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Publishers Weekly
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Pulitzer winner Cunningham (The Hours) meditates on love and loss in this intimate portrait of a New York City family impacted by Covid-19. The story begins in April 2019, with Isabel Walker, a magazine photo editor, falling out of love with her partner Dan Byrne, a former rock musician turned “househusband.” A year later, Isabel and Dan’s 10-year-old daughter, Violet, already affected by her parents’ acrimony, is intensely anxious over the virus. Isabel’s beloved brother, Robbie, provides a stabilizing influence from afar via Instagram, where he posts as Wolfe, the “adult incarnation” of the imaginary older brother he and Isabel made up as children. Although Cunningham evokes the pandemic only indirectly, such as with references to Violet’s remote learning, its impact on everyone is palpably conveyed, especially in a poignant, grief-filled final section set in April 2021. Cunningham’s characters drive the story’s slender plot, and all of them are magnificently developed, with even the basest episodes, like Dan succumbing to the temptation of a hit of cocaine, revealing depths of thought and feeling. What could have been a somber mood piece tinged with tragedy is buoyed by the author’s focus on “the promise that resides under the forlorn surfaces.” This stands out from the growing shelf of pandemic novels by managing to feel timeless. Agent: Frances Coady, Aragi. (Nov.)


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

The Pulitzer Prize–winning Cunningham follows a Brooklyn family over the span of three years. Cunningham focuses his first novel since The Snow Queen (2014) on two siblings—Isabel, a flinty photo editor, wife, and mother of two; and Robbie, her softhearted younger brother, who lives in the attic of her brownstone—and the rest of their somewhat loosely defined family, glimpsing them in snapshots of time over three years: “April 5, 2019: Morning,” “April 5, 2020: Afternoon,” and “April 5, 2021: Evening.” During the course of those days, which comprise the three sections of the book and are punctuated by the pandemic, Isabel’s marriage to aging musician Dan deteriorates; her two children, precocious elementary-schooler Violet and angsty preteen Nathan, struggle and grow; and Dan’s brother, bad-boy artist Garth, contends with his deepening feelings for his friend Chess and the child they share, Odin. But it is Robbie—the sweet emotional center of the family, whom everyone adores; who is trading an unfulfilling role as a schoolteacher for a life of exotic travel and, eventually, he hopes, medical school; and who has amassed a significant Instagram following under the guise of an alter-ego, Wolfe—whose life changes most dramatically. Writing with empathy, insight, keen observation, and elegant subtlety, Cunningham reveals something not only about the characters whose lives he limns in these pages, but also about the crises and traumas, awakenings and opportunities for growth the world writ large experienced during a particularly challenging era—and about the way people found a way to connect with one another and themselves as individuals in a time heightened by love and loss. This subtle, sensitively written family story proves poignant and quietly powerful. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Ordinarily, spring brings a measure of hope. But by focusing on one spring day, April 5, in each of the years 2019, 2020, and 2021, Cunningham (A Wild Swan and Other Tales, 2015) sets the stage for painful irony as his characters are wrung dry as they make it through one of the defining experiences of our lives, the COVID-19 pandemic. In this stunning novel, the pandemic is never mentioned by name, yet its shattering fallout deeply molds everyone's lives. Even in 2019, Isabel and Dan’s marriage is on the rocks. As mother to sensitive Violet and her older brother, Nathan, Isabel already bears the brunt of the family’s emotional labor, a situation that worsens during quarantine. Like many city dwellers, she finds alone time on the fire escape. Robbie, Isabel’s gay brother, is recovering from his own fractured relationship and dissatisfaction with his career choices in 2019, then finds himself in remote Iceland a year later. Meanwhile Dan’s brother, Garth, is wrestling with new feelings about fatherhood. The pandemic steamrollered over our lives and left us to pick up the pieces, but it also shed clarity on our values. Cunningham brilliantly and skillfully demonstrates how such contradictions are possible.

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