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The Distance Between Us

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  257 ratings  ·  55 reviews
From award-winning author Yates comes a poignant and insightful story of family, friendship, love, and heartbreak.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Kensington (first published July 1st 2008)
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Brandon Witt
I just finished Bart Yates' most recent novel about an hour ago and immediately took the dogs on a long walk to enjoy the aftertaste. I read this book slowly, most of the time, a chapter or two at a time, until the last hundred or so pages, which I read today. No part of this book is overly fast paced or will ever have you on the edge of your seat. Neither is it really anything about gay relationships. One of the main supporting characters is gay, but it his sexual orientation didn't have much i ...more
Bart Yates again writes a story full of intriguing, flawed characters that draw the reader into their world in such a full manner that we hang on every bad choice they make. The interesting thing here is that the main character, Hester, a piano virtuoso who is over seventy years old, is not a lead I was expecting. I assumed the young student would be our point of view but the author engaged me instantly, challenged any preconceived notions of what a tale told by an older person would be, and I a ...more
Laurie London
Loved the writing style and I loved the quirky a point. This book had so much potential. Alex, a young college student shunned by his family, befriends Hester, an elderly woman who is also shunned by her family. They form a sweet and delightful friendship, and together, they learn to accept and forgive. However, I hated a pivotal scene, which clouded the rest of the book for me. Had I not been reading it for book club, I wouldn't have finished.

***Spoiler below.***

In what univers
Wendy O'connell
I love it when a writer surprises me. I read this book because it was in a reading group, honestly the premise looked dull. I'm a huge horror fan and the idea of drunk old lady who used to play piano making friends with some strange young college student did not turn me on. It turned out Hester, the old lady, was so sharp-tongued and funny, I rolled in laughter every other page. In addition, to this sarcastic side she was layered beautifully with a softness and equaled passion every time her fin ...more
Dec 21, 2008 Amy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2008, glbtq
I had been looking forward to reading Bart Yates' next book so much that I bought it new, then forced myself not to read it until NaNo was over with.

And once I started it, I tried to make it last at least a week. Some books should be savored.

The first person narrative was a 70+ year old woman, in the middle of a messy divorce, possibly about to lose her house, and her children--grown--want nothing to do with her. So what does she do? She rents out her third floor to a young man, Alex, who has a
Sunny Shore
I really enjoyed this story of a dysfunctional family, very much in the vein of The Corrections, but didn't love it. I had trouble feeling empathy for the narrator, whose actions, at times, were just unbelievably not getting help for her son, making a scene at a gathering with her ex's lover, her smartmouth talk. I disliked her more than liked her at the end. I found her relationship with Adam not believable enough. Eric's relationship with Adam was a little on the strange side as ...more
Alice Yeh
I don't think any book could ever be described as "perfect", but Bart Yates's The Distance Between Us comes much closer than I ever expected.

Growing up in a household where I was either making or listening to music at odd hours of the day and night, this novel struck me in the authenticity of Hester's passion for it. To her, it is more than a profession or a gift; it is life itself, and a language so wholly unique that it takes a kindred spirit to truly understand. All of this comes through in s
Nov 11, 2013 Eyre rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: lgbt
Bart Yates' characters are not always easy to like, but they aren't easy to dislike either. Hester is, at times, a royal bitch, but there are moments when the reader just has to feel for her. As her story unfolds and she reveals the reasons behind her bitterness, her sarcasm, and her pain, it is hard not to feel sympathetic toward her, as well as toward her family, from whom she is estranged.

The nerdy, English teacher in me has to like this book because of the allusions to The Scarlet Letter:

Bart Yates presents a readable story that skims across the emotional surface of a dysfunctional family falling apart. The characters spend most of their time yelling at each other or crying, and I never really felt like I got to know any of them. The narrator is a 70-something musical genius whose husband has left her for another woman and whose kids hate her. For me, her voice never quite emerges; we get her anger and her tears but very little about what it feels like to lose her passion. She's ...more
Beth Gordon
70-something Hester is a curmudgeonly, sarcastic former pianist. You want to know if Hester is the way she is because of some tragedy, losing her ability to perform on the piano, or if her disposition has always been so *charming*. You come to find out that she's going through a divorce and is renting out a room to a college student. The book rotates between current times and Hester's flashbacks as narrative or as conversation to her new boarder Alex. The family dynamics, especially when so many ...more
Hester Parker is a 70-year-old, formerly famous virtuoso pianist, now teaching at a conservatory in an Illinois college town. She tells a story, or stories, from her life -- past to present -- that will break your heart as you get inside her head and learn about the tragedy that becomes her family. A more crusty, witty, bitter, and vulnerable character I have not known for some time.

I loved the way Bart Yates presented The Distance Between Us (2008), the story of broken lives and dysfunction, no
Hester Donovan is a complex character. At the same time she is a sympathetic character trying to keep her life from spinning out of control and a vengeful harpy getting revenge on those family members - everyone by now - who do not do as they are told. I wanted to slap her and I wanted to hug her; that's always a good sign.

After reading Yates' novel, The Brothers Bishop, I was expecting a complex gay novel with well-written characters and unexpected storylines. Well, there is nothing gay in this
Oct 05, 2008 Evan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: lgbt
Read during the Great Blackout of Aught-Eight...

