NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
NPR • The Seattle Times • The Globe and Mail • Kirkus Reviews • Daily Mail • The Vancouver Sun
From the author of The Italian Teacher and The Imperfectionists comes a brilliant, intricately woven novel about a young woman who travels the world to make sense of her puzzling past.
Look in the back of the book for a conversation between Tom Rachman and J. R. Moehringer
Following one of the most critically acclaimed fiction debuts in years, New York Times bestselling author Tom Rachman returns with a brilliant, intricately woven novel about a young woman who travels the world to make sense of her puzzling past.
Tooly Zylberberg, the American owner of an isolated bookshop in the Welsh countryside, conducts a life full of reading, but with few human beings. Books are safer than people, who might ask awkward questions about her life. She prefers never to mention the strange events of her youth, which mystify and worry her still.
Taken from home as a girl, Tooly found herself spirited away by a group of seductive outsiders, implicated in capers from Asia to Europe to the United States. But who were her abductors? Why did they take her? What did they really want? There was Humphrey, the curmudgeonly Russian with a passion for reading; there was the charming but tempestuous Sarah, who sowed chaos in her wake; and there was Venn, the charismatic leader whose worldview transformed Tooly forever. Until, quite suddenly, he disappeared.
Years later, Tooly believes she will never understand the true story of her own life. Then startling news arrives from a long-lost boyfriend in New York, raising old mysteries and propelling her on a quest around the world in search of answers.
Tom Rachman—an author celebrated for humanity, humor, and wonderful characters—has produced a stunning novel that reveals the tale not just of one woman but of the past quarter-century as well, from the end of the Cold War to the dominance of American empire to the digital revolution of today. Leaping between decades, and from Bangkok to Brooklyn, this is a breathtaking novel about long-buried secrets and how we must choose to make our own place in the world. It will confirm Rachman’s reputation as one of the most exciting young writers we have.
Praise for The Rise & Fall of Great Powers
“Ingenious . . . Rachman needs only a few well-drawn characters to fill a large canvas and an impressive swath of history.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“A superb follow-up to 2010’s The Imperfectionists . . . ambitious and engaging.”—The Seattle Times
“Engaging and inventive . . . full of wonderfully quirky, deeply flawed, but lovable characters . . . On the spectrum of interesting literary childhoods, Tooly Zylberberg—the protagonist of Tom Rachman’s second novel—would rank somewhere in the vicinity of Jane Eyre and Oliver Twist.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“I found it impossible not to fall in love with shape-shifting Tooly. As an adult, she sports an ironical sense of humor and an attraction to dusty old books. As a child, her straight-faced mirth and wordplay are break-your-heart irresistible.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“[A] read-it-all-in-one-weekend book.”—The New Republic
“A compelling page-turner . . . intricate, sprawling, and almost Dickensian.”—USA Today
Rachman follows up the debut success of The Imperfectionists with a suspenseful novel that whisks readers around the world, from Sydney to Bangkok to New York. This coming-of-age story focuses on the life of fiercely independent late-bloomer Tooly Zylberberg, who, in her early 30s, opens a ramshackle bookstore in the small Welsh town of Caergenog. Jumping between three decades, the global-scale mystery surrounding Tooly slowly unravels. It begins in 2011, when Tooly's ex-boyfriend contacts her about her dying former caretaker, whom he believes is her father. The novel weaves a critique of modern society through Tooly's odyssey, with a cast of characters grappling with the mundane realities of the 21st century. The novel loses steam toward the end, but the journey is still worth taking.