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Christodora: A Novel Hardcover – August 2, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of August 2016: In his spellbinding novel, Tim Murphy crafts a tale that is as ambitious as it is focused, sprawling as it is intimate, and as warm-hearted as it is gritty. The story revolves around the Christodora, an East Village apartment building whose tenants bear witness to the ever changing city. From the devastation of the 1980s AIDS epidemic to the influx of drug addicts and alcoholics to the transformation of boho artists to yuppie ones, Jared and Milly and their adopted son Mateo grapple with their shifting neighborhood and the unforgettable events of the past that will forever define their future. Told through multiple narrators and moving back and forth through the decades, Christodora is a page-turning epic that crackles with life – in all of its messy, addictive, artistic glory. --Al Woodworth, The Amazon Book Review
Longlisted for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
Named a Best Book of the Year by the Guardian
An Indie Next Selection
An Amazon Editors’ Top 100 Best Books of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Big Indie Book of Fall 2016
“A powerful novel about the AIDS crisis and its legacy . . . Hugely ambitious . . . [A] rich, complicated story . . . Murphy offers a compelling portrait of the community of activists that transformed queer life in the 1980s and ’90s . . . His depictions of the day-to-day business of activists and bureaucrats have uncommon authority. He vividly captures the diversity and tensions within the AIDS movement . . . No book has made me feel so intensely not just the ravages of AIDS but also the devastating cost of activism . . . Christodora recounts a crucial chapter in the history of queer life, which is to say in the history of American life. It’s also, for all the despair it documents, a book about hope.”―Garth Greenwell, Washington Post
“[A] thrillingly accomplished novel . . . [The] varied minds and voices are realized so convincingly that Christodora sometimes seems the product of spirit possession. And it is joyous despite its subject matter . . . Murphy’s skills are most nakedly on display as he describes the addictions in which Mateo and others find solace, and their electrical-shocking, soul-warping, mind-annihilating trips . . . Desperately intense, it is the kind of scene that requires putting a book down for a moment to take a breather.”―New York Times Book Review
“A rich and complicated New York saga . . . An exciting read . . . Christodora has the scope of other New York epics, such as Bonfire of the Vanities, The Goldfinch and City on Fire . . . Capacious yet streamlined, it is a very fine book.”―Newsday
“An ambitious, time-traveling novel textured with the detail and depth of a writer who spent years reporting from the front.”―New York (8 Books You Need to Read This August)
“In the East Village, the Christodora has long symbolized gentrification, luring well-heeled professionals (and celebrities like Iggy Pop, Julia Stiles and Vincent D’Onofrio) to a once-gritty neighborhood that was a hotbed of boundary-pushing art and transgressive lifestyles. The building’s totemic power is a driving force in Christodora . . . A sprawling social novel in the Tom Wolfe tradition.”―New York Times (Style)
“Christodora . . . has got it all: drugs, sex, music, race, class, art, activism, adoption, and tears . . . [Murphy’s] prose has an easy, fluent style . . . He’s good at building scenes into dramatic, sometimes scary climaxes. He’s especially vivid on the subject of drug addiction . . . Christodora is itself a response to that isolation instinct―it’s a graceful reaching-out following what must have been, for the author, a long and tortuous reaching-within.”―Slate
“[I] fell hard for Tim Murphy’s Christodora . . . A sprawling account of New York lives under the long shadow of AIDS, it deals beautifully with the drugs that save us and the drugs that don’t.”―Guardian (Best Books of 2016)
“[A] brilliantly sprawling period novel about New York in the age of AIDS . . . Richly populated and delicately nuanced, Christodora seems poised to . . . take its place on any bookshelf of literary classics about New York City.”―Village Voice
“Murphy isn’t only a ‘gay writer,’ as evidenced in his skillfully written and highly readable new novel, Christodora. He transcends such labels, writing beautifully of the human condition and on issues that touch many of our lives. Modern-day struggles with addiction, mental illness, as well as the AIDS pandemic, are written about with skill and sensitivity.”―Advocate
