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The Frequency of Souls: A Novel Paperback – March 10, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Zuravleff's impressive literary debut is as unassuming as its hero, mild-mannered engineer George Mahoney, whose wife describes him as "a textbook passive-passive." At 39, George embarks upon a tentative voyage of self-discovery when he develops an unlikely crush on his awkward office mate, Niagara Spense, who wears a hearing aid, sews her own ill-fitting dresses and is the complete antithesis of his attractive and hyper-organized spouse, Judy. One of Niagara's chief attractions is that she views her job designing Coldpoint refrigerators as a prosaic way to support her quest to hear and record the electrical sound waves of the dead. Set in Washington, D.C., this comedy of manners revolves around quirky, domestic details: George's lifelong passion for dinosaurs; Judy's single-minded attempts to control the weight problem of their son, Harris; and Harris's entry in the school science fair. Zuravleff is a clever and entertaining writer with an eagle eye for the farcical aspects of mating and marriage. Perhaps she too carefully rations offbeat traits one to a character-as if a sprinkling of eccentricities might distract the reader from the basic characterizations. But that doesn't muffle the success with which she portrays how George finds it in himself to bring an engaged wonder to everyday life.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

George Mahoney is a refrigerator engineer, married with two children, whose routine life is ready for a change when Niagara Spense is hired to replace a retired engineer called the Veteran. Niagara is a hefty, six-foot-tall woman who wears outrageous clothes and does not cover up the fact that she wears a hearing aid. She spends every moment outside the office in a trailer she has converted into a laboratory listening for the voices of deceased people she feels convinced are carried over sound waves. George is a witness to her successful theory when the Veteran, who dies shortly after his retirement, speaks to them over her radio. George's obsession with Niagara leads him to discover not only the truth about his own past from his deceased family but also the significance of his voice as a husband and father. Pulled together with heartfelt and humorous situations and characters, this delightful first novel keeps us entertained to the very last page. Recommended for all collections.?David A. Berona, Westbrook Coll. Lib., Portland, Me.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (April 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031242485X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312424855
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,052,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I had been looking to read a story that did not require the heavy concentration of "work", that took me away a bit at bedtime, that was comfortable on the mind if not the spirit.This book's title intrigued me because I am interested in outer space, music, sound, and the relationship of people and sounds in the universe.
I enjoyed this book. It did exactly for me what I was looking for - escape. It was a decent story. However, the book is more a novel about a man in mid-life dealing with love, life, family and work, with some science flavors, rather than a fictional story where the primary theme involves galactic frequencies or paranormal phenomena with people as the conduits. So if you are looking for the latter, beware. Basically, since I was really expecting a story about "The Frequency of Souls", I felt teased and let down that this theme was not primary. Otherwise, the book is a basic fun read. And I happily learned a lot about the creative history of refrigerator design.
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Format: Paperback
We gladly suspend belief for Mary Kay Zuravleff's novel, The Frequency of Souls, a delightful tale with vivid characters and an intriguing premise that lures the reader along. Zuravleff gives her characters clear intentions, yet vulnerability based on idiosyncrasies that bring them to life. I appreciate the unpredictability of the chemistry between main characters, refrigerator engineers, George and Niagara. The secondary characters are as distinctive and well developed. While George's ponderings mire the plot about three quarters of the way along, the book picks up pace again for an ending that is not pat, yet pleasing.
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Format: Paperback
The Frequency of Souls shows how much the mainstream novel market has changed in recent years. A few years ago this book, had it been published at all, might have been at best an orphaned science fiction novel, doomed to be ignored because it contained no "hard" science (Niagara's vacuum tube radios hardly qualify as high-tech innovations, after all); because of its love story characteristics (in sci-fi parlance, it would be called a "space opera," a label to be avoided at all costs); because the characters are hardly swash-buckling heroes; and because the life after death theme is given a mundane treatment. So why all the fuss over The Frequency of Souls? Because times have changed. The mainstream market now accepts death as survivable, engineering nerds as real (and even sexy) people, an approximate equivalence between physics and metaphysics, and a recognition of the specialness of long-term commitments in a society that measures success in quarterly statistics.

The result: themes that are the stuff of the `90's -- Nerds in Love, Life after Death, Mid-life Crises, Middle Aged Craziness -- written well enough to let the story speak for itself. Never mind the lack of skill evidenced in certain sections; The Frequency of Souls is entertaining and compelling, with characters that stick with you when you're done.

Is The Frequency of Souls really a mainstream novel? According to the times, yes. Is it great literature? Well, no. But is it fun? Yes, definitely.
Dan Everman
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