In the 1970s in northern California, near Gold Rush country, a father and his teenage daughters, Anna and Claire, work their farm with the help of Coop, an enigmatic young man who makes his home with them. Theirs is a makeshift family, until it is riven by an incident of violence — of both hand and heart — that sets fire to the rest of their lives.
Divisadero takes us from the city of San Francisco to the raucous backrooms of Nevada’s casinos, and eventually to the landscape of south central France. It is here, outside a small rural village, that Anna becomes immersed in the life and the world of a writer from an earlier time — Lucien Segura. His compelling story, which has its beginnings at the turn of the century, circles around “the raw truth” of Anna’s own life, the one she’s left behind but can never truly leave. And as the narrative moves back and forth in time and place, we discover each of the characters managing to find some foothold in a present rough-hewn from the past.
Breathtakingly evoked and with unforgettable characters, Divisadero is a multi-layered novel about passion, loss, and the unshakable past, about the often discordant demands of family, love, and memory. It is Michael Ondaatje’s most intimate and beautiful novel to date.
From the Hardcover edition.
READ AN EXCERPT
1. "The raw truth of an incident never ends," Anna says (p. 1). What might she mean by this, and how is her statement borne out in the course of the novel?
2. Setting plays a large role in Divisadero. How does Ondaatje characterize the Northern California countryside of Anna’s childhood? How...
— Globe and Mail
“The bewitching, assured Divisadero is the perfect reminder of why Ondaatje deserves to be honoured with his global peers.”
“Gorgeous. . . . It’s Ondaatje’s singular achievement to explore the heavy costs and burdens of colliding human lives with a lightness of touch and clarity of vision that makes for dead-run compelling reading.”
— National Post
“Michael Ondaatje’s prose is breathtaking. . . . Divisadero is his most beautiful [novel]. . . . [A] luminous book by one of our most thoughtful and erudite writers.”
— Charlotte Gray, Ottawa Citizen
“Intricate, lyrical, profoundly moving, this brilliantly imagined mediation on love, loss and memory. . . .”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“At once powerful and beautiful . . .”
— Booklist (starred review)
“Michael Ondaatje is the Canadian William Faulkner, writing novels that are visually unforgettable, stylistically inimitable, utterly devoted to the rise and fall of the human heart . . . . Compelling and moving. . . .”
— Vancouver Sun
“It has the ensemble qualities of early Robert Altman films and the poetic intensity of Ingmar Bergman’s oeuvre. . . . Masterly writing. . . .”
— Montreal Gazette
“The spare erotics and lucid passions of Divisadero engage readers first and last through Ondaatje’s supple and resonant gifts with language, syntax and style, in the service of stories and voices that resonate far beyond the page. . . . The lives and longings of [his characters] quietly but insistently enter your own, as if you’d known them for an era — and as if their stories should mean something to you. And you have, and they do.”
— Winnipeg Free Press
“Emotionally riveting. . . . [Divisadero] delivers his trademark seductive prose, quixotic characters and psychological intricacy.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Ondaatje’s writing is evocative, powerful and deeply intimate. The reader can’t help but care about all of the characters. . . . [who] come to accept the reality of their own lives, and the loss of the ones who meant the most.”
— Calgary Herald
From the Hardcover edition.