God's Fool

God's Fool

Mark Slouka

Fiction

In God’s Fool Mark Slouka, the acclaimed author of Lost Lake and Other Stories, presents us with an unparalleled novel about Chang and Eng, the original Siamese twins. In a masterstroke of creative storytelling, we experience their lives through Chang’s eyes. Despite the incomparable predicament of their physical condition, Chang is wrapped in ordinary grace and suffering, searching for tranquility as he travels from Siam’s marketplace to Parisian salons, to London’s underworld and P.T. Barnum’s side show, all the while improbably connected to a man who becomes his sworn enemy. In a last attempt at a normal life, Chang and Eng retire from the sideshow and move to the American South where they marry two sisters and Chang finds short-lived peace and redemption in his love for his son Christopher. This peace, however, is overtaken as events in their adopted home country force them into a final terrifying battle with fate.From Publishers WeeklySiamese twins Chang and Eng, who caused a sensation 160 years ago, when they were exhibited by P.T. Barnum, still hold a mysterious fascination Slouka's version of their story is the second novel dedicated to their vicissitudes in the last two years (the other being Darin Strauss's Chang and Eng). Chang, at the beginning of the book, is in his declining years. He and Eng have become sworn enemies at one point they even try to kill one another. Their enmity comes after they retire from Barnum's American Museum and buy a plantation, with its complement of slaves, in North Carolina, and Eng, much to Chang's chagrin, becomes a fundamentalist Christian. While Eng approves of Chang's marital relations with his wife, Addy, both brothers remember Chang's first affair: it was in Paris, their first season in Europe, with Sophia Marchant, a famous beauty. Chang's memories move toward her and away, as he trawls his past, going back to his and Eng's first astonishing appearance in the world (at the sight of the two, their mother's midwives fled). From a Siamese notoriety the king of Siam's astrologers took their birth as an evil omen they move to Europe, under the aegis of Robert Hunter, an opium trader and impresario. Slouka, a gifted stylist, eschews much of the freak-show energy that thrust Chang and Eng onto the stage of world history, in favor of an alluring balance between the elegiac and the ironic. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. From Library JournalSlouka's exceptional first novel opens with a description of an apple fight among young Confederate soldiers awaiting orders from General Longstreet to begin the infamous Pickett's charge. Reflecting on this, the narrator (father to one of the boys) asks, "What manner of God ... would turn them, laughing, to blood and bone?" The same God, it turns out, who would cause one of them to eat so many green apples that he ends up sick, pants around his ankles, as his comrades march off to their doom. We are all God's fools, it seems. While this episode lies at the heart of the novel, the narrative is quite wide-ranging. The boy's father happens to be Chang, one of the famous Siamese twins brought to America by Phineas Barnum, and it is his (and, inevitably, his brother Eng's) story that Soulka details. This fascinating tale traces their birth and childhood in Siam, their travels and abandonment in Europe, the Barnum years, and their lives as slaveholding farmers in North Carolina (something of any irony in itself). Part historical novel, part commentary on the human condition, this powerful and often poetic novel belongs on the shelves of all public and most academic libraries. David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, FL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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The Visible World

The Visible World

Mark Slouka

Fiction

An immensely moving, powerfully romantic novel about the vagaries of love and the legacy of war, The Visible World is narrated by the American-born son of Czech immigrants. His New York childhood, lived in a boisterous community of the displaced, is suffused with stories: fragments of European history, Czech fairy tales, and family secrets gleaned from overheard conversations. Central in his young imagination is the heroic account of the seven Czech parachutists who, in 1942, assassinated a high-ranking Nazi. Yet one essential story has always evaded him: his mother's. He suspects she had a great wartime love, the loss of which bred a sadness that slowly engulfed her. As an adult, the narrator travels to Prague, hoping to piece together her hidden past.
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All That Is Left Is All That Matters

All That Is Left Is All That Matters

Mark Slouka

Fiction

A searing, poignantly rendered collection of stories chronicling the lives of ordinary people battling the forces of love and loss.In eleven beautifully wrought stories—ranging from occupied Czechoslovakia to California's Central Valley to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest—Mark Slouka explores moments in life when our backs are to the wall. Whether battling the end of desire, the fact of injustice, or death itself, the men and women in these stories are willing to use whatever comes to hand—luck, accident, desperate gesture—to emerge victorious.In "Crossing," a father hoping to compensate for his failures finds himself facing his past while fording a river with his young son on his back; in "Conception," a young couple frozen by the possible end of their marriage is offered an unexpected way back; in "Half- Life," a proud, aging shut- in finds her resolve tested by an extraordinary visitor determined to shatter her solitude....
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Nobody's Son

Nobody's Son

Mark Slouka

Fiction

"There comes a time in your life when the past decides to run you down," Mark Slouka writes in this heartbreaking and soul-searching memoir about one man's attempt to reckon with the past.Born in Czechoslovakia, Mark Slouka's parents survived the Nazis only to have to escape the Communist purges after the war. Smuggled out of their own country, the newlyweds joined a tide of refugees moving from Innsbruck to Sydney to New York, dragging with them a history of blood and betrayal that their son would be born into.From World War I to the present, Slouka pieces together a remarkable story of refugees and war, displacement and denial—admitting into evidence memories, dreams, stories, the lies we inherit, and the lies we tell—in an attempt to reach his mother, the enigmatic figure at the center of the labyrinth. Her story, the revelation of her life-long burden and the forty-year love affair that might have saved her, shows the way out of the maze.
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Brewster

Brewster

Mark Slouka

Fiction

The year is 1968. The world is changing, and sixteen-year-old Jon Mosher is determined to change with it. Racked by guilt over his older brother's childhood death and stuck in the dead-end town of Brewster, New York, he turns his rage into victories running track. Meanwhile, Ray Cappicciano, a rebel as gifted with his fists as Jon is with his feet, is trying to take care of his baby brother while staying out of the way of his abusive, ex-cop father. When Jon and Ray form a tight friendship, they find in each other everything they lack at home, but it's not until Ray falls in love with beautiful, headstrong Karen Dorsey that the three friends begin to dream of breaking away from Brewster for good. Freedom, however, has its price. As forces beyond their control begin to bear down on them, Jon sets off on the race of his life--a race to redeem his past and save them all. Mark Slouka's work has been called "relentlessly observant, miraculously expressive" (New York Times Book Review). Reverberating with compassion, heartache, and grace, Brewster is an unforgettable coming-of-age story from one of our most compelling novelists.
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