In Jennifer duBois's mesmerizing and exquisitely rendered debut novel, a long-lost letter links two disparate characters, each searching for meaning against seemingly insurmountable odds. Spanning two continents and the dramatic sweep of history, A Partial History of Lost Causes reveals the stubbornness and splendor of the human will even in the most trying times.
In St. Petersburg, Russia, world chess champion Aleksandr Bezetov begins a quixotic quest. With his renowned Cold Warera tournaments behind him, Aleksandr has turned to politics, launching a dissident presidential campaign against Vladimir Putin. He knows he will not win - and that he is risking his life in the process - but a deeper conviction propels him forward. And in the same way that he cannot abandon his aims, he cannot erase the memory of a mysterious woman he loved in his youth.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, thirty-year-old English lecturer Irina Ellison is on an improbable quest of her own. Certain she has inherited Huntington's disease - the same cruel illness that ended her father's life - she struggles with a sense of purpose. When Irina finds an old, photocopied letter her father had written to the young Aleksandr Bezetov, she makes a fateful decision. Her father had asked the Soviet chess prodigy a profound question - How does one proceed against a lost cause? - but never received an adequate reply. Leaving everything behind, Irina travels to Russia to find Bezetov and get an answer for her father, and for herself.
Spanning two continents and the dramatic sweep of history, A Partial History of Lost Causes reveals the stubbornness and splendor of the human will even in the most trying times. With uncommon perception and wit, Jennifer duBois explores the power of memory, the depths of human courage, and the endurance of love.
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"Starred Review. In urgent fashion, Dubois deftly evokes Russia's political and social metamorphosis over the past 30 years through the prism of this particular and moving relationship." - Publishers Weekly
"Dubois's impressive mastery of her Russian material makes one hopeful for a more credible story line next time around." - Kirkus Reviews
"Thrilling, thoughtful, strange, gorgeous, political, and deeply personal, Jennifer duBois's A Partial History of Lost Causes is a terrific debut novel. In prose both brainy and beautiful, she follows her characters as they struggle to save each other. This is a book to get lost in." - Elizabeth McCracken
"An amazing achievement - a braiding of historical, political, and personal, each strand illuminating the other. Wonderful characters, elusive glimpses of wisdom, and a gripping story that accelerates to just the right ending." - Arthur Phillips
"Hilarious and heartbreaking and a triumph of the imagination. Jennifer duBois is too young to be this talented. I wish I were her." - Gary Shteyngart
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Jennifer duBois's A Partial History of Lost Causes was one of the most acclaimed debuts of 2012. It was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction, winner of the California Book Award for First Fiction and the Northern California Book Award for Fiction, and O: The Oprah Magazine chose it as one of the ten best books of the year.
DuBois was also named one of the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 authors. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, duBois recently completed a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University.
Her second novel is Cartwheel (Oct 2013). Originally from Massachusetts, she now lives in Texas.
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