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In this debut novel, a newly-wed couple escapes the busy confusion of their homeland for a distant and almost-uninhabited lakeshore. They plan to live there simply, to fish the lake, to trap the nearby woods, and build a house upon the dirt between where they can raise a family. But as their every pregnancy fails, the child-obsessed husband begins to rage at this new world: the song-spun objects somehow created by his wife's beautiful singing voice, the giant and sentient bear that rules the beasts of the woods, the second moon weighing down the fabric of their starless sky, and the labyrinth of memory dug into the earth beneath their house.
This novel is a powerful exploration of the limits of parenthood and marriage–and of what happens when a marriage’s success is measured solely by the children it produces, or else the sorrow that marks their absence.
“It’s hard to imagine a book more difficult to pull off, but Bell proves as self-assured as he is audacious. His prose, which manages to be both mournful and propulsive, is undeniable.... Bell’s novel isn’t just a joy to read, it’s also one of the smartest meditations on the subjects of love, family and marriage in recent years.... the novel is a monument to the uniqueness of every relationship, the possibility that love itself can make the world better, though of course it’s never easy.”–NPR
“Somber, incantatory sentences to hold you within [Bell’s] dreamlike creation.... This unique book leaves you with the haunting lesson that even if you renounce and cast away your loved ones, you can never disown the memory of your deeds.”–The Wall Street Journal
“For readers weary of literary fiction that dutifully obeys the laws of nature, here’s a story that stirs the Brothers Grimm and Salvador Dali with its claws.... as gorgeous as it is devastating.”–The Washington Post
“A big, slinking, dangerous fairy tale, the kind with gleaming fangs and blood around the muzzle and a powerful heart you can hear thumping from miles away. The story’s ferocity is matched by Matt Bell’s glorious sentences: sinuous and darkly magical, they are taproots of the strange.”–Lauren Groff, New York Times bestselling author of Arcadia
“This is a fiercely original book–at once intimate and epic, visceral and philosophical–that sent me scurrying for adjectives, for precedents, for cover. Matt Bell commands the page with bold, vigorous prose and may well have invented the pulse-pounding novel of ideas.”–Jess Walter, National Book Award Finalist and author of Beautiful Ruins and We Live In Water
“Matt Bell does not write sentences–he writes spells. He is not a novelist–he is a mystic. This book, which will grip you in an otherworldly trance, reads like something divined from tea leaves or translated from a charcoal cipher on a cave wall.”–Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon and The Wilding
“Bell puts the fable in fabulism.... This spare, devastating novel... is as beautiful as it is ruinous. A tragedy of fantastic proportions, the book’s musical, often idiosyncratic prose will carry its readers into an unfamiliar but unforgettable world.”–Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
“A deeply affecting, wildly inventive fable on parenthood and loss.”–Chicago Tribune