“[An] ambitious novel . . . Powerful and compelling. It feels deeply relevant even when it covers events set several decades in the past . . . This is a novel that abounds with ambition, but it largely succeeds in grappling with a host of grand themes.”―Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[A] must-read . . . Murphy masterfully unpacks issues of family, identity, and home across the kaleidoscopic-life stories of his characters.”―Out.com
“A big old-fashioned epic novel . . . One of the most ambitious novels I’ve read in a long time . . . The book just has tons of twists and turns all the way up to the end and you just have to keep reading.”―RoundTable, WAMC/Northeast Public Radio (Book Picks)
“Christodora . . . [is] this year’s most ambitious and devastating contribution to the New York City realist novel . . . It’s the beauty of [Murphy’s] storytelling that anchors this all-encompassing novel . . . It’s the rare kind of book that not only stays with you, but haunts your entire neighborhood after you read it . . . Christodora is a massive achievement.”―Interview
“Christodora is a page-turner, the sort of sprawling novel that most people refer to as Dickensian. It is written in a heated spirit of urgency . . . Murphy has an imaginative talent for exploring the subjectivities of his characters . . . Murphy’s rough, passionate, splatter-the-walls style is filled to bursting with a reporter’s interest in different people’s lives and a novelist’s tough-tender intuition about what goes on inside their heads.”―Brooklyn Magazine
“The novel captures monumental neighborhood moments as it traverses the 1980s and ’90s straight into the early 2020s. The early gentrification of the area . . . and the AIDS epidemic all figure centrally in the novel, and it’s a subject Murphy is well-versed on.”―Bedford + Bowery
“Christodora locates pleasure in the interstices of seemingly multiplying apocalypses . . . The novel deftly navigates an interconnected cast of Dickensian intricacy . . . resulting in a convincingly rendered portrayal of the textures and rhythms of New York City, past and future . . . Even in his characters’ lowest moments, Murphy’s writing exudes exuberance . . . Murphy allows us to see how AIDS has rippled out from its locus to irrevocably affect the very fabric of society . . . Christodora amounts to much more than a New York novel . . . Christodora is an accomplishment.”―ZYZZYVA
“Epic in scope, [Christodora] cannily grapples with many of the seminal touchstones of contemporary New York City life . . . Murphy is a gifted writer . . . For those invested in HIV/AIDS, and the ongoing response, Christodora is a must read. It is the work of fiction many within the movement have been waiting for . . . What emerges is imagination and experience refracting onto the page. It is a beautiful―and often painful―sight to behold.”―Lambda Literary
“Several times a year, a few books are published that are so compelling and immersive they simply demand the unadulterated free time of the reader. Tim Murphy’s Christodora is one of those powerful, ambitious sagas . . . Murphy has truly outdone himself with a perceptive and accomplished novel that is captivating and immensely entertaining.”―Bay Area Reporter
“This is in severe contention for my Favorite Book of 2016 . . . This sweeping tale of AIDS activists and the incredible changes they inspired is heart-wrenching, hopeful and beautiful . . . Pick it up immediately!”―Book Riot (The Best Books We Read in July 2016)
“Massive and fearless . . . A sweeping and moving novel filled with vivid and complex characters who engender empathy and affection . . . Murphy’s epic family saga acts as a microcosm of the massive changes in New York City over four decades . . . Christodora is an epic told with compassion, surprising humor and a strong sense of history and pacing.”―Shelf Awareness
“[A] perceptive debut novel . . . Murphy vividly recaptures 1980s and ’90s New York, dampening any pop-culture nostalgia with reminders of the crude pharmacology and callous bureaucracy imposed upon those struggling with AIDS . . . His multigenerational tale is a clever inversion of the usual addiction-begets-AIDs narrative . . . It never wavers in its warmth toward its characters, or its insistence upon the possibility of healing.”―Booklist (starred review)
“[A] vivid account of the AIDS crisis and its aftermath . . . Murphy has written The Bonfire of the Vanities for the age of AIDS, using the same reportorial skills as Tom Wolfe to re-create the changing decades, complete with a pitch-perfect deployment of period detail. Skipping back and forth in time over 40 years, and projecting itself into the near future, the novel achieves a powerful evocation of the plague years.”―Publishers Weekly
