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Babayaga

A Novel

Toby Barlow

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

By the author of Sharp Teeth, a novel of love, spies, and witches in 1950s Paris—and a cop turned into a flea

Will is a young American ad executive in Paris. Except his agency is a front for the CIA. It’s 1959 and the cold war is going strong. But Will doesn’t think he’s a warrior—he’s just a good-hearted Detroit ad guy who can’t seem to figure out Parisian girls.
     Zoya is a beautiful young woman wandering les boulevards, sad-eyed, coming off a bad breakup. In fact, she impaled her ex on a spike. Zoya, it turns out, has been a beautiful young woman for hundreds of years; she and her far more traditionally witchy-looking companion, Elga, have been thriving unnoticed in the bloody froth of Europe’s wars.
     Inspector Vidot is a hardworking Paris police detective who cherishes quiet nights at home. But when he follows a lead from a grisly murder to the abode of an ugly old woman, he finds himself turned into a flea.
     Oliver is a patrician, fun-loving American who has come to France to start a literary journal with the help of friends in D.C. who ask a few favors in return. He’s in well over his head, but it’s nothing that a cocktail can’t fix. Right? 
     Add a few chance encounters, a chorus of some more angry witches, a strung-out jazzman or two, a weaponized LSD program, and a cache of rifles buried in the Bois de Bologne—and that’s a novel! But while Toby Barlow’s Babayaga may start as just a joyful romp though the City of Light, it quickly grows into a daring, moving exploration of love, mortality, and responsibility.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Book One
 
 
When I was living in Paris, we had an expression, a very American one, which in a way explains it better than anything else. We used to say, “Let’s take the lead.” That meant going off the deep end, diving into the unconscious, just obeying your instincts, following your impulses, of the heart, or the guts, or whatever you want to call it.
—HENRY MILLER, The Paris Review
 
I
Time was bothering Zoya. She lay on the broad bed amid the crumpled silk sheets, listening to Leon scrub and gargle in the bath. There was almost a cartoon
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MEDIA

Watch

  • Witches & Spies: Author Toby Barlow's Babayaga on WDET

    Detroit author Toby Barlow’s latest novel, 'Babayaga' comes out on Tuesday. His 2006 debut, 'Sharp Teeth' was published by Harper and received critical acclaim. Academy Award winning filmmaker Danny Boyle plans to adapt it for a screenplay. Barlow tells WDET’s Travis Wright Babayaga is inspired by witches from Eastern European folklore and a lifelong interest in espionage.

  • Toby Barlow talks about love, spies, and witches in 1950s Paris with Leonard Lopate.

    Toby Barlow talks about his new novel, Babayaga, about love, spies, and witches in 1950s Paris—and a cop turned into a flea. It follows Will, a young executive at an American ad agency in Paris that’s a front for the CIA. Will doesn’t think he’s a Cold War warrior, he’s just a good-hearted Detroit ad guy who can’t seem to figure out Parisian girls.

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REVIEWS

Praise for Babayaga

In the Press

Work in Progress » Blog Archive » Toby Barlow & Rosecrans Baldwin
Americans continue to visit Paris not just for Paris, but for 'Paris,'" Rosecrans Baldwin, author of Paris, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down, wrote in an email. "As if out of some collective nostalgia for what Paris should be, more than what it is." He was writing to Toby Barlow, author of Sharp Teeth and, most recently, Babayaga
- FSG's Work in Progress
I Never Knew My Grandfather, Only What He Pretended to Be | Tor.com
Toby Barlow relates how memories of his grandfather have informed his new book Babayaga.
- Tor.com
'Babayaga' works magic to make 'the impossible possible' - latimes.com
Book review: Toby Barlow's adept combination of unexpected genres conjures a tale of witches, the CIA and a cop-turned-flea in 1950s Paris
- Los Angeles Times
Ad man, novelist and civic booster Toby Barlow finds inspiration in the D | Detroit Free Press | freep.com
'Babayaga' is a saga as multifaceted as Toby Barlow himself, who finds time for a demanding job, civic-minded efforts for his adopted hometown and a part-time role as an op-ed columnist.
- Detroit Free Press
5 facets of Toby Barlow | Detroit Free Press | freep.com
Explore the five facets of ad man, novelist and civic booster Toby Barlow.
- Detroit Free Press
Hour Detroit Magazine - Sleepless in Shanghai - Team Detroit Creative Director Toby Barlow pens latest novel while dealing with global jet lag
Hour Detroit Magazine - Sleepless in Shanghai - Team Detroit Creative Director Toby Barlow pens latest novel while dealing with global jet lag
- Hour Detroit
Work in Progress » Blog Archive » George the Gentlemanly Ghost
So, one morning, I woke up hungover in my Brooklyn apartment. This was years ago now. It was late on a clear summer day, the windows were open and blowing in the sea air from the New York harbor. I was in no great hurry to move. For some reason, I found myself mulling over a recent Hunter S Thompson quote I had read regarding the death of George Plimpton.
- FSG's Work in Progress

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Toby Barlow

  • Toby Barlow is the author of Sharp Teeth. He lives in Detroit.
  • Toby Barlow Linda Hamlin
    Toby Barlow
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Babayaga

A Novel

Toby Barlow

Booklist Best Books of the Year, Amazon.com Best Books of the Year, Buzzfeed Best Books of the Year
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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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