The Woman Upstairs

The Woman Upstairs

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From the "New York Times "best-selling author of "The Emperor's Children, " a masterly new novel: the riveting confession of a woman awakened, transformed and betrayed by a desire for a world beyond her own. Nora Eldridge, an elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, long ago compromised her dream to be a successful artist, mother and lover. She has instead become the "woman upstairs," a reliable friend and neighbor always on the fringe of others' achievements. Then into her life arrives the glamorous and cosmopolitan Shahids--her new student Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale, and his parents: Skandar, a dashing Lebanese professor who has come to Boston for a fellowship at Harvard, and Sirena, an effortlessly alluring Italian artist. When Reza is attacked by schoolyard bullies, Nora is drawn deep into the complex world of the Shahid family; she finds herself falling in love with them, separately and together. Nora's happiness explodes her boundaries, and she discovers in herself an unprecedented ferocity--one that puts her beliefs and her sense of self at stake. Told with urgency, intimacy and piercing emotion, this brilliant novel of passion and artistic fulfillment explores the intensity, thrill--and the devastating cost--of embracing an authentic life.

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  • Hardback | 253 pages
  • 147.32 x 231.14 x 33.02mm | 544.31g
  • Knopf Publishing Group
  • New YorkUnited States
  • English
  • 0307596907
  • 9780307596901
  • 162,333

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"Messud has many gifts as a novelist: She writes well, dramatizes, has a sharp ear, a literary critic's knack for marshaling and reverberating themes and, most crucially, a broad and deep empathy that enables her to portray a wide range of characters from the inside. . . . "The Woman Upstairs" is first-rate: It asks unsettling, unanswerable questions: How much do those who are not our family or our partners really owe us? How close can we really be to them before we start to become needy or creepy? The characters are fully alive." --John Broening, "The Denver Post" "Messud is a tremendously smart, accomplished writer, [and] Nora's fury explodes from the very first sentence of "The Woman Upstairs. ." . . The novel gives a voiceless woman a chance to howl." --Yvonne Zipp, "The Christian Science Monitor " "Engrossing . . . Think of her as the woman who leans out: the A student who puts others' needs first, plays by the rules, teaches instead of doing. Through the ensuing drama, which includes one of the more shocking betrayals in recent fiction, Messud raises questions about women's still-circumscribed roles and the price of success." --Kim Hubbard, "People" (A "People's" Pick) "Messud's account of [Nora's] search for recognition and release is as tight and vivid as Nora's pent-up passion. I was pulled in." --Mary Rawson, "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" "Messud's crystallization of how it feels to crash into a midlife reckoning that resonated most and haunted me in the days after finishing her mesmerizing novel. . . . It boils and 'burns, ' and Messud gives us a double whammy to ensure we feel the pangs of midlife. . . . Messud is most interested in the collision between our inner lives and our reality. . . . While it was Messud's achingly beautiful characters that drew me in, it was her portrait of an inner life free to swell, untethered to the realities of children, a spouse and a mortgage that made me think. Seeing Nora live so obsessively in

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About Claire Messud

Claire Messud's most recent novel, "The Emperor's Children, "was a "New York Times, Los Angeles Times "and "Washington Post "Best Book of the Year. Her first novel, "When the World Was Steady, "and her book of novellas, "The Hunters, "were both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and her second novel, "The Last Life, "was a "Publishers Weekly "Best Book of the Year and Editor's Choice at "The Village Voice. "All four books were named "New York Times "Notable Books of the Year. Messud has been awarded Guggenheim and Radcliffe Fellowships and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.

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