The Small Backs of Children: A Novel

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National Bestseller

A masterful literary talent explores the treacherous, often violent borders between war and sex, love and art.

With the flash of a camera, one girl’s life is shattered, and a host of others altered forever. . .

In a war-torn village in Eastern Europe, an American photographer captures a heart-stopping image: a young girl flying toward the lens, fleeing a fiery explosion that has engulfed her home and family. The image wins acclaim and prizes, becoming an icon for millions—and a subject of obsession for one writer, the photographer’s best friend, who has suffered a devastating tragedy of her own.

As the writer plunges into a suicidal depression, her filmmaker husband enlists several friends, including a fearless bisexual poet and an ingenuous performance artist, to save her by rescuing the unknown girl and bringing her to the United States. And yet, as their plot unfolds, everything we know about the story comes into question: What does the writer really want? Who is controlling the action? And what will happen when these two worlds—east and west, real and virtual—collide?

A fierce, provocative, and deeply affecting novel of both ideas and action that blends the tight construction of Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending with the emotional power of Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Small Backs of Children is a major step forward from one of our most avidly watched writers.

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About the author

Lidia Yuknavitch is the author of the National Bestselling novel The Small Backs of Children, winner of the 2016 Oregon Book Award's Ken Kesey Award for Fiction as well as the Reader's Choice Award, the novel Dora: A Headcase, and three books of short stories. Her widely acclaimed memoir The Chronology of Water was a finalist for a PEN Center USA award for creative nonfiction and winner of a PNBA Award and the Oregon Book Award Reader's Choice. She founded the workshop series Corporeal Writing in Portland Oregon, where she also teaches Women's Studies, Film Studies, Writing, and Literature. She received her doctorate in Literature from the University of Oregon. She lives in Oregon with her husband Andy Mingo and their renaissance man son, Miles. She is a very good swimmer.

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Additional Information

Publisher
HarperCollins
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Published on
Jul 7, 2015
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9780062383266
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / General
Fiction / Literary
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Margret Snow is the quintessential New York woman. She dresses the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue by day and mingles in the downtown art world by night, always searching for her niche in a city intent on capturing The Next Big Thing as it flies into view. Married to Charles, a professor at Columbia, and living on the Upper West Side, the backdrop to Margret's life is made up of the poetic rhythms and colors of the Manhattan day: slow-running buses, the gray morning light striking the Hudson, the winter landscape of Riverside Park, the endless round of gallery openings, cocktail parties and grand dinners in the palatial apartments on Manhattan's upper east side. Against this metropolitan whirl, Margret and Charles pursue a lifelong hobby of bird watching, a passion for which was kindled by her grandfather during long-past summers near the shore in Gloucester, Massachusetts. As they shuttle between their Manhattan apartment, birding in the city's parks, and weekends out of town in their house near Cape May, a violent upheaval pushes Margret beyond the boundaries of her hobby. Overnight, she becomes an art world sensation and just as suddenly has fame ripped from her. As Laura Jacobs proved in her first novel, "Women About Town", she understands the natural habitat of the New York Woman in all its complexity. In The Bird Catcher, her second, she moves deeper into that territory with the story of a remarkable woman who is as rare and special as the birds that fill the skies above her.
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NATIONAL BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE'S JOHN LEONARD AWARD • LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD

NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • San Francisco Chronicle • New York • Chicago Tribune • Kansas City Star • GQ • NPR • Christian Science Monitor • Cleveland Plain Dealer

In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong neighbor Akhmed finds Havaa hiding in the forest with a strange blue suitcase, he makes a decision that will forever change their lives. He will seek refuge at the abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded.

For Sonja, the arrival of Akhmed and Havaa is an unwelcome surprise. Weary and overburdened, she has no desire to take on additional risk and responsibility. But over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate. A story of the transcendent power of love in wartime, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a work of sweeping breadth, profound compassion, and lasting significance.

Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader’s guide and bonus content from the author.

Praise for A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

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It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their widowed Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.

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