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River Under the Road: A Novel
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Ecco 2017
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Description

From the bestselling, critically acclaimed author of Man in the Woods and Endless Love, a stunning, stinging portrait of class and creativity-and the double-edged sword of success

Thirteen parties over the course of two decades-an opium infused barbeque, a reception for a doomed presidential candidate, a fund-raiser for a blind child who speaks in tongues, a visit to one of New York's fabled sex clubs-brilliantly reveal the lives of two couples, one hoping to be admitted to the kingdom of Art, the other hoping for a small share of the American dream, both driven by forces of history they rarely perceive or acknowledge.

Thaddeus Kaufman, the son of booksellers, and Grace Cornell, raised in a basement apartment she longs to escape, meet at a neighborhood art fair in Chicago. Soon after, they head to New York, aloft on the wings of young love. Jennings Stratton, the son of a caretaker, and Muriel Sanchez, the daughter of a cop, meet in a house he is refurbishing in New Mexico, and they, too, head for the big city.

In a vast Hudson River estate, the lives of the two couples ultimately intertwine. Thaddeus has made it big in an unexpected way, setting off a chain reaction of envy among his friends and peers and forever changing the dynamic of his marriage with Grace, for whom success has been elusive, and art, once a source of solace, has become a font of bitterness. And Jennings, hoping to transcend his reputation as the local Casanova, a man suited only for menial tasks, has ventured into a cycle of theft and betrayal that threatens to destroy the fragile life of his family.

Funny and cutting, affecting and expansive, River Under the Road is Scott Spencer's masterpiece of all that lies beneath our everyday lives-a story about the pursuit of love, art, and money, and the inevitable reckoning that awaits us all.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
06/27/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780062660077
ASIN:
B01LZ1J97P
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Scott Spencer. (2017). River Under the Road: A Novel. Ecco.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Scott Spencer. 2017. River Under the Road: A Novel. Ecco.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Scott Spencer, River Under the Road: A Novel. Ecco, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Scott Spencer. River Under the Road: A Novel. Ecco, 2017. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
Jun 12, 2018 19:27:05
Date Updated:
Dec 08, 2020 18:34:33
Last Metadata Check:
Apr 11, 2021 11:35:45
Last Metadata Change:
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        Scott Spencer is the author of twelve novels, including Endless Love,Waking the Dead, A Ship Made of Paper, and Willing. He has taught at Columbia University, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Williams College, the University of Virginia, and at Eastern Correctional Facility as part of the Bard Prison Initiative. He lives in upstate New York.

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shortDescription

From the bestselling, critically acclaimed author of Man in the Woods and Endless Love, a stunning, stinging portrait of class and creativity-and the double-edged sword of success

Thirteen parties over the course of two decades-an opium infused barbeque, a reception for a doomed presidential candidate, a fund-raiser for a blind child who speaks in tongues, a visit to one of New York's fabled sex clubs-brilliantly reveal the lives of two couples, one hoping to be admitted to the kingdom of Art, the other hoping for a small share of the American dream, both driven by forces of history they rarely perceive or acknowledge.

Thaddeus Kaufman, the son of booksellers, and Grace Cornell, raised in a basement apartment she longs to escape, meet at a neighborhood art fair in Chicago. Soon after, they head to New York, aloft on the wings of young love. Jennings Stratton, the son of a caretaker, and Muriel Sanchez, the daughter of a cop, meet in a house he is...

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fullDescription

From the bestselling, critically acclaimed author of Man in the Woods and Endless Love, a stunning, stinging portrait of class and creativity-and the double-edged sword of success

Thirteen parties over the course of two decades-an opium infused barbeque, a reception for a doomed presidential candidate, a fund-raiser for a blind child who speaks in tongues, a visit to one of New York's fabled sex clubs-brilliantly reveal the lives of two couples, one hoping to be admitted to the kingdom of Art, the other hoping for a small share of the American dream, both driven by forces of history they rarely perceive or acknowledge.

Thaddeus Kaufman, the son of booksellers, and Grace Cornell, raised in a basement apartment she longs to escape, meet at a neighborhood art fair in Chicago. Soon after, they head to New York, aloft on the wings of young love. Jennings Stratton, the son of a caretaker, and Muriel Sanchez, the daughter of a cop, meet in a house he is refurbishing in New Mexico, and they, too, head for the big city.

In a vast Hudson River estate, the lives of the two couples ultimately intertwine. Thaddeus has made it big in an unexpected way, setting off a chain reaction of envy among his friends and peers and forever changing the dynamic of his marriage with Grace, for whom success has been elusive, and art, once a source of solace, has become a font of bitterness. And Jennings, hoping to transcend his reputation as the local Casanova, a man suited only for menial tasks, has ventured into a cycle of theft and betrayal that threatens to destroy the fragile life of his family.

Funny and cutting, affecting and expansive, River Under the Road is Scott Spencer's masterpiece of all that lies beneath our everyday lives-a story about the pursuit of love, art, and money, and the inevitable reckoning that awaits us all.

