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November 22, 1963: A Novel Paperback – November 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With a captivating mix of fact and fiction, Braver (Mr. Lincoln's Wars) chronicles the events surrounding JFK's assassination to moving effect. The event is no stranger to the literary world, but Braver's recreation, owing to small and often previously off-camera details, remains hauntingly original. Some of these details, like the ones that open the book and dwell on Jackie's fashion preferences, present a factual backdrop against which later scenes--e.g., where Jackie refuses to remove her blood-splattered pink suit--tragically play out. Others, like the way JFK's eyes keep popping open during the autopsy, underscore the grisly reality of his death. While the accumulation of small moments gives the book its weightiness, the stories of people peripherally associated with the assassination make the book sing; through the experiences of the Texan who sold the government Kennedy's casket, the mechanic in charge of the limousine in which Kennedy was shot and numerous others, Braver reveals the tragedy of a national story that decades later can still be acutely felt. (Nov.)
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Review

"Braver's collection is a piercing portrait of those who experienced the Kennedy assassination first-hand."— Steve Almond, author of My Life in Heavy Metal

"I had thought that Don DeLillo's Libra was the last fictional word on the JFK assassination, but I was wrong. Like a sublime actor, Adam Braver inhabits these characters, especially Jacqueline Kennedy, in a way that seems brave and heartbroken and true. This is a haunting history play, of private agonies wrenched onto the public stage."
— April Bernard, author of Swan Electric

"I would never have thought there was a new way to view a moment so thoroughly dissected. Turns out there is. Quite an achievement."
— Suzanne Kleid, KQED

"November 22, 1963 is more than an intricately imagined microhistory of the primary American trauma of the late 20th century; it's also an affecting portrait of the then First Lady, simultaneously devastated and resilient as she moves from embodying her country's image of someone who controls fortune to someone who's been flattened by it."
— Jim Shepard, author of Like You'd Understand, Anyway

“This extraordinary reconstruction blends fact and imagination with a subtlety that utterly dissolves the line between public and private. It's the intimacy, the closeness we come to these (mostly) well-known protagonists, that is so shocking and moving. Adam Braver has pulled off quite a feat, realigning all our notions and expectations of historical fiction.”
— Phillip Lopate, author of Waterfront and Portrait of my Body

"Adam Braver has a wonderfully rich imagination and his grasp of historical characters and settings is both deep and natural. I would gladly read anything he writes."
— Dan Chaon, author of You Remind Me of Me and the National Book Award Finalist Among the Missing

"With a captivating mix of fact and fiction, Braver chronicles the events surrounding JFK’s assassination to moving effect. The event is no stranger to the literary world, but Braver’s recreation, owing to small and often previously off-camera details, remains hauntingly original. Some of these details, like the ones that open the book and dwell on Jackie’s fashion preferences, present a factual backdrop against which later scenes—e.g., where Jackie refuses to remove her blood-splattered pink suit—tragically play out. Others, like the way JFK’s eyes keep popping open during the autopsy, underscore the grisly reality of his death. While the accumulation of small moments gives the book its weightiness, the stories of people peripherally associated with the assassination make the book sing; through the experiences of the Texan who sold the government Kennedy’s casket, the mechanic in charge of the limousine in which Kennedy was shot and numerous others, Braver reveals the tragedy of a national story that decades later can still be acutely felt."
Publisher's Weekly

"This terse, tense, tough novel is absolutely riveting...Every rose petal, drop of blood and splatter of brain, every movement and comment resonates with history as if trapped within a claustrophobic nightmare. Braver keeps this solemn and somber tone throughout, his brisk, often lyrical declarative sentences as direct and translucent as the characters are unable to be."—Sam Coale, The Providence Journal

“Braver is a terrific writer, an observer of the most acute details; throughout the book, he traces the subtle interactions of his characters as they collide and move apart. One of the most moving interactions here takes place between Jackie and an ambulance driver named Al Rike as they share cigarettes outside the trauma room where her husband's body lies...in this tiny glimmer of connection, whole universes of emotion are uncovered.”—David Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"This is fiction of course, but it has the ring of truth...And it is both painful and fascinating, like rubbernecking at an accident, to watch. With an audacity of confidence and a sure sense of fiction's ability to tell eternal truths better than history, Braver re-creates the day the world changed." —Jay Strafford, Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Beautifully written, November 22, 1963 blurs the line between novel and journalism into something more powerful than either—a visceral story of an unthinkable event that continues to touch millions, 45 years later."—Michael E. Young, The Dallas Morning News

