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The Astral

3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  1,064 ratings  ·  213 reviews
From the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author of "The Great Man," a scintillating novel of love, loss, and literary rivalry set in rapidly changing Brooklyn.
The Astral is a huge rose-colored old pile of an apart-ment building in the gentrifying neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. For decades it was the happy home (or so he thought) of the poet Harry Quirk and his wife, Luz
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Hardcover, Large Print, 501 pages
Published October 7th 2011 by Thorndike Press (first published June 14th 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,725)
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Ron Charles
It doesn’t matter if the story is about 12th-century nuns or lizard-people from the planet Zerlock: During the question-and-answer portion of the author reading at your local bookstore, some loyal fan will stand up and ask, “How much of this novel is autobiographical?”

I like to look closely at authors’ faces when that question comes — and it always comes — to catch the flash of irritation just before they wearily explain that fiction writers actually use their imaginations to create characters a
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Felice
Author Kate Christensen seems to specialize in writing novels about people you would never in a thousand years want to spend any time with if you met them in real life. So what kind of voodoo writer magic has to happen for an author to make you enjoy a book even though you dislike the main character? Beats me but Kate Christensen has it. Read The Epicure's Lament or Jeremy Thrane or The Great Man. Don't however read her newest novel, The Astral and expect the same magic. The Astral is the story ...more
Elyse
Quite frankly, this book left me thinking, "Who cares?" Harry is a 57-year-old man who has just been kicked out by his wife. He spends the next 300 pages documenting how he hangs out around the city, gets a job, gets fired, gets another job, and hangs out around the city some more. His wife comes off as mentally unstable, and he comes off as a self-righteous, depressing man in a mid-life crisis.
The story I was looking forward to was that of his son, Hector, who has recently joined a religious c
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christa
In 1975, the world was overrun with infants named Christine or Kiersten or Kristen. At least this is how my mom imagined it. My dad, in a fit of divine improvisation, plucked a variation out of the sky. He invented the name Christa. He just made it up. Took two syllables, rammed them together and bam a name -- according to family lore.

Strangers marveled at it. Relatives older than 50 bumbled it. (Even my dad eventually misspelled it on a permission slip). And for six years I was the only Christ
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Nancy Martira
I guess I just don't have any empathy for poets and their shitty marriages.
Laurel-Rain
After living in the old, genteel building in Brooklyn throughout his marriage, Harry Quirk has come to take his life there for granted. But throughout his thirty year marriage to Luz, there have been turbulent shifts beneath the seemingly placid surface of their union that have finally broken through and disrupted the balance. Luz has kicked Harry out, accusing him of infidelity with his friend Marion, and despite his innocence, she will not hear anything that challenges her strong belief system ...more
Pam
Wow this book was something else. I would first recommend it to anyone wanting to increase their vocabulary. I have never heard so many different adjectives and combined-hyphenated words in a book before. I know of no one who speaks like these characters. In fact the characters are people that I would probably never spend time with. Harry the main character is a poet who does not have a job except for occasionally publishing poems. He gets kicked out of his house by his wife, Luz,a nurse who mor ...more
Miriam
Enjoyed, but wouldn't recommend. It was the kind of book that captured my attention while I was reading it, but quickly left my thoughts after I put it back on my bookshelf (part of the reason I'm trying out Good Reads). One thing I did enjoy is how she plays with the narrator, Harry, to so completely manipulate our interpretation of events.

I'm a fan of realism (especially after reading a novel like The Tiger's Wife or Swamplandia!) but I have to agree with what Daniel Handler said in the Sunday
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Jessica
The thing about my Kindle is that while I read it, I can't engage in one of my worst reading practices--skimming. Wait, my two worst habits, skimming and reading the last pages. Sometimes at the height of total freak about a character (will she live?) or plot (does the earthquake ever stop?), I find myself flipping the pages of a hard copy just to calm my beating heart.

