OVERRIDE

The Sorrows of an American

A Novel

Siri Hustvedt

Henry Holt and Co.

The Sorrows of an American is a soaring feat of storytelling about the immigrant experience and the ghosts that haunt families from one generation to another

When Erik Davidsen and his sister, Inga, find a disturbing note from an unknown woman among their dead father’s papers, they believe he may be implicated in a mysterious death. The Sorrows of an American tells the story of the Davidsen family as brother and sister uncover its secrets and unbandage its wounds in the year following their father’s funeral.

Returning to New York from Minnesota, the grieving siblings continue to pursue the mystery behind the note. While Erik’s fascination with his new tenants and emotional vulnerability to his psychiatric patients threaten to overwhelm him, Inga is confronted by a hostile journalist who seems to know a secret connected to her dead husband, a famous novelist. As each new mystery unfolds, Erik begins to inhabit his emotionally hidden father’s history and to glimpse how his impoverished childhood, the Depression, and the war shaped his relationship with his children, while Inga must confront the reality of her husband’s double life.

A novel about fathers and children, listening and deafness, recognition and blindness; the pain of speaking and the pain of keeping silent, the ambiguities of memory, loneliness, illness, and recovery. Siri Hustvedt’s exquisitely moving prose reveals one family’s hidden sorrows through an extraordinary mosaic of secrets and stories that reflect the fragmented nature of identity itself.


The Sorrows of an American is a soaring feat of storytelling about the immigrant experience and the ghosts that haunt families from one generation to another

When Erik Davidsen and his sister, Inga, find a disturbing note from an unknown woman among their dead father’s papers, they believe he may be implicated in a mysterious death. The Sorrows of an American tells the story of the Davidsen family as brother and sister uncover its secrets and unbandage its wounds in the year following their father’s funeral.

Returning to New York from Minnesota, the grieving siblings continue to pursue the mystery behind the note. While Erik’s fascination with his new tenants and emotional vulnerability to his psychiatric patients threaten to overwhelm him, Inga is confronted by a hostile journalist who seems to know a secret connected to her dead husband, a famous novelist. As each new mystery unfolds, Erik begins to inhabit his emotionally hidden father’s history and to glimpse how his impoverished childhood, the Depression, and the war shaped his relationship with his children, while Inga must confront the reality of her husband’s double life.

A novel about fathers and children, listening and deafness, recognition and blindness; the pain of speaking and the pain of keeping silent, the ambiguities of memory, loneliness, illness, and recovery. Siri Hustvedt’s exquisitely moving prose reveals one family’s hidden sorrows through an extraordinary mosaic of secrets and stories that reflect the fragmented nature of identity itself.


BOOK EXCERPTS

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Excerpt
My sister called it “the year of secrets,” but when I look back on it now, I’ve come to understand that it was a time not of what was there, but of what wasn’t. A patient of mine once said, “There are ghosts walking around inside me, but they don’t always talk. Sometimes they have nothing to say.” Sarah squinted or kept her eyes closed most of the time because she was afraid the light would blind her. I think we all have ghosts inside us, and it’s better when they speak than when they don’t. After my father died, I couldn’t
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REVIEWS

Praise for The Sorrows of an American

"I think I am in love. . . . This is one of the most profound and absorbing books I’ve read in a long time."--Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"Beautiful . . . both a large-scale examination of the idea of America and a close inspection of the experiences of coping with trauma and loss."--Margot Kaminski, San Francisco Chronicle

"The Sorrows of an American is a thought-provoking book that offers pleasures across many different registers. . . . Here again [Hustvedt] proves herself a writer deftly able to weave intricate ideas into an intriguing plot."--Sylvia Brownrigg, The New York Times Book Review

"The Sorrows of an American takes on elements of a suspense novel as the various mysteries unfold, but the real question is how we reconcile ourselves to the hard truths in our lives."--Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald

"The pages turn themselves. The old story, the search for the self, holds water once again."--Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"Like all enduring novelists, Hustvedt combines riveting storytelling with philosophical rumination as she dramatizes and contemplates the legacy of sorrows born of the struggles of immigrants and the psychic wounds of war, betrayal, and unrequited love."--Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

"I think I am in love. . . . This is one of the most profound and absorbing books I’ve read in a long time."--Ron Charles, The Washington Post

"Beautiful . . . both a large-scale examination of the idea of America and a close inspection of the experiences of coping with trauma and loss."--Margot Kaminski, San Francisco Chronicle

"The Sorrows of an American is a thought-provoking book that offers pleasures across many different registers. . . . Here again [Hustvedt] proves herself a writer deftly able to weave intricate ideas into an intriguing plot."--Sylvia Brownrigg, The New York Times Book Review

"The Sorrows of an American takes on elements of a suspense novel as the various mysteries unfold, but the real question is how we reconcile ourselves to the hard truths in our lives."--Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald

"The pages turn themselves. The old story, the search for the self, holds water once again."--Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"Like all enduring novelists, Hustvedt combines riveting storytelling with philosophical rumination as she dramatizes and contemplates the legacy of sorrows born of the struggles of immigrants and the psychic wounds of war, betrayal, and unrequited love."--Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Siri Hustvedt

  • Siri Hustvedt is the author of three previous novels, What I Loved, The Blindfold, and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, as well as a collection of essays, A Plea for Eros. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Paul Auster.

  • Siri Hustvedt Marion Ettlinger
    Siri Hustvedt
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The Sorrows of an American

A Novel

Siri Hustvedt

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Henry Holt and Co.

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