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A bear climbs onto a cabin's deck, presses his nose to the sliding door. Inside, a young woman stands to face him. She comes closer, and closer yet, until only the glass stands between them . . .
The year is 1981, Reagan is in the White House, and the country is stalled in a recession. Cressida Hartley, a gifted Ph.D. student in economics, moves into her parents' shabby A-frame cabin in the Sierras to write her dissertation. In her most intimate and emotionally compelling novel to date, Michelle Huneven--author of Blame, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award--returns with her signature mix of fine-grained storytelling, unforgettable characters, and moral complexity.
Cress, increasingly resistant to her topic (art in the marketplace), allows herself to be drawn into the social life of the small mountain community. The exuberant local lodge owner, Jakey Yates, with his big personality and great animal magnetism, is the first to blur Cress' focus. The builder Rick Garsh gives her a job driving up and down the mountain for supplies. And then there are the two Morrow brothers, skilled carpenters, who are witty, intriguing, and married.
As Cress tells her best friend back home in Pasadena, being a single woman on the mountain amounts to a form of public service. Falling prey to her own perilous reasoning, she soon finds herself in dark new territory, subject to forces beyond her control from both within and without.
Unsentimental, immersive, and beautifully written--"Huneven's prose is flawless," according to The New Yorker--Off Course evokes the rapture of new love, the addictive draw of an intense, impossible connection, and what happens when two people simply can't let go of each other or of their previous commitments. As her characters struggle with and delight in one another, Huneven subtly exposes the personal and social forces at play: issues of class, money, and family, as well as the intricate emotional and economic transactions between parents and children, between husbands and wives, between lovers, and between friends.
Michelle Huneven is one of our most searching, elegant novelists--Richard Russo has called her "a writer of extraordinary and thrilling talent." In Off Course, she introduces us to an intelligent young woman who discovers that love is the great distraction, and impossible love the greatest distraction of all.
Michelle Huneven is the author of the novels Blame, Round Rock and Jamesland. She has received a General Electric Foundation Award for Younger Writers and a Whiting Writers’ Award for fiction. She lives in Altadena, California.
“Skillful and perceptive” —The New York Times Book Review
“Huneven's touch is sure, and her protagonist is simultaneously sympathetic and maddening. The landscape descriptions are erotic, and the erotic scenes have near-hallucinatory power.” —The New Yorker
“Huneven has a sharp facility with language that registers both the horror of how low Cress lets herself sink and the mundanity of it all.” —The Boston Globe
“Huneven, a writer of great empathy and emotional precision, doesn't resort to cheap moralizing here. Such easy lessons would give this gracefully written novel the harsh sting of a cheap, cautionary tale. Instead, she lets her characters play out their scenarios like real adults must--weighing the pleasures of the present against their own future guilt...” —The Los Angeles Times
“[Huneven's] prose exudes such a rumpled, sensuous vibe, it practically gives you bedhead.” —Los Angeles Magazine
“Michelle Huneven delivers an enthralling tale of impulsive decisions, impossible love, and catastrophic consequences.” —Bustle
“The greatest triumph of Off Course lies in Huneven's remarkable ability to create a mood, and to bring the reader fully inside it.” —The Huffington Post
“Sensitive, reflective and uncomfortably true to life, with a wonderfully rich cast of supporting characters.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“If I had to highlight just one of Huneven's many abundant talents, it would be this: She makes you forget that the people you're reading about don't actually exist. You feel as if you were reading about your own family and friends… Michelle Huneven has produced a literary miracle.” —PopMatters