“An ambitious social novel informed by an extended perspective on the HIV/AIDS epidemic . . . In his debut novel, Murphy wants to bring [Larry] Kramer’s vision into the 21st century, though he goes about it with more artistry and less polemic . . . A poignant . . . exploration of a health crisis that hasn’t yet ended.”―Kirkus Reviews
“Murphy . . . travels through New York City from the AIDS-scarred 1980s to the hipster-dominated 2000s to the wealth-drenched 2020s, all by focusing on a single East Village building.”―Library Journal
“Tim Murphy’s book is a masterful and panoramic story of New York City and the East Village from the 1980s to the present.”―Ira Sachs
“Christodora tells a compelling story of family, friendship, love, and loss that spans decades, but manages to fully immerse you in an important and difficult time in downtown Manhattan . . . [An] outstanding book.”―Cary Fukunaga
“An impassioned, big-hearted, and ultimately hopeful chronicle of a changing New York that authoritatively evokes the despair and panic in the city at the height of the plague.”―Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life
“A moving portrait of New York in the time of AIDS, Tim Murphy’s honest and insightful writing gives Christodora a particular vibrancy that causes the characters to leap, whole, into the reader’s imagination. This spectacular novel is an important addition to literature that captures New York in all its glory and despair.”―Candace Bushnell
“An intimate portrait of a bohemian family, Christodora is also a capacious historical novel that vividly recreates the lost world of downtown Manhattan in the eighties―a nuanced portrait of an era in which artists were unwitting agents of gentrification and the bright dawn of gay liberation was brutally interrupted by the AIDS epidemic.”―Jay McInerney
“An exuberant, ambitious, funny, gorgeously written epic, Tim Murphy’s Christodora not only makes us privy to the most intimate secrets and dreams of a group of unforgettable diverse characters, this brilliant tale also sweeps us up into the spirit of our age, from the AIDS crisis to now and even into the future, so that we can see and feel the devastating effects of time as it changes us forever.”―James Hannaham, author of Delicious Foods
“Every once in a while a writer truly gets this town with its buffet of hipsters, crazy characters, and endearing troublemakers. Christodora is a bit of Tom Wolfe, a streamlined City on Fire, and, well, something special and all its own. Tim Murphy―smart, perceptive, and streetwise―is an author with a dazzling eye and ear who delivers a real New York narrative with an absorbing storyline and a gallery of characters fit for a twenty-first century Manhattan mural. It came, I sat, I read and read. I emerged completely satisfied.”―George Hodgman, New York Times bestselling author of Bettyville
“Murphy dives into the story of one of the East Village’s most storied buildings―and returns with a moving novel, a love letter to the complicated families we make here in New York, and to the city itself.”―Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night
“Breathtaking . . . Murphy has created a sprawling, intimate historical novel. It is a powerful and rewarding reading experience . . . One of the finest novels we are likely to encounter this year.”―Toronto Star
“[An] outstanding and judicious novel . . . A breathtakingly vibrant and nuanced portrait of a diverse family of characters . . . This . . . panoramic saga feels lithe and refreshingly current . . . The most exciting New York novel since Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.”―Attitude, “Book of the Month” (UK)
“Tim Murphy’s lively new novel of late 20th-century New York packs it in―AIDS, activism, art, addiction: you name it . . . Murphy injects fresh vim into this tale . . . Murphy jumps back and forth through the decades here, creating a fractured structure that neatly reflects the fractured lives of those caught up in the epidemic and its aftermath.”―Daily Mail (UK)
“[An] ambitious novel . . . Murphy’s characters are fresh and complex . . . But where he really excels is in evoking the despair, panic and anger that swept the city as HIV/AIDS was discovered and developed into an epidemic . . . Intelligent and absorbing, ingeniously structured and steeped in the deepest empathy . . . Epic in scope . . . A tremendous achievement.”―Winq (UK)
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Top customer reviews
I lived in New City for about 35 years beginning in 1982; Tim Murphy made me feel as if I was reliving those years, dominated by rising rents, AIDS headlines, and AIDS activism. For several years Tim wrote copy for the book clubs I ran, so I knew he was a talented writer. This surpassed all my expectations. And, for once, I didn't find a single typo!
