Eight-year-old Maria bears witness to her family's peculiar comings and goings in early 1940s New York City and at bedtime listens to the haunting, exhilarating stories of husbands lost to the front and of a strange pact made in desperation between an exotic Hungarian countess known as the Rat and the mystic faith healer Grigori Rasputin.
From award-winning poet Kathleen Spivack comes a spellbinding and surreal debut novel about a tangled web of European emigres—including the Rat’s second cousin Herbert, a former Austrian civil servant now powerful in New York’s social scene, the Tolstoi String Quartet, who escaped to New York with their money sewn into the silk linings of their instrument cases, a German pediatrician dabbling in genetic engineering—and the strange and intoxicating secrets that bind them to each other.
About the Author
KATHLEEN SPIVACK is an award-winning writer. She studied with Robert Lowell and remained friends with him for eighteen years, and is the author of many books, among them Moments of Past Happiness, A History of Yearning, and With Robert Lowell and His Circle. She has had residencies at the Radcliffe Institute, Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, and the American Academy in Rome, and has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fulbright Commission. She teaches in Boston and Paris.
“Infused with the exoticism of poetry … Spivack concocts a glittering picture of many horrors, echoing the unspeakable things unfolding across the ocean, while managing to include some surprising, almost perverse tenderness.” –Mopsy Strange Kennedy, The Improper Bostonian
“Wildly imaginative … A stirring chronicle of survival … Heart-piercingly direct, ringing with poetry.” –Karen Campbell, Boston Globe
“Brilliant, vivid, entertaining, and often quite frightening … Kathleen Spivack’s poetic skills are evident in the precision and evocative language, her control of the tone—which is a harmony of darkness and wit—and her steadiness of focus on her characters.” –Claire Hopley, Washington Times
“Wild, erotic … daring, haunting, dark, and surreal … Unspeakable Things lives up to its title." –The Millions (Most Anticipated Books of 2016)
“Beautiful language, unusual politeness, and a tendency toward daring literature … The language is this book reaches poetic heights … Unspeakable Things breaks new ground in the genre of magical realism … I adore Spivack’s literary skills … She is a not-to-be missed new star that shines and sighs on the literary horizon.” –Book Reviews and More
“Spivack’s illumination of her characters’ loss and fears, set against blaring, brash New York in grating contrast to shadowed, tyrannized Europe, are gorgeous and despairing in their precision, yet this is not a work of straightforward historical fiction. Instead, it is a macabre fairy tale of monstrous fascinations, horrific exploitations, and desperate strategies of survival … Amid gothic eroticism and chamber-of-horrors surrealism, Spivack considers the epic betrayal of the European dream that art, culture, and rationality can triumph over hate, malevolence, and terror.” –Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)