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The Astral    by Kate Christensen order for
by Kate Christensen
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2011 (2011)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The Astral is a huge, rose-colored apartment building in the rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint. Harry Quirk feels he is a contented man. His wife Luz works, while he stays at home and writes poetry, which in the past he has managed to sell lucratively.

Things have been a bit slow lately, but Harry is dumbfounded when his wife Luz throws him out of their fourth floor home. Destroying a year's worth of verses, she claims he is writing poems to other women, not her. Definitely not true, but she is adamant and will broach no arguments. Go.

So Harry lives in a flophouse while he tries to make Luz see reason. Please, no divorce!

As time drags by, Harry's daughter is now openly gay and engages in a freegan lifestyle. His son Hector, previously a Rhodes Scholar, is about to become one of the leaders of a religious cult and to be married to a woman fifteen years older than he is and with a criminal past. How can life get any harder?

The Astral tells a wonderful story. About love and relationships. What's right and what's wrong. About the age-old misconception that as long as your spouse doesn't find out, cheating is okay. That, however, is not all. The novel explores the question of when to hold on and when to move on. This dilemma underlines Harry's actions. Luz seems to be glorying in her allegations of infidelity, while Harry becomes more and more disconsolate. She refuses to even talk to him let alone listen to his perspective of their problems.

What he finally does is surprising at least to me. Good for the old boy.

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