The Cristodora was a building in the East Village that went through gentrification in the 1980's and 90's. The apartments were rehabbed and bought by people in the arts and social activists. One apartment was occupied by Millicent and Jared Traum and their adopted son, Mateo. The Traums, both artists from liberal families, adopted Mateo, the son of a young Hispanic woman who died of AIDS. Seeing an artistic temperament in the orphaned child, they raised him but he never seemed to totally bond to them. Of course, they didn't fully understand him and he didn't understand them. Why had they adopted him? Why hadn't they had "their own child"? Where was his "real" mother? But the Traums didn't raise young Mateo in a vacuum. Their families and friends helped with him and these characters are written with beauty and purpose by author Tim Murphy.
Murphy writes brilliantly of the times, using his characters. None are caricatures and the reader should sympathise with them all, even while possibly not identifying with them. From Hector, the AIDS activist who lost his lover and descends into a hell of drug use to deal with the pain, to Drew, a young woman who is able to shed a drinking and drugging problem to live a good life, while not forgetting how bad those years were. She's able to reach out and help others, including Mateo.
There's a lot of drug use and sex in "Christodora", but the sex scenes are integral and organic to the story. The passages about the drug usage are harsh and gritty. This book should not be read by someone easily offended by sex and drug scenes. But to the right reader, who can put those scenes together with the beautifully written prose, the book's a winner.
EDIT: When I read and reviewed the book, I had no idea the Christodora was a real building. It is, as I just read in an article published in the New York Times on 9/1/16. The article is well-worth reading after you read the book.
The narrative centers around the inhabitants of a Lower East Side New York building called The Christodora. The Lower East Side, also known as 'alphabet city', is where East European Jews lived during the earlier part of the 20th century. During the 1960's the Fugs gave concerts in Graham East and hippies were finding reasonably priced places to live in tenement housing. This book starts in the 1980's, when the AIDS virus is first coming to the attention of New York's health system but is not yet acknowledged as anything but a 'gay disease'. As time progresses, the Lower East Side becomes gentrified and the original inhabitants are being pushed out of their once low rent apartments by the privileged who are migrating to lower Manhattan. Low rent apartments are turning into condominiums and that becomes the fate of the Christodora.
Millicent and Jared are two residents of the Christadora. They are the children of privileged families who begin their adult lives living in the Christadora. It is not long before they adopt a 5 year old boy named Mateo. The lifeline of Mateo is one of the reasons that I have not rated this book a '5'. It just did not ring true to me.
Hector, a gay man and an AIDS activist, also lives in the Christadora. He begins his career working for Millicent's mother who is a deputy director of New York's Health Department. His path also crosses that of Ysabel Mendes, Mateo's birth mother.
I don't want to give out any more of the plot but it is relevant to know that many of these characters' lives overlap and inter-connect. I applaud Tim Murphy for taking on the difficult subjects that he does. The AIDS epidemic is not an easy thing to write about without being treacly. He achieves this goal. He also tackles the issues of adoption, mental illness, survivors' guilt and addiction.
The narratives about addiction are powerful and spot on. I think that the author knows this subject from the inside out. He also presents a stunning portrait of bi-polar disorder which is rare in most novels.
Perhaps I'm being too picky but I was disappointed in the psychological back stories which appeared too simplistic for me. I enjoyed the changes in chronology and did not find this at all confusing. In fact, I appreciated how the author interspersed song lyrics, cultural events, and different activist movements into the sequence of this novel which tackled about four decades going back and forth in time. I liked reading about the art and culture of the times and found this one of the high points of this amazing book.
Most recent customer reviews
Ending a bit too predictable, but overall a good read.
I was not enamored of the writing style, either.Read more
New York in the 80's, the AIDS epidemic, many characters: artsy, dysfunctional,...Read more