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reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Washington Post
      • content: "Rich, provocative...Wry and insightful enough about the intricacies of maintaining an artists' life — and the sacrifices required to achieve it — that it will no doubt become required reading for the Hudson Valley set."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        July 17, 2017
        Spencer (Endless Love) traces the lives of two couples through snapshots of parties throughout their marriages that turn equally painful and profound. Aspiring artists Grace and Thaddeus—a writer and painter, respectively—move to New York City from Chicago after meeting at an underground art fair, and eventually settle into a sprawling property where they meet the caretaker’s son, Jennings, and his wife Muriel. As Thaddeus finds the easy road to success and Grace languishes in anonymity, they watch themselves transform into people they never imagined they could become. Over in the caretaker’s house, Jennings grapples with a secret that could either launch him into the life he’s longed for or drag his whole family down with no hope of escape. Spencer artfully renders the characters’ ennui as the party settings urge them to act on their buried instincts at the very moments when it could cost them the most. He also utilizes the party invitations that open each chapter as clever hints of the kinds of conflict that could be coming. But the novel only at times becomes more than the fun conceit, and at the end it feels as if Spencer forgot to make his point. Characters who never grow past their senses of entitlement can be a fascination to observe, but when the narrative shares their inaction the reading experience feels passive. At times a quiet meditation on existential decay and the empty promises of success, Spencer’s novel ultimately loses sight of itself.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        April 15, 2017
        The story of two couples, recounted across 14 years through the lens of a dozen parties.Parties are often where we reveal ourselves, inadvertently or otherwise--we get drunk, we flirt, we say things we shouldn't have said. But if such a notion is central to this novel (each chapter opens with an invitation, as if to highlight the conceit), too often the narrative meanders, losing sight of its characters, or of their unhappiness, in the mechanics of the social whirl. At the center of the action are Thaddeus, a screenwriter, and his wife, Grace, an artist who drifts away from her art as the pair moves from bohemia into the bourgeoisie. "Their marriage seemed stale, maybe it was dying," Spencer (Man in the Woods, 2010, etc.) tells us. Or, as Grace murmurs to her husband one evening, regretfully, "Not exactly the life we had in mind." These dissatisfactions are only exacerbated by the presence of the second couple, especially the husband, Jennings, who is both a local Lothario and a kind of handyman/fixer on Thaddeus and Grace's Hudson River estate. Money is an issue throughout the novel--who has it and who doesn't, what one must do to get it, what happens when it goes away. More to the point, however, this is a book about the vicissitudes of love. Thaddeus and Grace, Jennings and his wife, Muriel: they love one another, after a fashion, but in both marriages, love is not enough. Each character is beset by his or her own frustrations, by the difference between what they wanted and what they've got. That may be a universal condition, but as the novel progresses, the world it portrays begins to narrow and the relationships fall into predictable lamentations, mostly involving the inability of privilege to console. Such a conflict can be compelling, but the characters here lack a certain necessary self-awareness, leaving their disappointments (with the world, with one another) to register mostly at the level of complaint. "What...is happiness anyhow?" Thaddeus pouts. "It's so stupid. Even the word happiness sounds sort of ridiculous. I don't care about happiness. I just want to be with you." Spencer's novel makes some trenchant observations about love and loss, about growing up and growing apart, but in the end, it can't quite get out of its own way.

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        May 1, 2017

        This book's "chapters" are "parties," 13 of them between 1976 and 1990. The parties themselves range from mundane to exotic (one ends at a notorious New York City swingers club) but are really springboards to reflection, local color, and relationships. The novel is not plot driven; what advances it is a pair of relationships. Chiefly, one relationship, that of Thaddeus and Grace, who start out poor as church mice in a tiny New York flat until Thaddeus hits it big with a screenplay and they move to a mansion up on the Hudson. Their close-knit relationship unravels amid Thaddeus's wild successes and frequent absences, and Grace's lack of recognition as an artist. The other couple, the caretaker's son Jennings and hippie-wife Muriel, are much less realized and are there mostly so that Grace can become obsessed with Jennings. Along the way, an ecological plot emerges: a cement factory is proposed for across the river, pitting redneck locals (jobs!) against the gentry. Not much is resolved--at the end the ecological war still simmers, Thaddeus is near broke, and he and Grace seem (maybe) together again, but it's been a good ride. VERDICT With lots of description, humor, irony, introspection, and extrospection, this is a thoughtful book for thinking readers. [See Prepub Alert, 12/19/16.]--Robert E. Brown, Oswego, NY

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        May 1, 2017
        Two couples' lives tangle on a bucolic Hudson Valley estate, revealing class fissures and anxieties about the role of art in an increasingly fractious world. Young artists Thaddeus and Grace buy the place, with its 50 acres and river view, also acquiring Jennings, son of the longtime caretaker, when Thaddeus sells a movie script. The local economy is flagging, and an ugly new concrete plant is polarizing residents, but it may be Thaddeus' clumsy largesse that brings long-simmering tensions to a boil. Or perhaps it is Jennings' tendency to help himself to unattended valuables, or unhappy spouses? Highly regarded and best-selling Spencer (Man in the Woods, 2010) builds his narrative around a string of parties, occurring over 14 yearsopium barbecues, New York sex-club outings, and various celebrations at the estatebut the mood is more foreboding than festive, as guilt and the complications of wealth shred romance and civility alike. While Spencer remains a perceptive and popular chronicler of complicated relationships, there's a bleakness to this novel's insistence that love is weaker than resentment, and artists are powerless against brick-throwers.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

subtitle
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