A Cure for Suicide: Book summary and reviews of A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball

A Cure for Suicide

by Jesse Ball

A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball X
A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2015
    256 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A man and a woman have moved into a small house in a small village. The woman is an "examiner," the man, her "claimant." The examiner is both doctor and guide, charged with teaching the claimant a series of simple functions: this is a chair, this is a fork, this is how you meet people. She makes notes in her journal about his progress: he is showing improvement yet his dreams are troubling. One day the examiner brings the claimant to a party, where he meets Hilda, a charismatic but volatile woman whose surprising assertions throw everything the claimant has learned into question.

What is this village? Why is he here? And who is Hilda? A fascinating novel of love, illness, despair, and betrayal, A Cure for Suicide is the most captivating novel yet from one of our most audacious and original young writers.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Whatever the source of this book's elusive magic, it should cement Ball's reputation as a technical innovator whose work delivers a powerful emotional impact." - Publishers Weekly

"Ball imagines a spare, spooky, muffled realm of continual surveillance and absolute control ... Ball slyly exposes the survival-focused aspects of human interactions, from small talk to shared meals ... a tragic love affair further complicates the disquieting and profound mystery of it all." - Booklist

"This may be Ball's most self-contained work, but it's also one of his most fragile and one that may not hold up under focused scrutiny by a wider audience." - Kirkus

"The School of the Art Institute writing professor follows his well-received Silence Once Begun with this experimental tale of a man simply known as the 'claimant,' who, with the help of a mysterious woman, must relearn how to function in society." - "Great Summer Reads", Chicago Magazine

"A poet by trade, Ball understands the economy of language better than most fiction writers today." - "18 Brilliant Books You Won't Want To Miss This Summer," The Huffington Post

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Reader Reviews

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Cloggie Downunder

An interesting read
“Time passed. After some number of days, one particular day arrived, and in the midst of that day, it was midday. The sun was shining so brightly overhead it seemed that every blade of grass could be made out, each from the others. It was a sort of harmony – nothing could be hidden, nothing at all beneath the sky”.

A Cure For Suicide is the fifth novel by prize-winning American author, Jesse Ball. It begins with a nameless man (the claimant) who is living in a house in a village (Gentlest Village) where he is taught the basic activities of daily living by a doctor/guide (the examiner). The claimant is told he almost died, and is now being healed. The Process of Villages is the treatment he will undergo, the cure for suicide. Set somewhere far into the future, or in a parallel universe, Ball’s world, and certainly many of the character names, have a slightly Scandinavian feel to it (perhaps not surprising, given his Icelandic wife).

If the reader can get past the first (somewhat bizarre) two thirds of the novel, then the discussion between the petitioner and the interlocutor forms an explanation of how the nameless man came to be going through the Process of Villages. While the lack of quotation marks for speech can be irritating, it is generally not a barrier to understanding who is speaking, except during the discussion with the interlocutor, when conversations reported at third or fourth remove create quite complicated sentences.

Ball’s style is simple and stark, but his descriptive prose is, nonetheless, evocative: “She sat at a desk with her back to him, writing long into the night as she always did. The light from the fixture in that room was shabby. It fell very bitterly over the room, and some of the light from a lamp in the street contested with it. The effect was: as she sat at her desk she looked like a figure in a woodcut. And she sat as still” and “The manager, a yellowed, rancid sort of man, the type who seldom clip his nails, who believes they need be clipped less often than you and I do….”are two examples.

Ball describes a world where depression and heartbreak appear to be eliminated by amnesiac treatments: what led to the nameless man’s therapy is a moving tale, and perhaps Ball is leading the reader to consider the ethics of medicalising grief. The conclusion will leave the reader wondering about the sincerity (or otherwise) of a key character. An interesting read. 3.5 stars

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Author Information

Jesse Ball Author Biography

Photo: Joe Lieske

Jesse Ball was born in New York in 1978. The author of fourteen books, most recently, the novel How To Set a Fire and Why. His works have been published to acclaim in many parts of the world and translated into more than a dozen languages. He is on the faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, won the 2008 Plimpton Prize, was longlisted for the National Book Award, and has been a fellow of the NEA, Creative Capital, and Guggenheim Foundation.

Link to Jesse Ball's Website

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