Day: Book summary and reviews of Day by Michael Cunningham


A Novel

by Michael Cunningham

Day by Michael Cunningham X
Day by Michael Cunningham
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Book Summary

A searing, exquisitely crafted exploration of love and loss, the struggles and limitations of family life—and how we all must learn to live together and apart—from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Hours

April 5, 2019: In a cozy brownstone in Brooklyn, the veneer of domestic bliss is beginning to crack. Dan and Isabel, husband and wife, are slowly drifting apart—and both, it seems, are a little bit in love with Isabel's younger brother, Robbie. Robbie, wayward soul of the family, who still lives in the attic loft; Robbie, who, trying to get over his most recent boyfriend, is living vicariously through a glamorous avatar online; Robbie, who now has to move out of the house—and whose departure threatens to break the family apart. And then there is Nathan, age ten, taking his first uncertain steps toward independence, while his sister Violet, five, does her best not to notice the growing rift between her parents.

April 5, 2020: As the world goes into lockdown, the cozy brownstone is starting to feel more like a prison. Violet is terrified of leaving the windows open, obsessed with keeping her family safe. Isabel and Dan communicate mostly in veiled jabs and frustrated sighs. And dear Robbie is stranded in Iceland, alone in a mountain cabin with nothing but his thoughts—and his secret Instagram life—for company.

April 5, 2021: Emerging from the worst of the crisis, the family reckons with a new, very different reality—and with what they've learned, what they've lost, and how they might go on.

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Media Reviews

"This subtle, sensitively written family story proves poignant and quietly powerful." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"This stands out from the growing shelf of pandemic novels by managing to feel timeless." —Publishers Weekly

"In Day, Michael Cunningham displays his great gift for creating memorable characters, for noticing the world in all its oddness and beauty, for writing about love and loss in tones that are both unsparing and tender." —Colm Tóibín, New York Times bestselling author of The Magician

"Cunningham is one of our great American writers, and here is another masterpiece. Day shows all his extraordinary gifts of epic sweep and intricate detail, lyrical language and plain hard words, memory and imagination, love and hope and loss. It does what only great books can do. Read it and be changed." —Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Less Is Lost

"Michael Cunningham, the perennial master of rendering the quotidian with a profound and deeply considered eye for human frailty, returns with a book that exemplifies the hallmarks of his style: lush, erudite, voracious in its seeking. Like a true poet, he remakes the world in his descriptions, freshened with care and compassion and tinged with the radiant heat of grief. What a quietly stunning achievement." —Ocean Vuong, New York Times bestselling author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

"Michael Cunningham writes such eloquent, seductive sentences that we have to keep reminding ourselves to step back and pay attention to his appealing, dimensional characters and to his generous vision of childhood and adulthood, of work and love, of the pleasures and griefs of family life, and of all the rich complexities of being human." —Francine Prose

"Day is a novel about the collisions of love within our days. Michael Cunningham crafts a glorious sentence, and at the same time he tells an achingly compelling story that speaks precisely to the times we live in. And it all flows so damn gorgeously that at times you just want to suspend the sacred day itself and hold it close, never let it, or the characters, go."—Colum McCann, New York Times bestselling author of Let the Great World Spin

"Few writers capture the crazy contradictions of modern life with as much clarity and wisdom as Michael Cunningham. Day glows beauty and energy; its characters slip off the page and into your life." —Tash Aw, author of The Harmony Silk Factory

This information about Day 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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Milda S. (Warwick, NY)

Day After Day
On a chilly April morning in a Brooklyn Brownstone, a family awakes to face another day. Dan,the husband, starts making coffee while Isabel, his wife gets ready for work. Isabella's brother, Robbie, joins Dan in the kitchen until it is time to wake up Nathan and Violet (the children). Isabel sits on the stairs avoiding all of them.

Isabel recalls being introduced to Dan by Robbie. As the three became friends, Dan fell in love with Isabel and asked her to marry him. Isabel had doubts but finally said yes. At first everything was fine but then the children were born and money became tight. Dan's dream of being a successful musician crashed and this led to drugs and recovery. Isabel is tired of struggling.

