[A] heartbreaking novel about the devastations of severed attachments.” —NPR
For Clay Blackall, a lifelong resident of Providence, Rhode Island, the place has become an obsession. Here live the only people who can explain what happened to his brother, Eli, whose suicide haunts this heartbreaking, hilarious novel–in–fragments.
A failed actor impersonates a former movie star; an ex–con looks after a summer home perched atop a rock in the bay; a broken–hearted salutatorian airs thirteen years’ worth of dirty laundry at his school’s commencement; an adjunct struggles to make room for her homeless and self–absorbed mother while revisiting a scandalous high school love affair; a recent widower, with the help of a clever teen, schemes to rid his condo’s pond of Canada geese. Clay compiles their stories, invasively providing context in the form of notes that lead always, somehow, back to Eli. Behind Clay’s possibly insane, definitely doomed, and increasingly suspect task burns his desire to understand his brother’s death, and the city that has defined and ruined them both.
Full of brainy detours and irreverent asides, Exes is a powerful investigation of grief, love, and our deeply held yet ever–changing notions of home.
The immersive and accomplished debut novel by Winter is haunted as much by the city of Providence, R.I., as it is by the suicide of Eli, brother of Clay Blackall, one of several narrators in this novel in fragments who each provide insight into why Eli might have ended his life. Providence serves as the backdrop for Clay's doomed search for answers, and the novel is peppered with local lore that subtly intersects Clay and Eli's family history. Both an appreciation and evisceration of Providence and its residents, the novel straddles the line between humor and tragedy in each of its disparate parts. The voice of each narrator whether an ex and former student of Eli's, Alix; Eli's former cell mate and also Alix's other doomed ex, Rob; fallen hockey hero and Rob's estranged father, Hank LaChance; Mark, Alix's high school classmate, who narrates the novel's most beautiful and heartbreaking chapter; or any of several others is brilliantly unique and incisive. Each character navigates the complex territories of family, grief, and human attachment with sharp intelligence and wit.