Subtle Bodies: Book summary and reviews of Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush

Subtle Bodies

By Norman Rush

Subtle Bodies
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2013,
    256 pages.

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Book Summary

In his long-awaited new novel, Norman Rush, author of three immensely praised books set in Africa, including the best-selling classic and National Book Award-winner Mating, returns home, giving us a sophisticated, often comical, romp through the particular joys and tribulations of marriage, and the dilemmas of friendship, as a group of college friends reunites in upstate New York twenty-some years after graduation.

When Douglas, the ringleader of a clique of self-styled wits of "superior sensibility" dies suddenly, his four remaining friends are summoned to his luxe estate high in the Catskills to memorialize his life and mourn his passing. Responding to an obscure sense of emergency in the call, Ned, our hero, flies in from San Francisco (where he is the main organizer of a march against the impending Iraq war), pursued instantly by his furious wife, Nina: they're at a critical point in their attempt to get Nina pregnant, and she's ovulating! It is Nina who gives us a pointed, irreverent commentary as the friends begin to catch up with one another. She is not above poking fun at some of their past exploits and the things they held dear, and she's particularly hard on the departed Douglas, who she thinks undervalued her Ned. Ned is trying manfully to discern what it was that made this clutch of souls his friends to begin with, before time, sex, work, and the brutal quirks of history shaped them into who they are now - and, simultaneously, to guess at what will come next.

Subtle Bodies is filled with unexpected, funny, telling aperçus, alongside a deeper, moving exploration of the meanings of life. A novel of humor, small pleasures, deep emotions. A novel to enjoy and to ponder.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[E]ven Nina can't save the book from growing talky and claustrophobic." -Publishers Weekly

"Subtle Bodies is a funny, deeply satisfying look at friendships - why we make them, why we keep them, and how they change us over time." - Booklist

"Starred Review. [Rush's] skill at revealing our interior lives is undiminished. Easier to lug around than its predecessors but with plenty of heft regardless." - Kirkus

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Norman Rush is the author of three previous works of fiction: Whites, a collection of stories, and two novels, Mating and Mortals. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Best American Short Stories. Mating was the recipient of the National Book Award. Rush and his wife live in Rockland County, New York.

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