Excerpt from The Heavens by Sandra Newman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Heavens

by Sandra Newman

The Heavens by Sandra Newman X
The Heavens by Sandra Newman
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2019, 272 pages

    Nov 2019, 272 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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The first few weeks of being in love: what magic had meant to him when he was a child, what he'd wanted when he'd dreamed about riding a dragon. Everything was that different. Just Kate's face looking up and seeing him. He'd walk across a dive bar to her smile and then her hand in his that made his body ignite with pleasure. He felt it in his feet. On the wall behind her, a framed vintage advertisement for the Tour de France was blessed, was alive and significant. Sexual. Nothing could be this good again, and already the scrambling vertigo of that. Of clinging to this thin moment that wouldn't cling back.

The fear when he glanced at her casually and felt nothing. The relief when she smiled and was amazing again.

Or she might just leave you.

Ben had a job at an energy-industry journal, a job he downplayed and treated as a stopgap embarrassment but secretly liked. He rewrote press releases. He had spats with his editor and drank ten coffees. He attended conferences in Pittsburgh that were an ocean of suits in a Holiday Inn, where, at a certain hour of night, the suits started daring each other to look up strip clubs in the Yellow Pages. It was rote, it was soulless: a comfortable nothing, like going to an office to play cards all day.

What was important now: it was a job you could leave at five.

Kate was never doing anything. He picked her up at Sabine's, and they walked all through New York, creating a personal geography of train stations where they'd kissed and bars where they'd had breakthrough conversations, all through those last summer days that delicately chilled, became serious, became the first bright days of autumn. Everywhere, they were the couple in love. They were stars, cocooned, invulnerable; would be laughing happily on a jam-packed subway platform, in its tropical reek and heat, while the F train just didn't come and the other travelers endured a stifled misery that Ben now couldn't even imagine. How had that stuff ever mattered to him?

And back to Sabine's—it was always there. Ben's apartment was too grim; it had linoleum in the bedroom. Kate had a place—a shared house in Brooklyn—but somebody's brother was staying in her bedroom, and anyway, Kate didn't like bedrooms; they made her feel like a doll that had been put in a drawer. So it was Sabine's rooftop, where Kate was always stroking the endangered grass motherhennishly, worried that it missed the Andes, that it wouldn't like the local rain. When there was local rain, they went indoors to the uncle's library, where Kate was in the habit of sleeping on a sheepskin rug; it had a semicircle of rosy smudges where Kate's lipstick had come off on the wool. With the addition of Ben, she brought a futon out, and they had sex for hours beneath the books that filled the walls to the ceiling, books that seemed to solemnly think their thousand stories in the gloom beyond the light of the reading lamp, while Ben and Kate didn't think but moaned and felt and were animals in that light.

Outside the library door, it was politics. Sabine was the sort of rich girl who bankrolled left-wing political movements: squatters' rights and prison reform and open borders and just plain communism. Her apartment was a churn of left-wing activists and local politicians, of reporters whose stories Sabine dictated and moneyed friends who wrote her checks, of squatters and ex-convicts and refugees who came to her apartment in threadbare legations to second-guess everything she did. Often they stayed the night, and there were always staffers from Albany staying, who stank the place out with their cigarettes and shouted at the breakfast table, stabbing the air with a fork to make their points. There was also a shifting population of mail-order brides and miscellaneous penniless riffraff, plus Martin the New Zealander garden designer, who'd been grandfathered into the apartment as a condition of Sabine's own tenancy.

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The Heavens © 2019 by Sandra Newman. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.

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