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The Romance of Elsewhere


List Price: $16.95

February 12, 2019 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.25, 224 pages | ISBN 9781640091597
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“A beautiful writer, dead-on brilliant, rich in humor, possessing a dark and comforting wisdom.” —Anne Lamott

“Freed approaches the world—and her prose—with the cleareyed, forthright wonder required of the most committed of travelers . . . Elsewhere she speaks eloquently of travel’s power to transform . . . Freed is also one of the funniest writers around . . . [A] marvelous collection.” —The New York Times Book Review

Lynn Freed’s deeply personal essays explore our most quintessential question: What makes a home? From very early on she had imagined for herself an ideal life: a stranger in a strange place: someone just arrived, just about to leave, and always with a home to return to. As a teenager on an exchange program to the U.S., she had made up fantastic reasons to escape high school in the suburbs and spend her time in New York City. Accepting a marriage proposal as a young woman, partly because it promised just such a life—away from South Africa, where she’d grown up, and in New York as a graduate student—she found herself both restless and unmoored. At home neither in the place nor in the marriage.

What she did find, in the end, was a true marriage between writing and travel, travel and identity. Traversing decades and continents and back again, The Romance of Elsewhere captures the dilemma of the expat and does so with Freed’s signature honesty and humor. She takes on subjects as disparate as Disneyland, lovers, eco-tourism, shopping, serious illness, and the anomaly of writers who blossom into full power only in old age. Lynn has been publishing these pieces for the past three decades, and this new collection further establishes her as a renowned voice in memoir and the exploration of identity.

“If Joan Didion and Fran Lebowitz had a literary love child, she would be Lynn Freed—or, at least, the resulting book would be Lynn Freed’s essay collection, The Romance of Elsewhere . . . in equal turns funny, wise, and sardonic.” —Bustle

Lynn Freed has published seven novels, a collection of short fiction, and a collection of essays. Her work has appeared in Harper’s MagazineThe New Yorker, and The Atlantic, among others. Her honors include the inaugural Katherine Anne Porter award in fiction from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, two PEN/O. Henry awards, and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. Born in South Africa, she now lives in Northern California.


Praise for The Romance of Elsewhere

“Freed approaches the world—and her prose—with the cleareyed, forthright wonder required of the most committed of travelers . . . Elsewhere she speaks eloquently of travel’s power to transform . . . Freed is also one of the funniest writers around . . . [A] marvelous collection.” —The New York Times Book Review

“If Joan Didion and Fran Lebowitz had a literary love child, she would be Lynn Freed—or, at least, the resulting book would be Lynn Freed’s essay collection, The Romance of Elsewhere . . . The collection of 20 previously-published essays spans decades and continents, and is in equal turns funny, wise, and sardonic; charting both Freed’s evolution as a traveler and her evolution as a writer. Travelers and readers seeking an unusually un-romanticized take on wandering the world will love it.” —Bustle

 “Her observations—on travel and writing, achievement and identity, Disneyland and aging—are revealing, and her drive to keep moving is unflagging.”—The Mercury News

“Wise, evocative, and darkly humorous . . . This collection evokes different moods, different eras, and different places with an astute, frank, and pitch-perfect narrator.” —Publishers Weekly

“Wanderlust is what ties these funny and astute personal essays together; the book is about what it means to have an insatiable hunger for experience . . . This is travel literature as memoir, drolly covering the scope of a restless creative life.” Kirkus Reviews

“Fans of Freed will enjoy reading (or rereading) these short works. Readers unfamiliar with her may find her, by turns, discerning or dyspeptic.”  —Booklist

“No one writes funnier, more acutely observant, frank, and intelligent personal essays than Lynn Freed. If her skeptical, sardonic voice amuses us with every line, it is largely because she is a grown-up in a culture of adolescence, who has done her psychological homework and taken the full measure of her experience, mistakes included. In this, her best nonfiction collection, you will come to know her narrator as one of the most nuanced and sophisticated characters in contemporary literature, and in the process make a new friend.” —Phillip Lopate, author of A Mother’s Tale

Praise for Lynn Freed

“Like any successful star, she knows her strengths and how to employ them.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Lynn Freed is expertly equipped to dissect the defiant longings and treacherous pleasures of the daughters and mothers, lovers and adventurers whom she imagines in her fiction.” —Washington Post Book World

“A beautiful writer, dead-on brilliant, rich in humor, possessing a dark and comforting wisdom.” —Anne Lamott

“Freed’s voice is individual—funny, sharp, trenchant, and with a great intellectual and emotional range.” —Diane Johnson

