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Asymmetry
2018
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A first novel by an award-winning writer explores the imbalances that spark and sustain dramatic human relations, tracing the overlapping stories of a young American editor's relationship with a famous older writer, an unexpected New York romance during the early years of the Iraq War and an Iraqi-American man who is detained by immigration officers in Heathrow. - (Baker & Taylor)

"Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice. The first section, "Folly," tells the story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazer. A tender and exquisite account of an unexpected romance that takes place in New York during the early years of the Iraq War, "Folly" also suggests an aspiring novelist's coming-of-age. By contrast, "Madness" is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. These two seemingly disparate stories gain resonance as their perspectives interact and overlap, with yet new implications for their relationship revealed in an unexpected coda. A stunning debut from a rising literary star, Asymmetryis an urgent, important, and truly original work that will captivate any reader while also posing arresting questions about the very nature of fiction itself. A debut novel about love, luck, and the inextricability of life and art, from 2017 Whiting Award winner Lisa Halliday" -- - (Baker & Taylor)

Explores the imbalances that drive dramatic human relations, tracing the overlapping stories of a young American editor's relationship with a famous older writer during the early years of the Iraq War, and an Iraqi-American man who is detained by immigration officers in Heathrow. - (Baker & Taylor)

A TIME and NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BOOK of the YEAR * New York Times Notable Book and Times Critic’s Top Book of 2018

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF 2018 BY * Elle * Bustle * Kirkus Reviews * Lit Hub* NPR * O, The Oprah Magazine * Shelf Awareness

“Asymmetry is extraordinary...Halliday has written, somehow all at once, a transgressive roman a clef, a novel of ideas and a politically engaged work of metafiction.” —Alice Gregory, The New York Times Book Review

“A brilliant and complex examination of power dynamics in love and war.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“A scorchingly intelligent first novel...Asymmetry will make you a better reader, a more active noticer. It hones your senses.” —Parul Seghal, The New York Times

A singularly inventive and unforgettable debut novel about love, luck, and the inextricability of life and art, from 2017 Whiting Award winner Lisa Halliday.

Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice. The first section, “Folly,” tells the story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazer. A tender and exquisite account of an unexpected romance that takes place in New York during the early years of the Iraq War, “Folly” also suggests an aspiring novelist’s coming-of-age. By contrast, “Madness” is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. These two seemingly disparate stories gain resonance as their perspectives interact and overlap, with yet new implications for their relationship revealed in an unexpected coda.

A stunning debut from a rising literary star, Asymmetry is an urgent, important, and truly original work that will captivate any reader while also posing arresting questions about the very nature of fiction itself. - (Simon and Schuster)

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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Halliday's beautiful debut novel is written in three distinct parts. In the first, Alice, a young editor in New York, embarks on a relationship with Ezra, a much older, multi-Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist. Though they are decades apart, the two find commonality in their love of literature, music, and baseball, and their relationship steadily grows stronger and more loving as the old millennium gives way to the new. In the novel's second part, readers meet Amar, an Iraqi American who is being detained at Heathrow Airport en route to his brother in Kurdistan. Amar's story is told mostly in flashbacks, illuminating both the joys of his family and also the tragedies of a war-torn country and its people. Amar's and Alice's stories are, at first glance, completely unrelated and can easily be enjoyed as such. Halliday moves from sparse, purposeful prose in the first to an almost brooding narration in the second, and only the lightest touches seem to link them, until one final moment. The third and final section is an interview with Ezra, and it is here that Halliday deftly and subtly intersects the two disparate stories, resulting in a deep rumination on the relation of art to life and death. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

Two seemingly unrelated novellas form one delicately joined whole in this observant debut.Halliday writes first, in Folly, of Alice, an editor in New York during the second Bush presidency, and her relationship with Ezra, a well-known and much older author. Alice struggles to establish her own identity at a time when Ezra's health concerns focus his attention on mortality. Through their occupations and their relationship, the lovers examine the nature of story. "Who knows if it's any good," Ezra says of his manuscript at one point. "It's a funny business, this. Making things up. Describing things." Alice's roles as both a literary gatekeeper and a much younger companion are an important, related dichotomy. Art is omnipresent; music and baseball, too, become the rhythm that runs beneath the melody of the couple's interaction. Alice wants to write about herself, but she "doesn't seem important enough." The lovers' age difference adds gravity to their relationship and the storie s they each tell. The second part of the book, Madness, initially appears to be wholly unrelated to the first: Amar, an Iraqi-American economist, is detained at Heathrow on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan in 2008. Halliday hints at her strategy, though: "Death is the dark backing a mirror needs if we are to see anything," says Amar as he's detained, quoting Bellow. Amar's story is darker, filled with grief, and alternates between flashbacks and the present day. Though nothing is obvious about the connection of Amar's story to Alice's, the author gently highlights notes from the first story, and the juxtaposition of the two tales is further complicated—and illuminated—by the addition of a third and final section that brings them together. A singularly conceived graft of one narrative upon another; what grows out of these conjoined stories is a beautiful reflection of life and art. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

PW Annex Reviews

Halliday, recipient of a 2017 Whiting Award, crafts a stellar and inventive debut, a puzzle of seemingly incongruous pieces that, in the end, fit together perfectly. In the early aughts, young NYC book editor Alice embarks on an affair with Ezra, a surprisingly kind older novelist. As the American military conflict in Iraq escalates, Alice and Ezra flit into and out of each other lives, bonding over the Red Sox, Scrabble, and Ezra's failure to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. After a health scare lands Ezra in the hospital, Alice must decide the future of their relationship. The second, decidedly different section follows Amar, an Iraqi-American of complicated provenance who has been detained at Heathrow Airport on his way to Iraq. Alternating between the customs official's curt interrogation of Amar and flashbacks to his life in America, the sequence draws the background violence of the earlier section violently into the foreground without sacrificing any of the former's momentum or humor. A singular collision of forms, tones, and arguments, the novel provides frequent delights and never explains too much. Any reader who values innovative fiction should treasure this. Agent: Chris Parris-Lamb, Gernert Company. (Feb.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly Annex.

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