Worst case is that I've had it with the book, but I just can't put it down until I know if the marriage will survive or all will
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Julie
This wonderful novel has many of the same basic elements as The Epicure's Dilemma by the same author. Again, Kate Christensen gets inside a very male mind and makes the reader believe in him. There's a lot of humor in this basically frustrating and unhappy story—a quality that makes all the difference to me because it adds a dimension that is, in my experience, so much a part of real life except in the very worst situations, which can't be redeemed no matter what. And although we get the entire ...more
Mary (BookHounds)
Harry Quirk has just been thrown out of his apartment (The Astral building) by his wife, Luz, when she suspects him of writing poems for another women, her best friend, Marion. Harry doesn't understand what happened and seems more confused than anything about his impending divorce. The author does a wonderful job relating this divorce through a man's point of view. Harry seems lost and his two children (also outsiders) don't really know how to deal with him. Their conflict with Harry doesn't see ...more
Lorri Steinbacher
While I think I enjoyed The Epicure's Lament more, I did enjoy this book. It is rare that I empathize with a male character over a female one, but in this case, I was wholly in Harry's corner and furious with Luz. I think that Christensen totally captured that strange combination of middle-aged angst, the comfort of being settled balanced against the desire for some of that drama from our youth, which you can't replicate without throwing your whole life into chaos. Great writing, Brooklyn was as ...more
Alexis
This novel details the breakdown of a marriage. Harry Quirk is a 57-year-old poet whose marriage is falling apart. He's kicked out of his family home because his wife suspects he is having an affair with his best friend (a woman named Marion). I really liked the style of writing and the way the author delved into the story. She really examined close human relationships, and why marriages and friendships can flourish or fall apart. Harry also had a number of different relationships, including a s ...more
Kasa Cotugno
I don't know what it is about Kate Christensen's writing that makes me feel unsatisfied. I keep going back to her because she has a good eye for detail and writes about New York so evocatively. I'm a sucker for NY-based writers who can bring the City to life, but her characters somehow fall flat for me and I can't explain why. They are crafted with intelligence and detail, but never fully come to life. Brooklyn, on the other hand, is all there in its sooty, diverse glory. Here's another of those ...more
IronBlossom
"What did I think?" Asks the prompt for this review. I think reading this book was a terrific waste of time. There's no real plot, there's no real resolution, there's no real anything except a man taking stock of his life during and after a divorce. There's a final scene that I thought would be IT, the whole point of the previous 400 pages...and it was nothing. There was no great understanding, there was no sense of a corner being turned and life beginning to be better, there was just two people ...more
BookwormJayde

This book came to me through an interesting exchange. Since it was Valentine's Day, my library held a display of wrapped up books, so you couldn't see anything about the book. The point was to set you up for a "blind date" with a book. You couldn't peek at it. Well, I thought that it was pretty interesting, and it was the closest I came to having a love life. The only thing I knew about the book was what genre it was. So I picked up "Fiction", checked it out, and promptly forgot about it until I

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Pam
Yes as reviews have said, the novel is basically about the breakup of a marriage but much of what she wrote could be attributed to the break up of any relationship; not necessarily just a marriage. I enjoyed the majority of the book and related to some of it; however, I did not like the ending because I'm not sure what she was saying. I suppose it is one of those endings that can be left to the reader to decide but I'm usually not crazy about doing that; would rather the author told me what she ...more
Jennifer
*I sat at the bar and ordered a Moonshine Fizz, which came in a minature tin bucket and tasted cheerful and deadly in about equal parts, which was exactly what I needed at the moment.*

*Occasionally, I liked the daytime drinking of har liquor. It made the daylight seem artificial and the air extra oxygenated and gave me an adrenaline rush, like being in a casino.*

*"Tastes like bourbon and lemon soda," I said. "And a little extra something. Sweat, maybe."
Corey
I think this just may be a masterpiece. It belongs with the best of Roth and Updike (I hope you accept this in the spirit in which I mean it; I revere both). It took great courage to write first-person in the voice of a man but Christensen pulled it off with grace and insight and smarts. I think perhaps only Dame Murdoch did it as well. I will now go back and read all her earlier novels.
Amanda
I'm giving this one more star than I would have, had it not been for the book's setting in my neighborhood. I enjoyed the (mostly) veiled references to landmarks in the neighborhood, and characters that I'm sure I've encountered in bars and on the sidewalks around my house. The main character...not so much.
Jyoti Singh
I wanted to write about "The Astral", last Tuesday only, but couldn't do so. Reason - What to write about?

This book is so boring and have no story whatsoever. It's a two line story of a husband whose wife throws him out because she doubts on him having an affair with his best friend. That's it.

Nothing exactly happens other than this husband roaming around in streets, and trying to figure out what happened to him. Seriously, nothing happen after that.

