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Fugitive Pieces: A Novel Paperback – May 26, 1998
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Four girls on a trip to Paris suddenly find themselves in a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare that spirals out of control. Learn More
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Fugitive Pieces is a book about memory and forgetting. How is it possible to love the living when our hearts are still with the dead? What is the difference between what historical fact tells us and what we remember? More than that, the novel is a meditation on the power of language to free our souls and allow us to find our own destinies. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
While Michaels'novel does not offer a series of perfectly arranged plot sequences,it does something that is far superior; the story presents a spiritual revelation of sorts, about living and dying (about having lived and having died); one that will leave you staring into space, appropriately silent, shocked, moved-for days, maybe months. There are moments in her story that still make me weep openly, though I am not typically an emotional reader. Lyrical and poetic, and yes- Ondaatjesque, but better, Michaels takes us a step further than even beautiful language and immaculate fragments, to the delicate, opaque meanings behind gesture and memory.
If truly exceptional writing is able to name truths we already recognize but cannot always name, Michaels does this repeatedly, flawlessly and I think, unpretentiously: "After years, at any moment, our bodies are ready to remember us." Already, my copy of the novel is carefully marked in countless places I want to remember, words and phrases that stopped me in my tracks: "Some stones are so heavy only silence helps you carry them." I am a 34 year old black man -an African immigrant living in Boston-and she spoke to me-very clearly. Buy this book only if you are ready for this kind of confrontation with beautiful, raw truth.
This is the sort of lyrical construction that fills a brillant book that works much better as a lyrical prose poem than it does as a novel, as structurally the book is seriously flawed. The characters remain elusively imcomplete due to haphazard breaks in the story line. For example, though Jacob's second wife obviously is the true love of his life, she has no significant role in the narrative other than that of a shadow as, shortly after she's introduced, the novel changes direction entirely, adopting a new protagonist, Ben, who is trying to recover Jacobs papers after his death. All rather awkward.
As a result, too many significant characters are insubstaintial shadows, not the substantive elements of the story they obviously shape but, in the structure of the book, don't really participate in.
Frustrating though these structural flaws may be, and they are frustrating indeed, Ms. Michaels nevertheless infuses this novel with such lyrical, poetic allusion, such passion, and such a keen eye for spiritual anomie that the book is, in the end, well worth reading and savoring.
My hope is that future works will work better stylisctically and structurally yet remain at the same overall level of artistic accomplishment as is realized in this novel.
No other book that I've read provides such a sense of the dead--all those who once lived on earth and now are deep within the bogs, at the bottoms of the sea, in mass graves, in archaeological sites--to be dug up and remembered by the archaeologists who are like priests of memory. This book is really about memory and how we owe it to the dead to remember them: Jacob remembers his beloved sister Bella who died in the Holocaust; Athos remembers the dead of the excavated city Biskupin in Polland where he rescued Jacob; Jacob finishes Athos' work as a way to honor his memory and the learning he imparted; Ben remembers Jacob and his poetry and finds in his poetry and journals answers to his profoundest dilemmas.
We numb ourselves to atrocities such as the Holocaust because the horror is so great; but books like this help us remember and pay homage to those who suffered. It's a beautiful book even though the structure is flawed and the language not always perfection. Still, it's superior to 95% of what's on the market.
Material such as that explored in Fugitive Pieces could very easily become trite and cliched, but in Michaels' extraordinarily gifted hands suffering, loss and grief become nothing less than transcendent. An extraordinarily gifted writer, Michaels creates wonderful characters and tells an engrossing story through the use of gorgeous, but spare, dialogue and subtle metaphor.
The plot is a rather simple one (this is definitely a character driven story) but it is profound and also a profoundly moving meditation on the nature of grief and the redemptive power of love. The first line in the book, "Time is a blind guide," is haunting, but it is also ironic, for the story will prove that time is anything but blind.
One of the protagonists, Jakob Beer, was orphaned as a seven-year old boy in Poland. Although the death of his parents affects Jakob most greviously, it is his sorrow at the death of his beloved older sister, Bella, that will remain with him for a lifetime. Jakob, himself, escapes the Nazis and flees into the forests of Poland where he is rescued by a Greek geologist, Athos Roussos, who eventually smuggles the boy to the Greek island of Zakynthos.
On Zakynthos, Jakob can finally begin to put his life back together again. He is, however, haunted by memories of Bella, a gifted pianist.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a beautifully written book. However as I read it, I thought more and more that the wonderful, expressive, language got in the way of the story being told. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Shocking at times, with information that cannot then be "unknown", Anne Michaels writes of Jakob Beers' life from very young and discovered by a 'fatherly' man to his death as he... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Annie Hendrix
One of the most powerful works of fiction that I have ever read. I am 89. She is a poet with an insight into humanity that is almost scary. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Zeke
I found the language magical and enjoyed the book for that reason. However, I became confused by the sudden shifts in place,time and character; only after I had read the overview... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Philippa Lipscomb
I appreciated the information about the Holocaust and its aftermath. The writing is quite poetic and that's not to my taste but others will enjoy it.Published 2 months ago by bettej
A gorgeous novel. 4 stars because I've never thought the last chapter works. But the rest of the book is beautiful, stunningly so at times.Published 4 months ago by Ken in Boston
I loved the author's writing and so caught up with the exquisite writing I couldn't put it down though the focal point of Jacob's tragic youth was difficult to read about. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Virginia Woolf
well written, actually almost poetic in parts. Not quite sure where it all leads or how, but the separate sections make a beautiful read. Read morePublished 5 months ago by melwest
This was an excellent read. Awe inspiring, heart wrenching, uplifting.Published 6 months ago by janellen