In the gentrifying neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, rests a huge rose-colored apartment building called The Astral. For decades it was the happy home of the poet Harry Quirk, his wife, Luz, and their two children: Karina, now a fervent freegan, and Hector, now in the clutches of a cultish Christian community. But when Luz finds poems that ignite her long-simmering suspicions of infidelity, Harry is summarily kicked out, leaving him to reckon with the consequence of his literary, marital, and parental failures. With tremendous grace and acute perception, Kate Christensen details Harry’s floundering attempts to find his way back into Luz’s arms—and back to his better self—in a novel that is funny, bittersweet, and terrifically moving.
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Is unhappiness a natural part of marriage? How long should you fight for something you want, and if you stop fighting for it, does that mean you no longer want it? Can you love someone even if they're utterly wrong for you? These questions, and many others, are addressed in Kate Christensen's fantastic new novel, The Astral.
Harry Quirk is a poet in his early 50s who had once experienced some acclaim for his work, but his style is now considered outdated. One morning his wife, Luz, a fiercely passionate and paranoid woman, accuses him of having a long-time affair with his oldest friend, Marion, and she throws him out of their Brooklyn apartment, destroying his latest work, love sonnets to imaginary women. No matter what anyone tells Luz, she clings to the idea that Harry has been unfaithful, and reinvents every encounter he had with Marion as proof of his affair. Locked out of his apartment, his work destroyed, Harry briefly stays at a flophouse before moving from place to...
The Astral, by Kate Christensen, gets its title by way of its namesake, the Astral building in Brooklyn, New York. This building houses the protagonist of this book, an aging poet named Harry Quirk. His last name befits him and his family. They are interestingly dysfunctional in many ways.
Harry was once a somewhat well-known poet, teaching poetry workshops and writing his lyrical poems in rhyming and sonnet style. His publisher and mentor has moved to Europe and his style is now out of favor in the United States. His wife, Luz, decides after thirty years of marriage that Harry is having an affair with his best friend, Marion. Despite Harry's pleading innocence - and he is innocent - Luz does not believe him and she kicks him out of their apartment in the Astral. It is true that Harry did have an affair twelve years ago with a young poetry student, but since that time he has been true to Luz.
Now homeless and without a job, Harry gets a room in a local flophouse...
After living in the old, genteel building in Brooklyn throughout his marriage, Harry Quirk has come to take his life there for granted. But throughout his thirty year marriage to Luz, there have been turbulent shifts beneath the seemingly placid surface of their union that have finally broken through and disrupted the balance. Luz has kicked Harry out, accusing him of infidelity with his friend Marion, and despite his innocence, she will not hear anything that challenges her strong belief system.
As Harry struggles to manage his life on the "outside" of The Astral, while searching for anything and everything that can somehow redeem him in Luz's eyes and allow him back into the marriage and the home, he gradually begins to form a new kind of life for himself.
Meanwhile, grown children Karina and Hector grab Harry's attention, with their lifestyle choices and the dissonance created by their values.
I enjoyed immersing myself into the Brooklyn world of...
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