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The Astral

3.27  ·  Rating Details ·  1,192 Ratings  ·  227 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
Hardcover, Large Print, 501 pages
Published October 7th 2011 by Thorndike Press (first published June 14th 2011)
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Ron Charles
Jun 10, 2011 Ron Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 19, 2011 Felice rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 03, 2011 Elyse rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nancy Martira
May 15, 2012 Nancy Martira rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club, nyc, 2012
I guess I just don't have any empathy for poets and their shitty marriages.
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
Jul 29, 2011 Laurel-Rain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 20, 2011 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 03, 2011 Miriam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 15, 2011 Pam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
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
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
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
Jun 15, 2011 Lorri Steinbacher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 15, 2012 Alexis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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
*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."
Jun 28, 2011 Amanda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-york
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.
Aug 13, 2011 Corey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 04, 2011 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
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.
Merrill Frazier
Jun 17, 2016 Merrill Frazier rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book so much. It reminded me of John Updike's Rabbit series, which I also loved. I can't wait to read her other books.
Dec 24, 2016 paulie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
never before in my life (into my fifth decade) have i consumed so many books as consistently as i have the past half year. i had not heard of goodreads or bookbrowse until recently. most of the past ten books have been 'surprise me' selections, though if their synopses do not grab my attention i keep clicking until one does.

in the recent past, philip roth has been a frequent choice of mine. i have enjoyed most of them immensely, although i definitely see the pattern of hyper-sexed misogyny with
Bonnie Brody
The Astral, by Kate Christensen, gets its title by way of its namesake, the Astral building in Brooklyn, New York. This building houses the protagonist of this book, an aging poet named Harry Quirk. His last name befits him and his family. They are interestingly dysfunctional in many ways.

Harry was once a somewhat well-known poet, teaching poetry workshops and writing his lyrical poems in rhyming and sonnet style. His publisher and mentor has moved to Europe and his style is now out of favor in
Denise Mainquist
Jan 11, 2017 Denise Mainquist rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This had been on my list for a while and I'm not certain where the recommendation came from, but I am so glad I finally read this book. This is a relationship book that comes primarily from the male perspective. It would have been so easy to write this from the female perspective, the aggrieved wife most women understand. But I am so glad the author did the hard work and helped me understand a different side and the complexities of male and female emotions. Great book. Recommended.
Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries)
This review first appeared on my blog:

Who would have thought that a female author could write such a spot-on novel about a disintegrating marriage from the male point of view?

Harry Quirk is a published (one title) poet who has been married to Luz, the family breadwinner, for over 25 years. When Luz finds Harry's latest poems, it reinforces her suspicions of his infidelity and she destroys his work and kicks him out of their apartment at The Astral.

How is
Jun 09, 2011 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

In my review of Christensen's previous book, Trouble, I said that I hoped The Astral would be better. And it was!

Harry Quirk, mid-list poet, Brooklyn dweller, father of two grown children, and rejected husband of Luz, introduces himself: "I was hungry and in need of a bath and a drink. At my back thronged the dark ghosts of Greenpoint, feeding silently off the underwater lake of spilled oil that lay under it all, the polyfluorocarbons from the industrial warehouses. I had named this place the En
Sep 18, 2011 drea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is Read A Novel About A Crumbling Marriage Month, didn't you know? Or is that just in my house? All I know is that I keep picking them, sometime consciously like with Tyler's THE AMATEUR MARRIAGE, sometimes unconsciously like this time, with THE ASTRAL. It is not about a guy on a bike, guys... Well, I mean, okay, it is kind of about a guy on a bike, but what you can't see in the jacket image is that his name is Harry Quirk, he is a POET, and he is SAD because his wife has tossed him out of th ...more
Jun 13, 2011 Yvonne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Parents of adult children, women 35+
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Nov 12, 2014 IronBlossom rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-a-day
"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
Larry Hoffer
Jul 25, 2011 Larry Hoffer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jennifer Campaniolo
I started off not liking this book. The main character, Harry Quirk, was so single-minded, so consumed with getting his wife back that it was almost pathetic. It didn't seem like the book was going anywhere and Harry was starting to get on my nerves. Do you have to like a protagonist in order to enjoy a book? Usually, unless the character is sufficiently complex, with good and bad qualities that make them seem human.

But by the second half of the book, I started to change my mind. I love Kate Ch
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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.
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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.” 19 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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