A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer duBois
Published by: The Dial Press
Published on: March 20, 2012
Page Count: 384
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Reading Format: ARC sent to me by the publisher in order to participate in the TLC Book Tour
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook
Giveaway: As part of this tour, I get to give away a copy of A Partial History of Lost Causes. One super lucky duck living in either the US or Canada who comments on this post by 3/31 will have a chance to win. Good luck!
Today it is my great pleasure to be Jennifer duBois’ host on her TLC Book Tour. This tour is to celebrate her new novel, A Partial History of Lost Cause.
I have a lot of fun working as a tour host for TLC Book Tours. They always have great books and authors on tour. Check out their website for more information on this tour and the others that they are hosting.
Doctors prefer not to test young people for adult onset terminal illnesses, but after her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, Irina demanded the testing. She promised everyone that she wanted only to be prepared and that her faith in God was strong. She was only giving the medical establishment lip service. Huntington’s Disease, when passed down by the father, has a much earlier onset and given her results, she could easily expect onset to begin in her early 30s. Irina is devastated. In many ways, her college and post-college years are lived out in such a way as to provide an example of why those tests aren’t routinely performed on young people. Irina pushes away those who are close to her and avoids creating any new relationships. As she nears 30, her best friend is a Swedish man with whom she plays a weekly gave of chess in Harvard Square. When her father finally dies, she finds a letter he wrote to Aleksandr Bezetov, the current world chess champion asking him how he proceeded in the face of certain defeat. This unanswered letter prompts Irina into action. She is determined to use whatever time she has remaining to track down this man, now a political dissident running for president against Vladimir Putin’s hand-picked candidate, and find the answer to her father’s question.
A Partial History of Lost Causes is a beautifully written in alternating chapters from both Aleksandr and Irina’s point of view. This approach worked so well for this novel because our knowledge of and interest in Aleksandr builds along with Irina’s. We first encounter Aleksandr in 1979 as he arrives at a chess academy in Leningrad. It is there that he becomes noticed by the Kremlin and not just for his ability to play chess. It is there that he gets involved with an underground political movement. Despite the age difference and their vastly different lives, they are both people who live too much in their heads. They cling to their intellectual existence. It is their security blanket and they cannot fully relate to those who seek shelter elsewhere. Although they both have reason to that death is imminent, that really isn’t what is holding them back. Truly, they are both afraid of living.
When you read a book written by a first time author, it can feel like you are taking a leap of faith. You never know what you are getting and, because many of your trusted sources have not read the author either, the safety net provided by the opinion of others just isn’t there. Jennifer duBois is an example of what makes taking that risk both exhilarating and refreshing. The story is sharp and her writing is gorgeous. There were sections I purposefully reread because I wanted to roll the words around my head again so that I remembered how they felt. This was especially true in those sections when Irina and Aleksandr were at their most reflective. I double underlined this passage where Irina is comparing her life to her colleagues:
I could have had any or all—or most—of those things, I suppose, but my major character flaw is an inability to invest in lost causes. When you are the lost cause, this makes for a lonely life.
As a person who came of age the year that the Berlin Wall fell, I became invested in the book from the very first chapter. The story and the duBois’ writing kept me focused and wanting more. Irina and Aleksandr laid bare their souls without shame and discovered the truths for which they were searching. A Partial History of Lost Causes was one of the most beautiful novels I have read in quite some time. I can only imagine the places Jennifer duBois will go in her career, but I’m calling shotgun. I don’t want to miss a single word.
Jennifer duBois’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Monday, March 12th: Book Snob
Wednesday, March 14th: Bibliosue
Monday, March 19th: Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, March 20th: Broken Teepee
Monday, March 26th: Luxury Reading
Wednesday, March 28th: Book Club Classics
Thursday, March 29th: BookNAround
Monday, April 2nd: Wandering Thoughts of a Scientific Housewife
Wednesday, April 4th: Wordsmithonia
Thursday, April 5th: She Treads Softly
Monday, April 9th: Coffee and a Book Chick
Wednesday, April 11th: Jenny Loves to Read