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Small World: Book summary and reviews of Small World by Jonathan Evison

Small World

A Novel

by Jonathan Evison

Small World by Jonathan Evison X
Small World by Jonathan Evison
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About this book

Book Summary

Jonathan Evison's Small World is an epic novel for now. Set against such iconic backdrops as the California gold rush, the development of the transcontinental railroad, and a speeding train of modern-day strangers forced together by fate, it is a grand entertainment that asks big questions.

The characters of Small World connect in the most intriguing and meaningful ways, winning, breaking, and winning our hearts again. In exploring the passengers' lives and those of their ancestors more than a century before, Small World chronicles 170 years of American nation-building from numerous points of view across place and time. And it does it with a fullhearted, full-throttle pace that asks on the most human, intimate scale whether it is truly possible to meet, and survive, the choices posed—and forced—by the age.

The result is a historical epic with a Dickensian flair, a grand entertainment that asks whether our nation has made good on its promises. It dazzles as its characters come to connect with one another through time. And it hits home as it probes at our country's injustices, big and small, straight through to its deeply satisfying final words.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Without being simplistic or wearing rose-colored glasses, Evison suggests a fresh way of recognizing our relationships without melting-pot clichés. A bighearted, widescreen American tale." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Masterpiece…Such masterful strokes seem to qualify Small World as the quintessential Great American Novel as Evison eloquently shows that perhaps the most authentically American ideal is the ongoing, blended palette of stories." - Booklist (starred review)

"Piece by piece, Evison successfully corrals this sprawling history into a cohesive whole, coalescing it into a vivid mosaic…Throughout it all, Evison underscores a sense of a shared America, not so much in the kumbaya mythology of the melting pot but a feeling—oft-neglected these days—that we are all in this nation-building adventure together." - BookPage (starred review)

"[A]mbitious...While some of the historical details and the characters' relationships to one another feel a bit scattered, Evison's depiction of the characters' family histories builds significance as contemporary racial inequalities and class disparities are brought into relief against those of the 1850s...It's baggy, but still thick with insights." - Publishers Weekly

"This is more than a sprawling, big-hearted, blue-collar novel, it's a Dickensian saga on a grand American scale, filled with beauty and violence, tragedy and redemption. This is the kind of historical fiction that keeps you up all night, burning in your veins like kerosene." - Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

"A creative, insightful work of fiction. Evison pulls off a wonderful high-wire act of storytelling that few would attempt, and even fewer could achieve so sharply!" - Jason Mott, author of National Book Award winner Hell of a Book

This information about Small World was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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techeditor

It's a small world
What an appropriate title! "Small world" really is what SMALL WORLD is about.

But know this right up front: SMALL WORLD has lots of characters, so many that you may have a hard time remembering who's who. This book should include a list of characters with who each is. Because it doesn't, I suggest, if you own your copy, keep a highlight marker handy and highlight each name when it first appears so it's easy to flip back and find that name if you forget it by the time it next shows up. My friend keeps notes on borrowed books.

You will probably need one of these tricks to help your memory because this book has several stories going on:

One story is about twins who came to New York from Ireland in the 1850s and were each adopted out to different families in different parts of the country, with another story about their present-day descendant, a train engineer about to retire.

There's a story about a Chinese man in 1850s California and another about his present-day descendant (whose husband may have descended from Irish people who helped the Irish twins in New York).

Another story is about a black slave in the 1850s who came with his rich Kentucky owner to Illinois and escaped, and another story is about the former slave's present-day descendants, a mother and her giant teenaged son who excels in basketball.

And, yes, there's another story about an (American) Indian girl/woman in the 1850s who ran away from her adoptive parents, and, yes, another story is about her present-day descendant who is escaping her abusive boyfriend.

All the main characters from the present-day stories are on the same train. How did they all come to be there at the same time? What are their stories?

Throughout SMALL WORLD are occasional coincidences, such as the blue locket that young Finnegan, one of the Irish twins in the 1850s, kept his whole life to give to his twin Nora when he found her. Yet the present-day story about the Indian girl running from her boyfriend mentions that she now has that locket. Somehow, a character from one story came in contact with a character from an unrelated story. It's a small world.

I won SMALL WORLD from the publisher.

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Author Information

Jonathan Evison Author Biography

Photo: Algonquin Books

Jonathan Evison is the author of the novels All About Lulu, West of Here, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!, Lawn Boy, and Legends of the North Cascades. He lives with his wife and family in Washington State.

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Other books by Jonathan Evison at BookBrowse
  • This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! jacket
  • The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving jacket

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