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Northwest Corner by John Burnham Schwartz

Northwest Corner

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October 2012 Book of the Month and eBook of the Month.

Through short chapters from the four key narrators this cleverly constructed, intensely emotional story explores the consequences of choice and the effects of family crisis. Fleeing an unexpectedly violent attack on a fellow student Sam is reunited with his father after years of estrangement. How Sam, Dwight along with his mother Ruth and childhood sweetheart Emma react to and deal with the crisis will change their lives. Set twelve years on from the haunting and powerful Reservation Road, Burnham Schwartz has the knack of absolutely capturing essences of American life.


Northwest Corner by John Burnham Schwartz

Twelve years after a tragic accident and a cover-up that led to prison time, Dwight Arno, now fifty, is a man who has started over without exactly moving on. Living alone in California, haunted yet keeping his head down, Dwight manages a sporting goods store and dates a woman to whom he hasn't revealed the truth about his past. Then an unexpected arrival throws his carefully neutralized life into turmoil and exposes all that he's hidden. Sam, Dwight's estranged college-age son, has shown up without warning, fleeing a devastating incident in his own life. In its way, Sam's sense of guilt is as crushing as his father's. As the two men are forced to confront their similar natures and their half-buried hopes for connection, they must also search for redemption and love. In turn, they dramatically transform the lives of the women around them: the ex-wives, mothers, and lovers they have turned to in their desperate attempts to somehow rewrite, outrun, or eradicate the past. Told in the resonant voices of everyday people gripped in the emotional riptide of lived life, Northwest Corner is at once tough and heart-lifting, an urgent, powerful story about family bonds that can never be broken and the wayward roads that lead us back to those we love.


"This novel assembles the converging stories of father and son like a patchwork quilt, dipping back into the past, speaking from the viewpoint of one character and then another. The prose is clean and precision-cut, the narrative voice engaging but unsentimental. This is a very good novel."
Daily Mail

"The masterly Northwest Corner is that finest of things-a moral novel about mortal events"
Dennis Lehane

"I was enthralled by Northwest Corner, reluctant to tear myself away even for a moment from a tale so delicately assembled, so well paced. Schwartz evokes Steinbeck and Updike in his magical ability to weave, out of a regional story of family, a broader chronicle of America. I had a sense on every page of a writer whose abilities are at their peak, the parts of this tale interlocking just so, and yet being anything but predictable as Schwartz defines the nature of atonement, the many shades of love, and the face of redemption."
Abraham Verghese author of Cutting for Stone

"Eloquently told...[an] elegiac, thoughtful novel...While this isn"t the first story about the indestructible bonds of family, it"s an especially nuanced and moving one."
The New York Times

"Daring as usual, Schwartz takes risks not just with his characters" lives but in his writing...A bruised beauty."

"Stark and deeply effecting . . . readers will grow to care deeply about whether and how [the characters"] lives can be redeemed"
Kirkus Reviews

"Families may exist just to witness one another"s disappointments, and the tribes in John Burham Schwartz"s riveting, poetic new novel have plenty to gawk and wonder at. This is the first set of characters I"ve come across in years to compelt attention not just with outside action, of which there is plenty, but with psychological depths that reward study. It"s rife with tragedies and redemptions, a wise book without being wise-assed, and you should read it."
Mary Karr

"Poetic, introspective, of the most gut-wrenching books I"ve ever read....In Schwartz"s hands, the narrative unfolds delicately, each chapter a puzzle piece that fits seamlessly into the whole. Grade: A."
Entertainment Weekly

"Schwartz is an immensely allusive writer and his imagery dazzles."

About the Author

John Burnham Schwartz

John Burnham Schwartz is the author of four previous novels: The Commoner, Claire Marvel, Bicycle Days and Reservation Road, which was made into a film. He has taught at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Harvard University and is currently the literatary director of the Sun valley Writer's Conference. He lives in New York.

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Book Info

Publication date

20th September 2012


John Burnham Schwartz

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Corsair an imprint of Constable and Robinson


308 pages


Literary Fiction
Books of the Month
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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