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The Astral by Kate Christensen
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The Astral

by Kate Christensen

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It's like this isn't even a Kate Christensen novel. It's like it was her friend's. Or like it was the one in a drawer, that was the first one that she practiced on. It's like her writing teacher said "Show, not tell" and that made her (or someone using her name) write long semi-descriptive paragraphs instead of dialogue and action. It's like the destroyed relationship this book purports to describe... I used to love you; now, who cares? Oh, and the Astral, which I thought would have a character-like role, was nada. Ach. You get one more chance, Kate. This ASTRAL was disastral! ( )
  ReneeGKC | Feb 24, 2013 |
This review first appeared on my blog: http://www.knittingandsundries.com/2011/10/astral-by-kate-christensen-book-revie...

Who would have thought that a female author could write such a spot-on novel about a disintegrating marriage from the male point of view?

Harry Quirk is a published (one title) poet who has been married to Luz, the family breadwinner, for over 25 years. When Luz finds Harry's latest poems, it reinforces her suspicions of his infidelity and she destroys his work and kicks him out of their apartment at The Astral.

How is a man with no marketable skills expected to cope with suddenly being without a place to live and no way to earn a living? How can he convince his wife of his faithfulness? Will he and his lesbian freegan daughter Karina be able to pull his son Hector from the clutches of what seems to be a cult?

Wonderfully quirky side characters and subtle humor color this tale of a man bereft. Did I like Harry? Not really (but maybe that's because I don't quite get how a guy can basically do nothing for years and allow his wife to be the only breadwinner). Did Harry help me understand the male mind and how it copes with a major life change such as a pending divorce? Definitely. This novel takes the reader through the "what ifs", such as what if Harry had married his best platonic friend Marion instead of Luz? I think that Luz is portrayed unfairly (after all, how many of us would put up with a do-nothing man for years?), but since she is portrayed from Harry's point of view (a man who somehow really can't see how he may have contributed to the breakup of the marriage as a whole and focuses his attention on the wrong reasons), I can understand why this is so.

This is not an everyman (or woman) novel, as some may not like the fact that things aren't tied up into a nice neat little bow at the end, but I enjoyed this view of the male mind. If you like a little different, you'll like this one.

QUOTES

Luz has a cold, impeccable exterior inside which beats a soul as fragile and silken and easily crushed as a baby mouse. The contradiction is lethal, maddening, and lovely. Her exterior defends her interior with hawk-talon rabidity. She is quick to judge and pounce, as black and white in her moralistic reasoning as the average eleven-year-old. She knows not nuance, she recognizes neither grays nor subtlety.

And there was Camille, perched on the couch, looking radiant and amused. I felt exactly like one of the dogs, panting and openmouthed and unable to hide my joy at the sight of her. I wanted to leap at her and lick her entire face with big swipes of my tongue and sneak in a few furtive humps of her leg.

She had been partially right, in what she'd said about men taking up too much space, but she'd missed the point, the real reason we behaved the way we did toward our wives, toward any woman we were involved with. By middle age, most of us, the smart ones, anyway, had lost faith in our own charms and prospects. We saw ourselves for the hairy-eared, buffoonish, cantankerous things we had become, and we couldn't muster the self-love necessary to undergird our outward affections.

Writing: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Characters: 4 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion: 4 out 5 stars

BOOK RATING: 4.25 out of 5 stars

Sensitive reader: Some profanity ( )
  jewelknits | Oct 7, 2011 |
Recommended by NPR - Alan Cheuse
  ValNewHope | Aug 21, 2011 |
Harry Quirk has just been thrown out of his apartment (The Astral building) by his wife, Luz, when she suspects him of writing poems for another women, her best friend, Marion. Harry doesn't understand what happened and seems more confused than anything about his impending divorce. The author does a wonderful job relating this divorce through a man's point of view. Harry seems lost and his two children (also outsiders) don't really know how to deal with him. Their conflict with Harry doesn't seem to add to the story, but do offer an offbeat tangent that I liked. Harry does start a new relationship which, to me, seems like he is trying to pick right up where the last one left off. If you are looking for a good book where Brooklyn plays a starring role, then this one about divorce from a male perspective should be just what you are looking for. ( )
  MaryinHB | Jul 30, 2011 |
The Astral is an apartment complex in Brooklyn that Harry Quirk and his wife Luz live until their 30 marriage falls apart.In the end, after countless pages of nonsense, they divorce.

I am tired of wasting good reading time on books that have been hailed as "must reads". So, I am advising everyone to read reviews like mine before spending time coming to these conclusions.

I maybe rather harsh on The Astral but this is number 4 or 5 that I have picked up with great expectation recently and been greatly disappointed.

Oh well, back the book shelf. Maybe the next one will be worth it. ( )
  Quiltinfun06 | Jul 30, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385530919, Hardcover)

From the PEN/Faulkner Award–winning author of The Great Man, a scintillating novel of love, loss, and literary rivalry set in rapidly changing Brooklyn.

The Astral is a huge rose-colored old pile of an apart­ment building in the gentrifying neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. For decades it was the happy home (or so he thought) of the poet Harry Quirk and his wife, Luz, a nurse, and of their two children: Karina, now a fer­vent freegan, and Hector, now in the clutches of a cultish Christian community. But Luz has found (and destroyed) some poems of Harry’s that ignite her long-simmering sus­picions of infidelity, and he’s been summarily kicked out. He now has to reckon with the consequence of his literary, marital, financial, and parental failures (and perhaps oth­ers) and find his way forward—and back into Luz’s good graces.

Harry Quirk is, in short, a loser, living small and low in the water. But touched by Kate Christensen’s novelistic grace and acute perception, his floundering attempts to reach higher ground and forge a new life for himself become funny, bittersweet, and terrifically moving. She knows what secrets lurk in the hearts of men—and she turns them into literary art of the highest order.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:10 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The Astral is a huge, rose-colored apartment building in the rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint. For decades, it has been the happy home (or so he thought) of the poet Harry Quick and his wife, Luz, who raised two children in their rambling top-floor apartment. However, the aging Astral's glory is beginning to fade- and as the building crumbles around him, a series of events forces Harry to face the reality of his own fractured family.--From book jacket.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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