all of the characters are somewhat flawed (with the possible exception of a stubborn and totally normal kindergartener), they are all drawn with compassion and caring. Bender's book implies that we may never completely understand our neighbors and Scout Troop Leaders, let alone our spouses and children, but she makes a good case that the great human endeavor is to keep on trying.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Deborah A. Lott on January 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
How does the weight of what we don't say add up to undermine a marriage? How does the weight of unspeakable grief overcome our efforts to behave reasonably in its wake?
What happens when we project our unrealized longings and resentments onto each other, and onto a spiritual leader who may just turn out to be one more flawed human being? Why do we have to split ourselves into US and THEM categories in order to feel safe?

Karen Bender isn't afraid to ask these hard questions or to delve deeply, even uncomfortably into human relationships and the motivations behind them. This is a big, juicy, glorious read that feels topical and yet has some of the virtues of the classic novels of the past. Without an iota of sentimentality, it's refreshingly free from the currently hip cynicism that some might call post-modern irony. A great read for book clubs; it begs to be discussed. Read it with your spouse, your friends, your community.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jan Deerfield IL on July 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
My measure of a good book is if I sit in my chair and read for hours, losing track of all time...something I rarely get to do anymore. This book did it for me! The characters were well developed so I was able to identify and connect with each of them, and they each got me thinking about issues I have encountered in my own life over time. Ms. Bender takes on some very deep issues pertaining to Jewish life in a small town, marriage, family loss, and the complex relationships between congregations and their clergy. She does this in a sensitive way such that at various points the book had me in tears. But the book never dragged for me and her insightful use of dialogue added great dimension to the story. I highly recommend this book for insights about being a Jew in a small town or if you want to be forced to think deeply about the relationships we have with our clergy and what our expectations (realistic or unrealistic) are of them.

A Town of Empty Rooms
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By lareader on April 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A Town of Empty Rooms is an outstanding book for those who, like me, look for novels that tell a compelling story, have complicated characters who we can relate to, and make us think about our regular lives. The story here involves a couple, Serena and Dan, who we get to know as individuals and also as a couple having a hard time in their marriage. Their histories, their losses, their needs are illustrated in a way that brings us understanding of them. There is a touching side story about Serena and her mother and sister. The reader experiences the impact of a troubled neighbor, presented in a powerful way. We also get to know a rabbi and a community. Each character becomes real. The ending comes as a surprise, makes sense after it happens, but you don't see it coming. Read this book for fascinating characters, conflicts, and suspense.
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