The Affairs of Others: Book summary and reviews of The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd

The Affairs of Others

by Amy Grace Loyd

The Affairs of Others
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2013
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A mesmerizing debut novel about a young woman, haunted by loss, who rediscovers passion and possibility when she's drawn into the tangled lives of her neighbors

Five years after her young husband's death, Celia Cassill has moved from one Brooklyn neighborhood to another, but she has not moved on. The owner of a small apartment building, she has chosen her tenants for their ability to respect one another's privacy. Celia believes in boundaries, solitude, that she has a right to her ghosts. She is determined to live a life at a remove from the chaos and competition of modern life.

Everything changes with the arrival of a new tenant, Hope, a dazzling woman of a certain age on the run from her husband's recent betrayal. When Hope begins a torrid and noisy affair, and another tenant mysteriously disappears, the carefully constructed walls of Celia's world are soon tested and the sanctity of her building is shattered - through violence and sex, in turns tender and dark. Ultimately, Celia and her tenants are forced to abandon their separate spaces for a far more intimate one, leading to a surprising conclusion and the promise of genuine joy.

Amy Grace Loyd investigates interior spaces, of the body and the New York warrens in which her characters live, offering a startling emotional honesty about the traffic between men and women. The Affairs of Others is a story about the irrepressibility of life and desire, no matter its sorrows or obstacles.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Lloyd's character study is narrow in scope but long on intensity and emotion." - Publishers Weekly

"Dark and sensual, with just a touch of suspense, this first novel offers a heartwrenchingly honest story about grief while still allowing for a glimmer of hope." - Booklist

"This first novel by Brooklyn-based Loyd, a former fiction and literary editor at Playboy , is a sophisticated, sympathetic, and beautifully written portrayal of contemporary individuals who come to share more than just an apartment building." - Library Journal

"Like a neat apartment, Loyd's story hasn't an element out of place; she writes expertly, without wasted words. Yet the affect is curiously flat: Celia is matter-of-fact and, it seems, scarcely involved in the heart of her own story; only the supporting players seem to feel much of anything, including, in a nicely written turn, anguish over the plight ofthe polar bears. " - Kirkus

"A wonderful novel, beautifully written and sensuous, rich with emotion and psychological truth. Amy Grace Loyd's prose hums with desire as she creates a Brooklyn walk-up that comes alive with the yearning of its tenants and moves them toward an unforgettable ending - suspenseful, erotic, and ultimately hopeful." - Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins

"Debut novels don't come any more sure-handed and deftly written than The Affairs of Others. But it's the damaged, brokenhearted Celia - Amy Grace Loyd's brave, all-in protagonist - who latches on to us and refuses to loosen her grip." - Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls

"Hypnotic, beautiful, and dangerously erotic, this book trembles with feeling, every sentence a breath, every sentence a seismographic wonder of observation. Scuba-diving once, I watched minute sea grass oscillate with the motion of the sea, and this is how I think of the narrator of this magnificent novel - she sways with every movement of the world, both interior and exterior, registering it all, and always you wonder, with an aching heart, what will become of her." - Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir!

"Rich and fresh...The writing is just so wonderfully good: What other authors labor over, Loyd seems to just toss off. Throughout there are sentences to linger over, or for me to grin at with envy. Loyd has written a Rear Window story of a confined society described with Hitchcockian, voyeuristic detail." - Ron Hansen, author of Mariette in Ecstasy

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Reader Reviews

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J W. (Davis, CA)

A Stunning Story of Grief
This story is about grief in many forms and how each person deals with his or her own grief. Some ways are expected, others are very surprising. It's a beautifully written book that quietly tells the separate human stories which are at times shocking and often very sad, but also illuminating. It is a book I think about. It is a book I recommend to friends.

Patricia L. (Seward, AK)

Good-by forever and then?
Early in The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd, the protagonist Celia Cassill says "My husband died a difficult death. I went with him, or a lot of me did….American life asks us to engage in an act of triumphant recovery at all times or get out of the way. I have been happy to get out of the way." Celia's attempt to counter her grief by becoming a fastidious yet inconspicuous landlord is destined for failure. In reference to her tenants she says "I am not here to make a family of them, to know them too well…" yet she keeps a watchful eye on each, secretively tackling their anguish in lieu of her own.

Loyd's book is not without its surprises, especially the extent to which Celia becomes involved physically. While the details of the story are engaging Loyd's prose is more so. An example is her repeated reference to hands; Les's large sometimes violent ones and her own, small but possibly equally destructive. This book does not feel like a first novel and is highly recommended for anyone seeking a compact, satisfying read that will linger once completed.

Mary M. (Beverly Hills, FL)

Captivatingly beautiful
This book is so beautifully written; I found myself, within the first two or three pages, going back and re-reading sentences just for the delight of them. I so wish I could write something like this: "But the day ran too high. It was radiant and boasting, making a parade of its assets and so required cheering bodies and attitudes".
Celia, the young widow of the story, has made a bargain of sorts with her dead husband, to join him in the world of death, to keep him with her - not literally - but she is, in her way, dead to the life and love around her. She owns a small apartment building in Brooklyn and rents to tenants carefully chosen to maintain her and their "separateness." Then she sublets to a dazzling woman, herself leaving a marriage. Celia is gradually drawn into this woman' life, and into those of her other tenants. And she is seduced by life. This sensuous, heartbreakingly sad and ultimately joyous book will seduce you too.

Lou R. (Denton, MD)

Affairs of Others
This book was not what I was expecting. Celia, the landlord, had not completed grieving her husband. She wanted to be alone; however, her tenants pulled her into their lives with the necessities of the building. In taking care of the building, Celia lived her life through her tenants. She took liberties with them and felt entitled to their personal lives when she entered their apartments. Taking care of the building gave Celia order and balance until she met Hope. Celia did not immediately take to Hope; however, circumstances threw them together and made Celia realizes how much in common she had with Hope. I recommend the book. We tend to judge or dislike a person for something we have a conflict within ourselves.

Meredith K. (HACKENSACK, NJ)

Stick with it!
I found the novel very well written with a good even flow. At first I found it boring but after reading it for a while I realized how good the book really is.

The main character Celia is a woman who is looking at life through an imaginary window. She has everything carefully worked out so she can look out but nobody could look in. That all changes when a new tenant moves into her brownstone.

Hope is just the opposite of Celia. She loves people and enjoys having a good time. Unfortunately Hope is needy and she and Celia start a friendship that brings out the misery that befall humans when perfectly laid plans for long lasting marriages fall short of expectations.

Susan K. (Dartmouth, MA)

A new author to keep track of.
I'll start with the positives: yes, I will probably read this author's next book, the reason why is because of the hauntingly beautiful, evocative writing this debut author exhibits. I found myself marking sentences and paragraphs as I went along, reading them over, sometimes aloud, as poetry (Kudos to you for that, Ms. Loyd!).
That said, I actually read the entire book twice, because the storyline was so dense with the characters' actions and details I couldn't digest it properly in one read (not really a criticism). My main criticism is of the gratuitous sex throughout, with violence towards women. Though I understand why the author might have done that, I'm sorry she did. I guess what bothered me just as much was that the characters did not really seem to have changed at the end of the book, even though the author ended the book on an upbeat note (but it wasn't, really).
I loved the the themes of separateness, privacy, personal boundaries, lost and found love, but the pervasive unhealthy sexual relationships kind of soured the whole reading experience for me.

...14 more reader reviews

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Amy Grace Loyd is an executive editor at Byliner Inc. and was the fiction and literary editor at Playboy magazine. A recipient of both MacDowell and Yaddo fellowships, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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