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Familiar Paperback – 2 Oct 2012


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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Product details

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (2 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555976255
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555976255
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 1.7 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,282,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

So breakneck and harrowing, so grab-you-by-the-lapels astonishing, that you may not notice until nearly the end how many questions about your own life it makes you ask (Elizabeth McCracken)

J. Robert Lennon's beautifully written new novel bristles with menace and suspense - a terrific and disturbing read (Daily Mail)

I loved J Robert Lennon's rather spooky novel Familiar ... it's a story Hitchcock might have made (Books of the Year 2013 Evening Standard)

Irresistible ... a meditation on family and identity likely to stir brain and heart alike (Observer)

Familiar is a terrific novel: psychologically subtle and philosophically supple. It will leave you with a heightened awareness of the strange cracks and wormholes on the peripheries of life (Daily Telegraph)

There won't be a better English-language novel published this year ... this is a brilliant, bruising novel about how we make our way in the world. Everyone should read it (Civilian Magazine)

A literary puzzle, a marvelous trick of the mind...as tightly wound as a great Alfred Hitchcock movie. (LA Times)

Tight in focus as well as in construction...an otherworldly narrative (Leo Robson Evening Standard)

Dazzling (Justine Jordan Guardian)

This highly convincing nightmare reads like a thriller; Lennon is painfully truthful about grief and parenthood (Kate Saunders Times)

A writer with enough electricity to light up the country (Ann Patchett)

A novel that imposes itself on the imagination from the opening sentences ... Lennon's brisk prose is both vivid and precise; the dialogue is clear and authentic, often funny. In fact, considering that this is a deadly serious, often bewildering and affecting novel, Familiar is witty and satiric. It is obvious that its genius lies in Lennon's feel for metaphysical contradictions that consistently undercut the realism ... a similar approach to the theme of parallel universes and altered experiences within shifting time frames has also been explored in novels such as Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 or Tom McCarthy's Remainder, neither of which achieves the unsettling mastery of Lennon's far shorter and infinitely superior novel, which could inspire a brilliant screenplay ... Familiar is fresh and original; it is also disturbing in its strangeness, because that strangeness is eerily real (Eileen Battersby Irish Times)

Lennon is an American writer whose novels delicately probe the psychology of their protagonists...In Familiar Lennon uses his sci-fi vehicle to create eerie fiction. The notion of parallel universes becomes a metaphor for life choices and their results...immersion in her alternate realities prompts reflection upon the aleatory nature of our own life, in all its uncanniness (Peter Carty Independent on Sunday)

I loved J Robert Lennon's rather spooky novel Familiar...It's a story Hitchcock might have made (William Leith Evening Standard Books of the Year 2013)

Familiar is a terrific novel: psychologically subtle and philosophically supple. It will leave you with a heightened awareness of the strange cracks and wormholes on the peripheries of life (Helen Brown Daily Telegraph)

What's remarkable is that in the first ten pages of his novel, Lennon has provided such a full, convincing portrait of his protagonist - the way she thinks; the way she sees the world; the people and events that most matter to her - that throughout the rest of the book, the reader shares her sense of the wrongness of the new world she finds herself in (Thomas Jones London Review of Books)

a literary thriller masquerading as science fiction, Familiar is impossible to pigeonhole and weirdly, glitteringly brilliant (Alison Flood Sunday Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A woman's life becomes a mystifying puzzle in this electrifying literary thriller, now available in paperback. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Reynolds on 17 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback
The idea is striking. But it's just like 'Lost' crossed with 'Donnie Darko'. They are engaging and puzzling and wildly entertaining at first, then they kind of go rogue, and no one can tie up the loose ends. Neither could Lennon with this book. The writing is very good, the characters are good. What's it all about? Is the main character, Elisa, in a parallel universe, is she deluded, amnesiac?; is she inside a complicated internet game? Is she a lost character in the wrong metaphysical book? Yes, lots of fun puzzles. Lots of fun clues. And then it ends. Sigh.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 29 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Elisa and Derek have two sons - or they did until the death of Silas, younger brother to Sam. Elisa makes an annual pilgrimage to Silas's grave; it's a six hour journey and as is common in many parts of the States the roads are long, straight and featureless, making the drive tedious. On one such return journey something happens. Within a split second everything changes - she's in a car, but not her car, she is wearing different clothes and in fact is several pounds heavier than she was. It becomes apparent she has been to a conference she cannot remember. Arriving home her husband, Derek, although the same man is different - unusually friendly and welcoming; the house is also different.

