In a debut novel of remarkable breadth and intimate insight, Claire Messud tells the story of two middle-aged sisters and the divergent life paths chosen by each. On Bali and Skye, two islands as far apart as geography allows, the sisters reassess their place in the world and gingerly find the new bearings that will allow them to renegotiate the circumstances of their lives with newfound acceptance and flexibility. Nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award.
From Publishers Weekly
Two estranged sisters, their worlds turned upside-down, pursue separate quests for identity on exotic islands before being reunited in Messud's wonderfully observant debut novel. Emmy Simpson left London in 1960 at age 20 to marry a dashing Australian publisher. Twenty-seven years later, divorced (dumped by her husband for her friend) and at odds with her rebellious daughter Portia, a sculptor, she exits Sydney for the Indonesian isle of Bali. There, her credo that we create our destiny is sorely tested as she falls in with a group of exiles, misfits, long-haired idealists and eager young women dominated by a sleazy transplanted Australian antiques smuggler. Meanwhile, Emmy's prim, evangelical sister Virginia, who lives in London and cares for their invalid, eccentric, death-obsessed mother, is ordered to take a leave of absence by her married boss?on whom she has a mad crush. Her faith wavering, Virginia joins her mother on a trip to the isle of Skye in the Hebrides, accompanied by Nikhil Gupta, an Indian student, searching for his runaway sister, who eloped with a Scot. Shuttling among Sydney, London, Bali and Skye, the American-born Messud, who lives in London, weaves a beautiful, bittersweet story about the painful cost of self-knowledge and the unpredictability of life.
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