“A graceful, attentive, and beautiful debut.” —George Saunders
"Gorgeous...Lifelines has everything you'd want in a book." —Cosmopolitan
Named a Best Book of the Summer by O Magazine,Cosmopolitan, Nylon, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
For fans of Meg Wolitzer and Maggie Shipstead: a sweeping debut novel following an American artist who returns to Germany—where she fell in love and had a child decades earlier—to confront her past at her former mother-in-law’s funeral.
It’s 1971 when Louise leaves Oregon for Düsseldorf, a city grappling with its nation’s horrific recent history, to study art. Soon she’s embroiled in a scene dramatically different from the one at home, thanks in large part to Dieter, a mercurial musician. Their romance ignites quickly, but life gets in the way: an unplanned pregnancy, hasty marriage, the tense balance of their creative ambitions, and—finally, fatally—a family secret that shatters Dieter, and drives Louise home.
But in 2008 she’s headed to Dieter’s mother’s funeral. She never returned to Germany, and has since remarried, had another daughter, and built a life in Oregon. As she flies into the heart of her past, she reckons with the choices she made, and the ones she didn’t, just as her family—current and former—must consider how Louise’s life has shaped their own, for better and for worse.
Exquisitely balanced, expansive yet wonderfully intimate, Lifelines explores the indelible ties of family; the shape art, history, and nationality give to our lives; and the ways in which we are forever evolving, with each step we take, with each turn of the Earth.
Diehl's elegant debut weaves together the story of a woman whose past and present collide when she attends the funeral of her former mother-in-law in Germany. Louise, who left home in Oregon to study art in D sseldorf in 1971, fell in love with Dieter Hinterkopf, a German drummer. It was a heady and tumultuous affair, both of them drunk on their artistic connection and youthful feelings of invincibility. But when Louise gets pregnant, the relationship grows rockier, and she leaves, bringing baby Elke home. The longer she stayed in Oregon, the more "the days piled up into a choice." Louise goes on to build a solid life, get married, and have a second daughter. Then, in 2008, Elke asks Louise to attend Dieter's mother's funeral. But as Louise braces herself to confront old relationships, she finds that the trip teaches her just as much, if not more, about her new ones. Diehl finds the bittersweet heartache of retrospection, and compassionately explores how art helps heal. This complex, intimate story memorably portrays what it looks like to reckon with one's choices and to feel both uncertainty and peace.