“Freed simply cannot write a bad sentence.” —Laura Furman

Praise for Reading, Writing, and Leaving Home: Life On the Page

Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year
Washington Post Best Book of the Year 

“To the tiny list of necessary books for people who aspire to the writing life—‘Mystery and Manners,’ by Flannery O’Connor, and ‘One Writer’s Beginnings,’ by Eudora Welty—must now be added Reading, Writing and Leaving Home. Like those two books, Lynn Freed’s memoir . . . has an essential quality largely lacking in the permissive, indulgent culture of the writing-school era: honesty.” —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World

“This memoir of her formation as a writer is characterized by such virtuosity and rigor that the reader is tempted time and again to linger, admiring the view, retracing the shape of a sentence.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Something for every writer, published or aspiring, to befriend over a period of years, a generous source of heat, heart energy and consolation . . . Lynn Freed truly does inspire.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Honesty fuels this small book from start to finish . . . Freed is incredibly funny.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“Distinguished by its emotional honesty and stylish prose.” —Chicago Tribune

“This collection by novelist and short story writer Lynn Freed is subtitled Life on the Page, but it could just as accurately be subtitled What It Takes—as in, what it takes to read with attention, to write with courage, and to leave home in order to make a life that allows for the work to be done. Writing requires distance, and distance comes at a price. Whether she’s writing about selling family secrets in a novel or teaching creative writing to pay the rent, Freed speaks to the cost. In her hands, it’s not about sacrifice so much as a kind of holy subordination.”—Lacy Crawford, Narrative Magazine

Praise for The Servants’ Quarters

“Freed’s great strength as a writer—like Anne Tyler and Muriel Spark, to name but two—is that she realizes ‘normal’ is a word that barely, if ever, applies to human beings in real life, let alone in serious fiction . . . (She) writes with great clarity and skill, and her occupancy of Cressida’s voice is exemplary. Short though this novel is, it contains multitudes—among the themes explored are wartime guilt, the Holocaust, the position of South African Jews in a fundamentally British class system and the extent to which our social relations are determined by our self-appointed roles as servants or masters.” —William Boyd, The New York Times Book Review

“Freed blends Dickensian musings on class with a Brontë-like love story, set against the backdrop of South Africa after the Holocaust . . . It is hard to pinpoint what is so satisfying about this novel. It is deeply atmospheric, with a high-spirited narrator who frequently endears . . . This is a love story for outsiders, set against the backdrop of the modern world. As in Charlotte Brontë‘s “Jane Eyre” or Marguerite Duras’ “The Lover,” the central figures compel and seem to deeply belong together, despite conventions. Perhaps in the end it is the strength and strangeness of the love story that carries the book. Or perhaps it is the unsettling ease with which Freed points out the hypocrisy of all of those around them. The lovers are the only two in the novel to come to grips with the past and embrace its scars as an inescapable and even attractive feature of the present.” —Margot Kaminski, San Francisco Chronicle

The Servants’ Quarters . . . is written in a most appealing voice—the wise child in a household of secrets. It’s a haunting voice in literature, the child who will take charge of her own destiny and will not be told which rooms she can enter, which she cannot.” —Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

“Bright, brittle, fierce and written with verve.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A strange and beautifully told story of love and growth.” —Booklist

“Freed handles issues of class, wealth and dedication with a light but knowing hand, adding depth to a bittersweet love story.” —Publishers Weekly

“The broadest echoes of this wonderfully engaging novel come from Jane Austen and George Eliot. For this accomplishment any reader, male or female, wants to wave hat and veil and shout brava, brava!” — Alan Cheuse, NPR, “Suggestions for Summer Reading”

“What you’ll find . . . is unblinking insight into the unruly nature of passion and the subtle imperatives of class. Her latest novel, The Servants’ Quarters is . . . a story of civilization and savagery, brisk as a strong cup of tea.” —O Magazine

Praise for The Curse of the Appropriate Man

Notable Book of the Year, New York Times Book Review

“Her style—spare, tough, unflinching—and her subject matter—the thorny issue of women’s desire—are firmly established. Whether set in her native South Africa, in the United States or on unnamed islands, her fiction follows women driven by their visceral impulses, women who live in worlds where men matter, where looks matter, where sex matters—a lot.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Freed creates achingly real women and lovingly rendered misfits . . . Quietly devastating and deeply resonant.” —Publishers Weekly

“A witty, accomplished debut collection . . . Fourteen sophisticated treasures.” —Kirkus

