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A Doubter's Almanac: A Novel
by Ethan Canin
Hardcover : 576 pages
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Milo Andret is born with an unusual mind. A lonely child ...
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this mesmerizing novel, Ethan Canin, the author of America America and The Palace Thief, explores the nature of genius, rivalry, ambition, and love among multiple generations of a gifted family.
Milo Andret is born with an unusual mind. A lonely child growing up in the woods of northern Michigan in the 1950s, he gives little thought to his own talent. But with his acceptance at U.C. Berkeley he realizes the extent, and the risks, of his singular gifts. California in the seventies is a seduction, opening Milo’s eyes to the allure of both ambition and indulgence. The research he begins there will make him a legend; the woman he meets there—and the rival he meets alongside her—will haunt him for the rest of his life. For Milo’s brilliance is entwined with a dark need that soon grows to threaten his work, his family, even his existence.
Spanning seven decades as it moves from California to Princeton to the Midwest to New York, A Doubter’s Almanac tells the story of a family as it explores the way ambition lives alongside destructiveness, obsession alongside torment, love alongside grief. It is a story of how the flame of genius both lights and scorches every generation it touches. Graced by stunning prose and brilliant storytelling, A Doubter’s Almanac is a surprising, suspenseful, and deeply moving novel, a major work by a writer who has been hailed as “the most mature and accomplished novelist of his generation.”
Praise for A Doubter’s Almanac
“551 pages of bliss . . . devastating and wonderful . . . dazzling . . . You come away from the book wanting to reevaluate your choices and your relationships. It’s a rare book that can do that, and it’s a rare joy to discover such a book.”—Esquire
“[Canin] is at the top of his form, fluent, immersive, confident. You might not know where he’s taking you, but the characters are so vivid, Hans’s voice rendered so precisely, that it’s impossible not to trust in the story. . . . The delicate networks of emotion and connection that make up a family are illuminated, as if by magic, via his prose.”—Slate
“Alternately explosive and deeply interior.”—New York (“Eight Books You Need to Read”)
“A blazingly intelligent novel.”—Los Angeles Times
“[A] beautifully written novel.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
“A book that raises the bar for novelists.”—Literary Hub
“No knowledge of proofs or theorems is required to enjoy Ethan Canin’s excellent eighth novel. He alternately treats math like elegant poetry or infuses it with crackling energy.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Math made beautiful . . . Canin writes with such luxuriant beauty and tender sympathy that even victims of Algebra II will follow his calculations of the heart with rapt comprehension.”—The Washington Post
“A masterful writer at his transcendent best.”—BBC
“Elegant and devastating . . . A Doubter’s Almanac is exquisitely crafted. Canin takes us readers deep into the strange world of his troubled characters without ever making us aware of the effort involved. . . . An odd and completely captivating novel.”—NPR’s Fresh Air
“Dazzlingly ambitious . . . one part intellectual thriller, one part domestic saga.”—The Huffington Post
Editorial ReviewAn Amazon Best Book of February 2016: “If your father was never like other fathers, if he never tossed the ball with you, if he never talked with you about your day at school while you walked the dog together in the evenings, if he never brought you to a hockey game…was always late when he picked you up…if he swore when he tripped on curbs and stumbled when he got out of cars…” then you had a father like poor Hans Andret, the narrator of this sad but surprisingly buoyant novel about a family of brainiacs who are particularly good at math-- and self-destruction. The patriarch, Milo Andret, is a drinker with a nasty demeanor that gets him booted out of both Princeton and the arms of his one true love (who marries his rival); a generation later, his son Hans, a hedge-fund billionaire by the age of 20 (his field was “applied” mathematics which to his purist father “might as well have been Himalayan transcentalist studies”) seems headed down the same path. But Hans tries to understand history as well as math, and manages, sort of, to come to terms with his father, his legacy and himself. This novel is the kind of epic story we’ve read before--it’s almost Biblical--and yet Canin makes it all seem new. Maybe it’s the discussions about math, which are less off-putting than I at first feared they would be, and maybe it’s the way he makes these superbly flawed characters seem…well, if not likable, then at least recognizable. (Personally, I credit the female characters, the ex-girlfriend, the mother, the sister--helpmeets, all--who are nonetheless both the backbone and the heart of the book.) Canin will surely catch some flak for some overlong passages and some scenes of very obvious Freudianness, but they’re buffeted by beautiful writing and a story line that, for all its tragic familiarity, never gets old. --Sara Nelson
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