Isabel worries as Dan continues to write songs. Robbie wants to go to med school and hopes that they will honor the admission to med school that he received years ago. Meanwhile, he writes a blog about the adventures of a successful character named Wolfe that is followed by 35,000 readers. As Isabel reads the blog she thinks about how kind and funny Robbie can be. He pays attention to Dan and listens to his songs. He also plays and listens to Violet's worries and Nathan's problems.

Today he is moving out to his own apartment. What Isabel doesn't realize is that Robbie is the glue that is holding the family together as she falls apart.

Ambulance sirens are the voices of the night, hospitals are full and people are dying. Pandemic lock-down becomes the norm. The family in the brownstone are locked in together. They can no longer escape to school or work. It is difficult to find a spot to be alone. Violet is paranoid about keeping the windows closed.

Robbie has quit his job and gone on vacation to Iceland where he writes his blog and letters to his family. He is alone when the Pandemic lock-down arrives.

DAY unfolds slowly with deep understanding and compassion. There are many reasons why this family is breaking apart and no one is to blame. When the hopes and dreams of the young meet the challenges of life, without true love, there is no future.

Patty S. (Towson, MD)

A Day in Some Lives
I have been a fan of Michael Cunningham ever since I read Home at the End of the World, one of his earliest books. Day did not disappoint. The day of April 5th is used to tell the story of a family as they change and grow through the years 2019 through 2022.
His ability to write characters the reader cares about from the very beginning is, I believe, one of his gifts. He allows them to tell their stories. I laughed and I cried and I was sorry to get to the end of the book.

M K. (Minneapolis, MN)

This is a a gorgeously written book using the Covid-19 pandemic as a way to talk about how we can figure out who we are in an ever changing world that infiltrates our lives with calamities that we can't control and those that we can. The novel is deliciously claustrophobic, taking us inside the many faceted layers of our lives, our thoughts and feelings about who we are, and the distance between that and the way that we live. It's not an easy book to inhabit because many of the issues that the novel brings forth are unsettling, and yet, for many of us, their experience of the pandemic was not that different from our own lives.


I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!
I would like to thank BookBrowse and Penguin Random House for an Advanced Readers Copy of Day in exchange for an honest review.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! I loved the format, three sections, April 5th, 2019,introducing us to the family. April 5th, 2020, the pandemic section. And April 5th, 2021, the aftermath of the pandemic. At first, I was apprehensive about going there. I was thinking, is it too early to revisit this incredibly stressful time? But just one paragraph into section two, April 5th, 2020, and I was totally in!
I was so invested in the family. I especially loved the section when Robbie was with the children, Nathan and especially Violet. I just loved Violet!
The prose was so beautiful, and I found myself rereading sentences just because they were so beautiful!
I look forward to seeing the author at my local independent bookstore event in November.

Mark S

Unorthodox Couples
I read this book in 3 morning, one afternoon and one evening. It is exquisitely written with the most beautiful almost poetic descriptions of both surroundings and people. This author has an uncanny way of describing the ordinary everyday feelings and thought of his characters and their relationships. Yes, they are conflicted, questioning, sometimes desperate imperfect people, yet real. The specter of disaster floats through this novel increasing as "the day" progresses, yet does end with a ray of hope. It is a novel worth re-reading.

Claire M. (Wrentham, MA)

Virtuoso Art
Day: A Novel delivers on so many levels it seems to effortlessly fall onto the page. With poetry and skill Michael Cunningham's writing draws the reader into the extended family of Isabel and Dan, revealing the intimate concerns of each family member. Navigating the space of the home shared with their two children and Isabel's twin brother Rob we absorb one innocuous April day, in the before times. There are undertones of change within the family group, unsettled rumblings that manifest in unexpected change the following year, the pandemic year of lockdown, and in the hopeful emergence in 2021. Through changes and choices within one extended family, Cunningham depicts the rippling effects of pandemic life in sentences unfolding with of the ache of love and longing. Unforgettable.

...22 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Michael Cunningham Author Biography

Photo: Richard Phibbs

Michael Cunningham is a novelist, screenwriter, and educator. His novel The Hours received the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1999. He has taught at Columbia University and Brooklyn College. He is currently a professor in the practice at Yale University.

Link to Michael Cunningham's Website

Other books by Michael Cunningham at BookBrowse
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