Praise for House of Womem

Notable Book of the Year, New York Times Book Review

“Elements of not one but many fairy tales provide an irresistible—ravenous—undertow for Lynn Freed’s new novel, “House of Women,” a story in which a mother and daughter fight to the death . . . An unusual and unusually satisfying novel.” —Kathryn Harrison, The New York Times Book Review

“There is not a word out of place in this novel . . . Freed delves deep into the morass of sexual and filial love without mitigating complexity, and leads her reader toward insight and understanding with a deft and delicate touch.” —The Washington Post Book World

“This other-worldly tale philosophizes smartly on what it is to crave love and to sacrifice clarity for passion.” —Publishers’ Weekly

“With poetic intensity, the novel weighs the explicit power of actions against the subtler but no less potent one of words.” —Vogue

“Feeling the chill? Escape into Lynn Freed’s House of Women” —Vanity Fair

“Lock yourself up with this literary novel about mother-daughter ties” —Glamour

“A quietly suspenseful tale of a marriage that is both an escape from a powerfully sexual mother and manipulative father and an unpredictable journey to the heart of her authentic desires.” —O Magazine

“Reading Lynn Freed’s House of Women, I was subject to feelings I remember from first reading the classics when I was young: sensations of familiarity and strangeness conjoined. Like certain classics, Freed’s novel is surprising and inevitable, often in the same sentence. It illuminates and, at the same time, deepens the human mystery. I don’t ask for more from a book.” —Michael Cunningham, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction

“Powerful and strange, Lynn Freed’s House of Women dissects human emotions, especially family emotions, almost as myth does, going straight to the essence with hypnotic assurance.” —Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce and Le Marriage

“Lynn Freed is a brilliant, magical writer.” —Anne Lamott, author of Operating Instructions and Traveling Mercies

Praise for Friends of the Family

“Freed’s prose pleases both mind and spirit . . . These are interesting people, especially our heroine, who has everything except “the independence of spirit to turn away from achieved success, to spin her own webs of wonder.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Lynn Freed has written an anti-romance in romance clothing. Perhaps for today’s psychologically-minded liberated women (this) is the only viable kind of romance around.” —The Oakland Tribune

Praise for Home Ground

Notable Book of the Year, New York Times Book Review

“Freed’s guileless child-narrator takes us inside the neurosis of South Africa.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Here’s a rarity: a novel about childhood and adolescence that never lapses into self-pity, that rings true . . . that regards adults sympathetically if unsparingly, that deals with serious thematic material, and that is quite deliciously funny. Home Ground is all this and more.” —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World

Home Ground is crisp and uncluttered. The dialogue is sharp and colorfully idiomatic. It is often funny, particularly in scenes of Ruth’s youthful sexual explorations and in the missed connections between black and white. Freed . . . captures the quality of complacent unreality that has pervaded white South Africa.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

Praise for The Mirror

Notable Book of the Year, New York Times Book Review

“Like so many of the best books, The Mirror makes us laugh while packing, finally, a punch.” —New York Times Book Review

“Masterful . . . Agnes tells her story with the bare-souled candor of a Billie Holiday ballad.” —The San Francisco Chronicle

“(Freed) wonderfully carries off that hardest of all literary effects—it feels effortless and therefore absolutely real, as if Freed just sat down by the fire one night and told the tale of a woman she’d once known. Freed’s language brings Agnes’s world . . . vividly to life.” —Elle Magazine

“I’d say it’s feminist fiction in the mode of Flaubert and Daniel Defoe. Agnes La Grange is the Moll Flanders of Durban, South Africa. You’ll want to live her fascinating life along with her.” —All Things Considered (NPR)

“Agnes is Moll Flanders without excuses—an enchanting and infuriating heroine, both admirable and wrongheaded in her commitment to honesty and her pursuit of adventure.” —Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A)

Praise for The Bungalow

Notable Book of the Year, New York Times Book Review

“Ms. Freed portrays the theatrical atmosphere in which class and taste are assessed and sustained through clothes, food, hairstyles and interior decoration, while the black servants vacuum and cook, argue and laugh, until they are finally sent off duty to the back of the house, leaving the whites a fragile privacy at the end of the day, when sherry is poured from cut-glass decanters . . . Ms. Freed avoids simple labels of good and bad, and that is what makes her novel so arresting.” —New York Times Book Review

“Deeply absorbing and ambitious . . . astonishingly vivid.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Time, memory, identity, continuity and exile: Freed is caught up in a white South African version of expatriation in which one never finally leaves home . . . The refreshing aspect of her account, however, is how these deeper themes are enmeshed with a positively wicked sense of humor.” —The Boston Globe

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