Has she suffered a stroke? Is she suffering from split personality? Just what the heck is wrong with her? More disturbing than anything is the fact that her dead son is now alive, an adult - so time has obviously chugged on a few years.

Elisa and Derek's marriage has been disintegrating for many years; the behaviour of Silas seems to be a major factor as he was a disruptive, uncommunicative and provocative bully, taking delight in tormenting Sam. There is no explanation about this behaviour - a personality disorder? A form of autism? We aren't told. Either way he is an obnoxious character.

This is altogether a somewhat unpleasant novel, inhabited by unpleasant people, none of whom I identified with, or felt sympathy for. Elisa and Derek come across as selfish, self-absorbed parents. As for Elisa - she wandered around in a daze, refusing to discuss what had happened to her, but wondering if she, or they as a couple, could have handled things differently.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Elliott TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 Jan. 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In `Familiar' there is a subtle overlap of psychological thriller and philosophical insight, but it fails to develop from intriguing to enlightening - there are no answers. Thriller content is the transformation of main protagonist, Elisa, during her return journey from visiting the grave of her younger son to another world where her son is still alive. I found this start promised a 5-star rating.

In the past the younger son menaced his brother and disrupted the family, and Elisa finds herself querying how she may have dealt differently with family tensions. Philosophical content of `Familiar' stems from Elisa's involvement with marriage guidance therapist, an extramarital affair, and seeking help from a work related `science-meets-humanities' contact. Is this a parallel world or is it an alternative reality following some form of mental breakdown similar to what Elisa has experienced previously, or is she merely dreaming? Certainly she is experiencing one heck of a mid-life crisis - but perhaps the book only deserves 4-stars!

Elisa tries to sort out what is real and she seeks contact with her now `alive' son via his work as a computer games designer. I became increasingly frustrated over how instead of trawling internet forums, talking to geeks, attending a metaphysics conference etc. Elisa does not simply retrack to her son's grave. `Familiar was becoming only `average' and hence 3-star.

Elisa is torn between restoring her original life and forging new relationships with her family under new circumstances, but it seems everybody is restricted and miserable in their own ways. The ending is left open, and to me is disappointing - hence final rating only 2-star.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sid Nuncius #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 3 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For a good deal of its length I thought this was a terrific novel, very well written and full of ideas and thoughtful insights. It petered out rather badly, but I still enjoyed it a lot.

J. Robert Lennon uses the notion of a woman quite suddenly translated into a parallel, slightly different version of her life to examine all sorts of things, so it's hard to say what the book is "about," but I thought it had very interesting and sometimes quite original things to say about relationships, being a parent, what genuine fulfilment is and isn't, and the impossibility of recreating the things we have lost in our lives. As an illustration, he has a fine understanding of the nature of bereavement and how differently it affects people - for example: "...[she had] no breakdowns, no fits of grief. She just bore the extra weight." It's a typical piece of pithy insight.

I found Lennon's style excellent. He writes in the present tense in a tight, unforced way with very few adjectives or similes and makes the prose really grip as the story evolves. I was utterly engrossed until the last 30 pages or so, when he suddenly seems to lose his assured handling of the story and get rather lost. I like that there are no easy resolutions or neat Life Lessons Learned anywhere in the book, but I found the culmination of the story very unsatisfactory, as though Lennon had followed his trail of ideas to a place which he can't see a way out of, and just fudges a mess to end the book. It's a shame, because it's very good up to then.

Plainly, many other reviewers here thoroughly disliked this book, but in spite of my reservations I would recommend it as a very well-written, rewarding and intelligent read.
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