"Adam Braver's November 22, 1963 focuses on the singular event of President Kennedy's assassination, fusing fiction and fact from eyewitnesses and other sources to make for a blazingly original, brilliantly concretized historical novelfrom the author of Mr. Lincoln's War."—ELLE

“Braver has achieved more than a skillful retelling of a particularly morbid moment in American history. With its collage-like structure and postmodern blend of fact and fiction, November 22, 1963 raises fascinating questions about how we perceive history and the ways in which personal and collective experience intersect.”
—Alexis Nelson, The Oregonian


"A literary piece that blends fact and fiction, making protagonists of real people and asking very deep questions about the history, nostalgia and loss."—Kel Munger, Sacramento News & Review

"You would think that by now every and any thing that could have been written about the murder of the president has been said a dozen times over...Yet this outstanding piece of non-fiction fiction from Adam Braver manages to do so, and thus makes the book very much worth the time and money to buy and read." —Neil Flowers, Feminist Review

"Braver’s use of multiple viewpoints, engaging personal insight, and short blocks of prose propel readers through this impressive example of historical fiction."—Library Journal

"Adam Braver has done something that might have seemed impossible not long ago—he's created a fresh look at the events of November 22, 1963...Braver has found a way to once again dip into this event that shattered a nation, and reminds us of how devastating a day it was without simply re-hashing what others have written before. It's a bold task for a writer, begin to write about something that every reader picking the ball up already thinks they know the ending to, but Braver was more than up to the task."—Dan Wickett, Emerging Writers Network

"This is historical fiction at its best: intensely researched and beautifully written."—Erika D., Book Bargain Reviews

"With a captivating mix of fact and fiction, Braver chronicles the events surrounding JFK's assassination to moving effect." —Fort Dodge Today

"One may feel drawn into the experience of various characters, while simultaneously treading above some darker, plunging depth. At other moments, there is only the residue of memory, the granite presence of fact...[Braver] writes with the seductive concision of an alternate commission, a tautness that gives authority to speculation and authenticity to the emotional valences, retrained as they are." — Ron Slate, On the Seawall

"The successes of November 22, 1963 lie in Braver’s ability to gently and respectfully reside, like a professional surgeon might, in the stomachs and minds of the people who lived through that day...Halfway through November 22, 1963, you realize the novel is somehow not about JFK at all, but about us. A lesser writer would have failed at piecing this story together in such a way that we are okay reliving that monumentally awful day, but in Braver’s hands, we come back to the present wiser versions of ourselves, if also a bit sadder." —PDX Writer Daily

"Braver’s novel shows what can be done when a writer delves deeply into the textures and facts of a historical event about which we thought we knew everything. Of course we did not; we never know everything. His curiosity and reconstruction brings to life the human drama in a way that Oliver Stone and a roomful of conspiracy buffs never could. Yet the conspiracy buffs get all the press. Braver’s novel deserves a bigger share."—Don Graham, Texas Observer

"Spellbinding...a mesmerizing tidal wave of facts, portraits, episodes, and stories...It's a memorable novel about a day the nation would like to forget and needs to remember."—Barbara Ardinger, ForeWord Magazine

"Adam Braver has crafted a fantastic novel weaving real events with careful fiction, sweeping us back to Dallas on the day of the JFK assassination." —Elizabeth Lopeman, Eugene Magazine

"[Braver] doesn't overreach. Instead, he recounts that horrible day in November with no small measure of empathy, 'obliterating a moment' in his own words and taking it back to a place 'where even in violence the world seemed a little softer.'"—the San Diego Union-Tribune

"...Braver shows himself to be a writer of acute judgment and talent. The degree of attention paid by the author to the micro-level of history lends his novel a humanity and perspective that had, I feared, been drained from popular representations of the assassination." —Karl Whitney, 3:AM Magazine
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Tin House Books; First Edition Thus edition (November 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0980243629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0980243628
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #482,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Erika Dreifus on December 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
According to the Historical Novel Society, "To be deemed historical...a novel must have been written at least fifty years after the events described, or have been written by someone who was not alive at the time of those events (who therefore approaches them only by research)." Author Adam Braver may have been alive when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated: Braver was born in 1963. But he obviously does not remember the event, and he has approached it through a fascinating combination of research and fiction-crafting in his new novel.

