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River Under the Road: A Novel

de Scott Spencer

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321647,804 (3.5)2
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.… (més)
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River Under the Road by Scott Spencer begins an uncomfortable brunch and, in the course of several parties over the following decades, tells the story of a relationship. Grace and Thaddeus meet in Chicago one summer, she's an aspiring artist with an alcoholic mother, he's an aspiring author with parents who love, but don't particularly like him. They both dream of joining a vibrant artistic community, but it doesn't take them long to discover that New York in the seventies is less urbane and cultured than they expected. Grace's careful pencil drawings are not the performance art of the zeitgeist, and Thaddeus begins to worry that maybe he's not capable of writing the literary masterpiece he dreams of writing.

Scott Spencer is such a solid writer. He knows what he's doing, how to build a story, how to write characters who are nuanced and breathe. He writes a little like John Cheever, with his ability to write so that the words never become more visible than the story and with his portrayals of people stuck in moments of ambiguity or quiet discomfort. This was a novel with an old-fashioned feel and while I never warmed to either Grace or Thaddeus, with their innate conservatism, I was always happy to get back to this one and stayed up late more than once with it. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Aug 12, 2020 |
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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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