"Enchanting . . . Bursting with talent and love of life," said the
"Washington Post Book World" of Fernanda Eberstadt's extraordinary
first novel, "Low Tide." Now her exuberant gifts are even more
abundantly evident on a larger scale.
"Isaac and His Devils" tells the story of a boy who throws off
sparks of what might be genius--and of his father, a man who has
walked away from the possibilities of his own brilliance.
Isaac Hooker, from birth to his twenty-second year, compensates
for his ill health with a radiant tireless curiosity. He is certain
of his destiny: he will "transfigure America in some vague, huge
way." He is the smartest. He will be the best, the first. At his
side--watching him, loving him, driving him (to his mother's
ceaseless irritation)--is Isaac's father, Sam, who sees in his
son's promise the triumphs he himself might have had . . . and
Isaac's teacher, Agnes Urquhart, who recognizes in the boy's wild
and clumsy energy the genesis of great achievement, and who begins
to turn him towards it . . . Until Isaac, realizing he must
confront and escape the devils that defeated his father, finds his
life suddenly, frighteningly, out of control.
Around their story, the larger story of the family unfolds. Moving
backwards and forwards in time, the narrative weaves an intricate
portrait of Isaac's parents' early lives in their insular New
Hampshire town; of their too-young, mismatched marriage; of Sam's
sacrifice of ambition and bookish dreams to satisfy the immediate
needs of his sensual, down-to-earth, and pregnant wife; of the
difficult yet tender attachment between Isaac and his younger, less
promising brother; and especially of the powerful love and hate
between Isaac and his father--as the son, who secretly sees his own
progress into realms where his father cannot follow as betrayal,
pushes himself out of childhood and towards the first moments of
becoming an adult.
A novel of rich feeling and intelligence. A major leap forwards
for a brilliantly gifted novelist.
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