Point to note, Astral is the name of building,
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Michael
I thought this was a decent novel but it had major inconsistencies. In the beginning of the novel,Harry was a flawed character that simply wanted to turn his life around. Hanging around in bars and not having any place to lay his head was heartbreaking.I felt for the character, it was hard not to be sympathetic with his struggles as a Father. Dealing with a lesbian daughter and an estranged wife, he had so much on his plate. Although the first pages were mesmerizing, the second part of the story ...more
Sarah
I assume this is called The Astral because The Most Clueless Man in Brooklyn was taken. Harry does get a clue eventually, but it takes him long enough. If you let go of the desire to like all the characters, it's pretty good.
ANNE E MORIN
A Poet's Head Trip

Maybe you had to be there. I felt like a little god(ess) a lot of the time, looking down in an unconnected and, at times, bored mood, at a mostly little but sometimes big man trying to get over himself as he finally figured out how to get over her. I liked descriptions of place and all things not about his stinky relationship with his wife. Because of the quality of the writing, I cannot rate this book lower than a 4, but the truth is that I didn't like the story all that much.
Julia Flath
I did not think the writing in her autobiography Blue Plate Special was that great, so I was pleasantly surprised that this book had excellent prose. It made sense for the narrator to excellently describe his Brooklyn surroundings since he is a poet. It was also fun to read about Williamsburg-Greenpoing from the perspective of a old-timer. Having read her memoir, I can see the influences of her own life in North Brooklyn, with its familial and relationship rifts and angst and artsy friend group, ...more
Deb
May 14, 2013 Deb rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Deb by: Julie Campbell
Shelves: e-book, fiction
Everytime I have looked up this book on Goodreads, the first review that shows up is this one -- "Quite frankly, this book left me thinking, "Who cares?" Harry is a 57-year-old man who has just been kicked out by his wife. He spends the next 300 pages documenting how he hangs out around the city, gets a job, gets fired, gets another job, and hangs out around the city some more. His wife comes off as mentally unstable, and he comes off as a self-righteous, depressing man in a mid-life crisis." We ...more
Larry Hoffer
Is unhappiness a natural part of marriage? How long should you fight for something you want, and if you stop fighting for it, does that mean you no longer want it? Can you love someone even if they're utterly wrong for you? These questions, and many others, are addressed in Kate Christensen's fantastic new novel, The Astral.



Harry Quirk is a poet in his early 50s who had once experienced some acclaim for his work, but his style is now considered outdated. One morning his wife, Luz, a fiercely pas
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Lolly K Dandeneau
Just finished advanced proof, and I am surprised by how much I liked it. Basically its an excavation of the 30 year marriage between Harry and Luz. Thinking the love poems he is working on are proof of a torrid love affair, Luz destroys his work and kicks him out of the Astral, the building the two live in. He spends a lot of time trying to explain to the mulish Luz that the poems are written to an imaginary woman and he has been faithful, lately anyway. Forced to find work, as he has spent year ...more
Tempe Lohmeyer
Harry Quirk is a 57 year old poet who has just been thrown out of The Astral Apartment building by his wife of 30 years. Accused of having an affair and writing love poems to a female best friend (which he didn’t do), Harry now finds himself homeless, jobless, and friendless as his bitter wife turns everyone against him.

Harry, the narrator and only voice in the book, is reexamining his life. As he wanders the streets of Brooklyn, he remembers years gone by and re-evaluates who he was and what h
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Tess Malone
I was sent a reviewer's copy of the novel recently and because I had just read an intriguing article in the June issue of ELLE by Christensen about the draw of the male narrator to her, I immediately started reading. I can understand why Christensen has taken advantage of a male voice for this novel. When we meet Harry Quirk he has just be thrown out of his apartment (housed in the famous Astral) and decades long marriage to Luz after she mistakenly believes the poems he's been writing are about ...more
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KATE CHRISTENSEN is the author of six previous novels, most recently The Astral. The Great Man won the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award. She has published reviews and essays in numerous publications, most recently the New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, O, Elle, and Gilt Taste. She writes an occasional drinks column for The Wall Street Journal called "With a Twist." She lives in Portland, Maine.
More about Kate Christensen...
The Great Man Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites The Epicure's Lament Trouble In the Drink

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“Friendship is a strange animal. It only thrives in voluntary enjoyment of each other's company, in the pleasure of nonobligatory connection. I repeat: You owe me nothing.” 18 likes
“My sudden, unforeseen capitulation had knocked me backward, and I had nothing to hold on to. My internal weather was eerily calm, as if in a tornado's aftermath, birdsong, sunshine, supersaturated colors, wreckage all around, and myself, dazed and limping.” 5 likes
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