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Half the Kingdom
by Lore Segal

Overview - "New York Times" Notable Book 2013
"""No one writes like Segal -- her glittering intelligence, her piercing wit, and her dazzling insights into manners and mores, are a profound pleasure. From first to last I loved this wise and irreverent novel."" --"Margot Livesey"
""I always feel in her work such a sense of toughness and humor....
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    Half the Kingdom (Paperback)
    Published: 2014-11-04
    Publisher: Melville House Publishing
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More About Half the Kingdom by Lore Segal
 
 
 
Overview
"New York Times" Notable Book 2013
"""No one writes like Segal -- her glittering intelligence, her piercing wit, and her dazzling insights into manners and mores, are a profound pleasure. From first to last I loved this wise and irreverent novel."" --"Margot Livesey"
""I always feel in her work such a sense of toughness and humor.... Her writing is sad and funny, and that makes it more of both."" --"Jennifer Egan
"Lore Segal is a marvelous and fearless writer. No subject is too hard, too absurd, or too painful for her wise, peculiar and brilliant fiction." --Lily Tuck
The renowned "New Yorker "writer and Pulitzer Prize finalist Lore Segal--whom "The New York Times" declared "closer than anyone to writing the Great American Novel"--delivers a hilarious, poignant and profoundly moving tale of living, loving and aging in America today
At Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, doctors have noticed a marked uptick in Alzheimer's patients. People who seemed perfectly lucid just a day earlier suddenly show signs of advanced dementia. Is it just normal aging, or an epidemic? Is it a coincidence, or a secret terrorist plot?
In the looking-glass world of "Half the Kingdom--"where terrorist paranoia and end-of-the-world hysteria mask deeper fears of mortality; where parents' and their grown children's feelings vacillate between frustration and tenderness; and where the broken medical system leads one character to quip, "Kafka wrote slice-of-life fiction"--all is familiar and yet slightly askew.
Lore Segal masterfully interweaves her characters' lives--lives that, for good or for ill, all converge in Cedar's ER--into a funny, tragic, and tender portrait of how we live today.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781612193021
  • ISBN-10: 1612193021
  • Publisher: Melville House Publishing
  • Publish Date: October 2013
  • Page Count: 176


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Psychological

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-08-12
  • Reviewer: Staff

The 85-year-old Lore Segal’s latest offering is a slim novel haunted by a specter worse than death: the loss of one’s mind. Joe Bernstine is the retired director of the Concordance Center, a think tank devoted to eschatology. As Joe’s own personal end draws near, he assembles an eclectic team of family and associates for one final project, The Compendium of End-of-World Scenarios, an encyclopedic catalogue of potential doom. Yet, as his team gets drawn into assisting Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in dealing with its recent rash of “copycat Alzheimer’s” (which has mysteriously struck all of the 62-plus patients who entered its ER with debilitating dementia), their own problems manifest. Joe has his family and associates enter the hospital in an attempt to decipher the mystery from within. The novel is structured in short sections, each titled after the character it follows, such as “Ida Farkasz” or “Francis Rhinelander,” and, aside from one mention of 9/11, it seems as if the book was written in the 1970s and preserved in amber. By weaving together the multiple narratives of those suffering from and fighting the epidemic, Segal’s story is both a disjointed and comprehensive tableau of the inevitable cruelty of mortality, or as one character puts it, “the Arbus Factor of old age.” (Oct.)

 
BookPage Reviews

A potential plot against the elderly

In her slender fifth novel, her first book since the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Shakespeare’s Kitchen in 2007, 85-year-old Lore Segal has written an eccentric and slightly manic parable about one of contemporary America’s last taboos: old age.

At the fictional Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in New York City, something is amiss among the “sixty-two-pluses,” who appear to be exhibiting inexplicable symptoms of a rapid-onset dementia. The rash of admissions of elderly patients, who are told that “all their vitals are good” even as their mental status deteriorates, sparks talk among the medical staff of a “copycat Alzheimer’s.”

Into this bizarre environment steps Joe Bernstine, retired head of a respected think-tank who’s now an acolyte of the apocalyptic preacher Harold Camping and who devotes his life to his work on an encyclopedia called The Compendium of End-of-World Scenarios. Joe, only recently recovered himself from a near-fatal illness (when asked by his irascible daughter what he’s smiling about, he replies, “Not being dead yet.”), is recruited by the hospital in something of an undercover operation to seek out the cause of this mini-epidemic.

The complex tapestry of relationships into which Segal weaves her characters—spouses, parents and children, siblings, lovers and friends—is reminiscent of a Robert Altman movie. She moves somewhat arbitrarily from one character to another, offering glimpses of each one’s predicament before quickly shifting her focus, creating a novel that’s more a collection of sketches than a conventional narrative.

Though their entrances are dramatic and inexplicable, the characters who make their way to the hospital’s Senior Center are no different from the millions of aged people who find themselves alone and isolated at the end of life. Half the Kingdom is more wistful than didactic in shining the light of satire on that tragic fact.

 
BAM Customer Reviews

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