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In the summer of 1969, twelve-year-old Seth lives with his unstable mother, Ruth, and his brother and sister in a two-bedroom apartment in New Jersey. His father lives with his new wife in a ten-room house and has no interest in Seth and his siblings. Seth is dying to escape from his mother’s craziness and suffocating love, her marriage to a man she’s known for two weeks, and his father’s cold disregard.
Over the next four decades, Seth becomes the keeper of his family’s memories and secrets. At the same time, he emotionally isolates himself from all those who love him, especially his mother. But Ruth is also Seth’s muse, and this enables him to ultimately find redemption, for both himself and his family.
“A Stranger on the Planet is charming.... [Schwartz’s] sincerity is genuinely winning.... original, sensitive and, unlike its hero, it’s always, always likable.”–NPR.org
“Masterful and richly textured.”–Boston Globe
“A Stranger on the Planet is the first great Jewish novel of 2011 and a book for outsiders of all stripes, one that serves as a reminder of how many chapters we all get.”–Jewcy.com
“Funny, honest and obsessive, A Stranger on the Planet is finally as beautiful as it is driven. Charming, too: Adam Schwartz is one part Philip Roth, but with a neurosis all his own.”–Gish Jen, author of World and Town
“With exhilarating wit, skill and passion Adam Schwartz covers more than thirty years in Seth’s life as he fights with, negotiates, distances himself from and embraces his vivid, difficult relatives. A Stranger on the Planet brings us a hero who is almost heroically anti-heroic, and who can be counted on to almost always act, endearingly, in his own worst interests. I would happily have followed him anywhere.”–Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street
“This is a stunningly good book. Adam Schwartz bestows the story of the Shapiro family to us with irresistible grace, humor, and conviction. A Stranger on the Planet is utterly charming, and deliciously satisfying.”–Don Lee, author of Wrack and Ruin and Country of Origin
“With a quirky frankness, A Stranger on the Planet reveals how the hardships that fate swings our way can make us attuned to life’s larger possibilities.”–Sana Krasikov, winner of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for One More Year