Thursday, June 18, 2015

Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush

They were a clique at college, a group of boys trying to learn how to become men.  They were self-indulgent and condescending but built real friendships that have lasted for decades.  There were women and marriages, children and political disagreements along the way but the group gave them their first self-explanation and has remained with them, echoing down the years.

Now their leader, Douglas, has been killed in an accident, and the group is called together to come to his memorial.  Douglas has become the most famous of the group although no one is sure exactly what he does.  There is talk of him authenticating documents.  Rumors say intelligence agencies all over the globe are interested in his work.  He also married one of the world's great beauties, a European woman named Ida.

The group comes together for a sad reunion.  We see the events through the eyes of Ned and Nina who have come from the West.  Ned spends his time organizing for peace while Nina's main occupation is getting pregnant and having Ned's baby.  She is determined to advocate for Ned and helps him see the world and his old friends through a prism of understanding and acceptance.

Norman Rush has written several highly-acclaimed novels, including Mortals and Mating.  His ability to write dialogue so that the reader gets the personality of the character speaking is renowned and that ability is found in this novel as well.  It takes the reader on an exploration of friendship and how it changes and morphs over the years.  What do we owe the friends of our youth who helped us become the people we are?  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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