I thought I knew a lot about the assassination, which is an historical event for me, too (my parents were still a few months away from meeting each other on November 22, 1963). But Braver's book, which focuses in depth on the events of that day through the closely-drawn third-person eyes of everyone from a Dallas policeman to Abe Zapruder to Maud Shaw (Caroline and John-John's nanny) to, of course, Jackie Kennedy, opened up so much more.

Most of us will never know what it was to be Air Force One as it bore the slain President's coffin back to Washington; Braver has imagined that. Most of us didn't witness the autopsy at Walter Reed; Braver has evoked it. Most of us can't imagine how Maud Shaw told six-year-old Caroline what had happened (I hadn't even realized that Jackie Kennedy had given the nanny that awful task); Braver shows us how it might have happened:

"They were the only two in the room, but...
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This book broke my heart as if I were again that 9th grader I once was, looking out the window of her algebra classroom, hearing the announcement that Kennedy was dead.

The smaller details are covered here. The intense emotions are felt.

An amazing, intimate look at an admirable First Lady and extraordinary grief as well as the working men and women who saw the tragedy unfold.
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Format: Paperback
Original and creative, heatbreaking without being overwrought, a quick read that is hard to put down.
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What a curious little book!

While it calls itself "a novel," Adam Braver's "November 22, 1963" concerns a historical incident we know all too well: the assassination on that date of President John F. Kennedy.

And while it deals with facts that we are familiar with, what makes it a work of fiction, I suppose, is that it purports to delve into the inner world of those most affected by the tragedy, in particular, Mrs. Kennedy. As a work of fiction, I would have to say it imagines the unimaginable well: the numbing grief of having a loved one brutally murdered before your very eyes, and the confusion of having to carry on protocol before the eyes of the entire world.

The author did a commendable job in making the reader feel like he was there on that day.

What made the novel so odd, however, is that it is difficult to understand the reasoning underlying the many tangents that spin out from the main story. For example, several pages are devoted to Abraham Zapruder, the historical personage who filmed the motorcade as it was passing. Then there are several pages that address the outcome of the casket that was used to transport JFK's body from Dallas to Washington. Then there are passages toward the beginning of the book that speak of some second-person "you," but the reader has no idea to whom "you" refers. It's almost like the author changed horses mid-stream in terms of who he intended as the central character. Very confusing.

Adding to the confusion are certain passages - for example, conversation between Jackie and LBJ which appear on the pages like a script - that make it impossible for the reader to discern if they are factual or poetic license.
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Format: Paperback
I recently returned from a trip to Dallas over the new year. I did take in the JFK sites and did it as a history buff and not as a tourist. This book is a mix of fiction and history and it truly will catch you from the first chapter. I love the story telling angle. I feel that Braver captures Jackie Kennedy's raw emotions and amazing strength in the face of a horrific nightmare. I find that I cannot put this book down and I love it!
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Format: Kindle Edition
Braver's piecing together of information and fact in those first 24 hours, and then imagining what it might have been like for Jackie--it puts a whole new, and very human, light on the assassination. I have never thought much about Jackie during that time, but it's as though this accounting adds a missing and important piece that gives the whole sad story further depth.
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This novel by Adam Braver defies typical narrative writing. He takes the singular moment of the tragedy of the Kennedy assassination and makes it personal. Jackie Kennedy's face on the front cover of the book tells it all: the indefinable sadness and grief combined with her distinct beauty, grace, and courage. It was Jackie who made our nation continue, not LBJ. Really makes you want to cry and be proud to be an American. No conspiracy theories, no dwelling on what might have been. There is no delusion that we were once an innocent nation. Braver has written something so pure and powerful, so compact. It is one of the best books of the year.
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