*A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice*
A “masterful” (The Washington Post), “cathartic” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis), novel about twelve people, mostly strangers, and the surprising ripple effect each one has on the life of the next as they cross paths while in transit around the world—from the Booker Prize–shortlisted author of All That Man Is.
In this “compelling” (The Christian Science Monitor), “crisp and clever” (Vanity Fair) novel, Szalay’s diverse protagonists circumnavigate the planet in twelve flights, from London to Madrid, from Dakar to Sao Paulo, to Toronto, to Delhi, to Doha, en route to see lovers or estranged siblings, aging parents, baby grandchildren, or nobody at all. Along the way, they experience the full range of human emotions from loneliness to love and, knowingly or otherwise, change each other in one brief, electrifying interaction after the next.
Written with magic and economy, “Szalay explores the miraculous ability of our shared humanity to lift us from loneliness” (Esquire) and delivers a dazzling portrait of the interconnectedness of the modern world.
In Szalay's latest, after the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted All That Man Is, two air travelers' lives briefly intersect in the opening chapter on a flight from London to Madrid. A diabetic English woman returning to her home in Madrid from London, where she was visiting her son, who was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, faints in her seat during a bout of turbulence, and the Ghanaian businessman next to her finds help. This encounter stays with Cheikh, the businessman, as he arrives home in Dakar to news of a tragic car accident in his family. The book continues with a collection of 12 such fleeting encounters, each, relay-like, linked to the previous by a tangential point of intersection, and each driven and inspired by the liminality of air travel. A witness to the accident in Dakar lands in S o Paulo, where he sleeps with a journalist who must catch a flight to Toronto the next morning to interview a writer. The writer flies to Seattle for her grandchild's birth, where by chance she meets a woman from Hong Kong who is caught at a marital crossroads. Szalay is a pithy writer, capable of startling insights into the nature of loneliness and the human desire for companionship, though there is something thin and underdeveloped to the conceit of this novel. This is a somewhat disappointing effort from a talented writer. \n
I thought this book was boring. I kept waiting for the characters’ stories to weave and connect to each other’s lives. I was disappointed when that never happened. Am I missing something?