I loved this book from top to bottom! The protagonist--eccentric fallen musical genius Hester Parker--is richly drawn in a way that conjures a very particular image in my mind. I picture her in a very "Miss Havisham" way, but slightly more functional. Hester imparts her world-view on love and family upon her own personal "Pip"--a boarder named Alex. Alex in turn helps fulfill Hester's need for "family" and ultimately helps her to reconcile (the bes
The book revolves around a dysfunctional family whose talents in the arts are matched only by their ability to wound each other, and a young man who finds himself in the middle. In spite of some of the truly hateful, evil things these people said to each other (I can't imagine being on the receiving end of one of these barbs), I was able to find the humanity in each character, and develop a sympathy and liking for them. The book was an easy read and never felt contrived. Hester especially is som ...more
While I love two of his previous books, unfortunately, I have to diss this one. Sure, Mr. Yates writing flows nicely. However, it's very, VERY hard to like the characters in this book (except for Alex) because they're just so vicious and mean. It's difficult to like a book written in the 1st POV when you can't feel any sympathy for the narrator. Because you need to see the world from their eyes and if you can't understand, well, the book just fails to entertain. That's what I feel with this book ...more
Larry Hoffer
Boy, do I love novels about family dysfunction! (Wonder why?) Seriously, I thought this was a terrific book. A bit overwrought at times, yes, but a really powerful and emotionally compelling read. This is the story of a family in pieces, the stranger who comes into the middle of the chaos, and how everyone is changed by the experience. While reading this book I definitely could see it as a movie in my mind's eye. While not all the characters evoked sympathy, each was much more complicated than I ...more
This had me hooked from the first page. Hester Parker, is turning 71, and her life, is, frankly a mess. Awaiting divorce from her husband (who's been having an affair for over a decade), alienated from her children and trying to cope with past tragedies, Hester teaches at the local Conservatorium with an m.o. of brilliance, inspiration and laceration. Her verbal put-downs are both very funny and cringe-inducing, but it is just this acerbic wit that is as an innate to Hester as is her musical tal ...more
Bart Yates' narrative in this family drama is remarkable. The main character, Hester, uses her wicked sense of humor to express her views on a life filled with tragedy and remarkable gifts. Too often there is nothing you can do when faced with a terrible loss (or two or three) but laugh in the face of fate. Others who prefer to wallow in their misery tend to hate you for doing just that, but Yates understands those differing approaches provide the true distance between us: those who survive inta ...more
I really enjoy reading Bart Yates (although Brothers Bishop freaked me out a little), and as much as I love Leave Myself Behind, I think The Distance Between Us might be his strongest work yet.

The main character's acerbic wit made me laugh through most of the book even though it's really very sad.

It has a similar feel to both of his previous books, especially Leave Myself Behind since the setting is so similar (a large, old house with a lot of character in a small college town).
Marissa Sackett
If you haven't made any mistakes in your life you probably will not relate to this book. It embraces the faults of human nature and pours sympathy, forgiveness and understanding. It dives deep into reconciliation with yourself and the people closest to you. Acceptance that life does not move in your favor and sometimes the lump in your throat and chest is easier to swallow than you might think
Wow. A times painfully sad and at others very funny (in a dark dysfunctional family kind of way!) Either way very captivating. I love a book that can make me smile one minute and chuckle the next. Maybe it hit too close to home to give it 5 stars but I am already seeing what else Bart Yates has written.
Reading "Brothers Bishop," I had to find out whether the next novel would be steeped in family dysfunction. Yes. It was wonderful. The writing is witty, acidic, bitchy and I loved it. He is spot on with the relationships among Mother and sons, and the daughter to a lesser extent.
Good entertaining writing. More please, Bart Yates!
Recommended to me by a friend and I would quickly and gladly recommend it to anyone else. Looking forward to reading more of his books.
He's done a good job. Sympathetic yet unpredictable charecters, lots of tragedy and pacey writing - what more could we want from a novel?
Bart Yates is a damn good writer. I've read all three of his novels now. Give us more!
Excellent book. Loved Hester's wit
The main character is a fiery older woman who has lived her life as a one-time piano virtuoso with a bad wrist. She seemed more like a caricature of a character as told from the perspective of stereotypical gay man who loves strong willed women, than a real character. I didn't believe her, connect to her or feel her characterization was consistent. The young man that comes and lives with her in the novel, while more of a minor character, was better developed yet still overly imagined and not gro ...more
This is a very difficult book for me to rate. I fear that it's a flawed novel. And it's a story of a dysfunctional family--the kind of story I normally don't have much patience with--with extremely unlikable characters whose excessive, constant bitchiness with each other does get tedious at times. And the writing is nothing to write home about. The fact that I found myself totally immersed in these people's lives, then, must say something about the novel's considerable strengths. I am, I admit, ...more
Hester Donovan was a concert pianist in her younger days, in fact, the whole family was musically talented except for Caitlin, the daughter. Now at age seventy-one, Hester finds herself separated from her womanizing, violinist husband Arthur, and living alone in a sprawling old Victorian home in Bolton, Illinois, the home of The Carson Conservatory of Music.

In the opening lines of the novel Hester says: "I spend a great deal of time admiring my hands, but that's only because they belong to anoth
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The youngest of three brothers, Bart Yates was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1962,
to Newell and Lois Yates. In 1969 his family moved to Lamoni, Iowa, where his father
was the Dean of Students at Graceland College and his mother taught business courses, also at Graceland. Bart graduated from Lamoni High School in 1981, Drake University in 1985 (with a Bachelor of Music degree in Clarinet Performance
More about Bart Yates...
Leave Myself Behind The Brothers Bishop

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“Where does a child of mine get all that hair, I wonder? Arthur’s not exceptionally hirsute, and the men on my side of the family are as bald as potatoes. I must have had an affair with a gorilla before he was born, but you’d think I’d remember something like that, wouldn’t you? ... Be a dear and remind me to leave my brandy flask at home the next time I visit the zoo.” 2 likes
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