Excerpt from The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Illusion of Separateness

A Novel

by Simon Van Booy

The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2013, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2014, 256 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Naomi Benaron

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter 1
THE ILLUSION OF SEPARATENESS

The mere thought of him brought comfort. They believed he could do anything, and that he protected them.

He listened to their troubles without speaking.

He performed his duties when they were asleep, when he could think about his life the way a child stands in front of the sea. Always rising at first light, he filled his bucket, then swished along the corridors with pine soap and hot water. There were calluses where he gripped the handle. The bucket was blue and difficult to carry when full. The water got dirty quickly, but it didn't annoy him. When it was done, he leaned his mop against the wall and went into the garden.

He sometimes drove to the pier at Santa Monica. It was something he did alone.

A long time ago, he proposed to a woman there.

There was mist because it was early and their lives were being forged around them. They could hear waves chopping but saw nothing.

In those days, Martin was a baker at the Café Parisienne. He had a mustache and woke up very early. She was an actress who came in for coffee one morning and never quite managed to leave.

She would have liked the Starlight Retirement Home. Many of the residents were in films. They come to breakfast in robes with their initials on the pocket. They call him Monsieur Martin on account of his French accent. After dinner they sit around a piano and remember their lives. They knew the same people but have different stories. The frequency with which a resident receives guests is a measure of status.

Martin is often mistaken for a resident himself.

It would be easier if people knew exactly how old he was, but the conditions of his birth are a mystery.

He grew up in Paris. His parents ran a bakery and they lived upstairs in three rooms.

When Martin was old enough to begin school, his parents seated him at the kitchen table with a glass of milk, and told him the story of when someone gave them a baby.

"It was summer," his mother said. "The war was on. I can't even remember what the man looked like, but there was suddenly a child in my arms. It happened so quickly."

Martin liked the story and wanted to know more.

"Then she brought the child into my bakery for something to eat," his father said.

"That's right," his mother added. "It's how we met."

His father stood at the dark window and confessed to the reflection of his son how they waited years before doing anything official.

His mother's tears made circles on the tablecloth. Martin looked at her hands. Her nails were smooth with rising moons. She pressed on his cheek and he blushed. He imagined the rough hands of a stranger and felt the weight of a baby in his own arms.

When he asked what happened to the child, they were forced to be direct. Martin stared at the milk until it made him cry. His mother left the table and returned with a bottle of chocolate syrup. She poured some into his glass and swirled it with a tall spoon.

Our love for you," she said, "will always be stronger than any truth."

He was allowed to sleep in their bed for a few days, but then missed his toys and the routine in which he had come to recognize himself fully.

A short time later his sister, Yvette, was born.

When Yvette was six years old and Martin a teenager, they closed the bakery and left Paris for California.

Martin never quite understood why they waited so long to apply for adoption papers. Then, when he was a freshman at a small college in Chicago, smoking in bed with a lover, the curtain was lifted.

It was snowing. They ordered Chinese food. A good film was about to start on television. As Martin reached for the ashtray, the sheet uncovered his body. His legs were so muscular. She laid her cheek against them. He told her about West Hollywood High School, track records still unbroken. She listened, then confessed how she was curious, had been wondering why, unlike other European men, Martin was circumcised.

  • 1
  • 2

Excerpted from The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy. Copyright © 2013 by Simon Van Booy. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Operation Carpetbagger

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Happiness
    Happiness
    by Heather Harpham
    Of the 53 reviews submitted for Happiness, 49 readers rated it a four- or five-star book for an ...
  • Book Jacket
    My Name Is Leon
    by Kit De Waal
    Kit de Waal's striking debut, My Name is Leon, has inspired this big, long, complicated question: ...
  • Book Jacket: New People
    New People
    by Danzy Senna
    Danzy Senna has spent virtually her entire writing career exploring the complicated intersections of...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Little Nothing by Marisa Silver

A stunning, provocative new novel from New York Times bestselling author Marisa Silver

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Heart's Invisible Furies
    by John Boyne

    A sweeping, heartfelt saga set in Ireland from the author of The Boy In the Striped Pajamas.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Resurrection of Joan Ashby

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas

Epic, propulsive, incredibly ambitious, and dazzlingly written--a story about sacrifice and motherhood.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I's A D Before D

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.