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The Necessary Beggar

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  302 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
Lémabantunk, the Glorious City, is a place of peace and plenty. But it is also a land of swift and severe justice. Young Darroti has been accused of the murder of a highborn woman who had chosen the life of a Mendicant, a holy beggar whose blessing brings forgiveness. Now his entire family must share his shame, and his punishment--exile to an unknown world.

Grieving for the
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by Tor Books
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Rating details
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Apr 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, favourites

Magic! This book is magic. It's the kind of book where you just want to give the author a Nobel Prize and let her rule the world because she just gets how it's supposed to be. Her book "Flying in Place" is a riveting, heartwrenching story of a young girl in a horrifying family situation. It was the kind of really good book that's really hard to read -- and I didn't even have children when I read it.
The Necessary Beggar is quite a different book. The family in question is colourful and close-knit
Feb 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: status-borrowed
When one son is accused of murder, his entire family is exiled from their glorious city of Lémabantuk, sent to a new worldwhere they find themselves in the Nevada desert. A story of two cultures and faiths blending, The Necessary Beggar is unexpected magical realism, combining gritty but irreverent daily life with glimpses of sentimental magic. The novel has a number of faults, including out of place scifi elements and uneven pacing; nonetheless, it has thoughtful and intelligent (if overwrought ...more
Joe Hunt
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
I like this book fine ! (Only halfway through.)

I usually consider myself more of a Fantasy guy... It's a little science-fiction--but that's fine, too.

I started reading b/c read some review: "Takes place in Nevada..." I was like "Science Fiction in Nevada? That's where I live?" and "Interesting how she blends in some religion." I was like "Really?" (I happen to be a believer.)

So: the review was completely right--it is really interesting: how she takes some people from another world, exiled to Nev
Mar 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy-sci-fi
This short sci-fi/magical realist novel is about an extended family who, because one of their members commits a heinous crime, is exiled from their world into more-or-less present-day America. They progress from a refugee camp to a comfortable life in suburban Reno, all the while trying to understand both the events that brought them there and the nature of their new home. While the plot does give a nod to the conventions of the successful immigrant narrative (the older generation finds artisan ...more
Ali M.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
A gorgeous fantasy novel about family and belonging, blessings and curses, faith and redemption and integration, with far more to say about our present-day world than about the world its characters come from. The Necessary Beggar could so easily have taken a predictable tack through its narrative - especially since it functions, with zero qualms, as an allegory for modern-day refugees - but Palwick dodges that bullet with effortless grace. She accomplishes something I don't always see in SF/F: a ...more
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, sci-fi
Heart-wrenching tale of a family torn apart, building walls between each other even as they are exiled to a strange new world - the United States. From a society where helping others is a part of life to a place where those who are different are seen as less. Wish I could give 4.5 stars.
I didn't really remember anything about this book, which I'd added to my t-r shelf after I read a short story by Palwick, which (as is usual with Tor shorts) I found kind of disappointing but also promising, and when I looked her up this was the book with the coolest title that my library had. I make very careful decisions, clearly Daniel Kahneman would be pleased with me [I'm leaving that one wide open for you, you're welcome]. Anyway, there I was, ages (two years) later, flipping the book open ...more
Mar 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This book is a Gem. It has just the right amount of everything in it; it's the beginning of perfect.

I don't remember why I picked The Necessary Beggar to read... probably because it was on one of NPR's suggested reading lists (it fits with the liberal agenda thing). Anyway, after having already checked it out from the library, I decided that I didn't think I'd like the story. So I came here to goodreads and read reviews about it and really decided that I wouldn't like it. There are very few Sci-
Olivera P.
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was very skeptic about this book because I got it almost blindly, carried away by the short story about it form the back of the book (actually it was inside of the covers). I thought it would be more adventurous alike, therefore I was a bit disappointed by reading all the religious stuff, especially in the beginning/middle of it. But I guess this just came to me out of nowhere crashing my expectations. Which was in a way good. No one wants to read something they think can predict from the begi ...more
Jan 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is another book that, given the description of it, I would not have found interesting and picked up. I only picked it up and read it because Susan Palwick wrote it.

The premise is a family is sent into exile through a gateway so they end up in a refugee camp in Nevada in our near future. They have to learn English and how to get along in America -- and figure out how to get out of the refugee camp when they have no papers and are from no known country in the world.

So the book is about that,
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book at the Dollar store, and it was definately worth a dollar (maybe even two or three). The writing was good in some parts, but down right laughable in others. While I found parts of the story and characters very compelling, other parts were rediculous and hard to stay interested in.. It was a very quick read, otherwise I probably would have gotten bored and put it down a long time ago. However I found the ending satisfying and was glad that I finished it. If you like romance and ...more
Jan 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
This vaguely sci-fi, vaguely religious book is interesting. There were definitely times that I was confused about what was occurring, but I almost always figured it out. (The main exception to this is why, exactly, one of the characters dies and his soul inhabits a damp towel…) The Necessary Beggar is about a refugee family and their struggles to overcome their past; the main issue is that they are from another dimension rather than another country. Palwick has some interesting things to say abo ...more
Jun 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Not a perfect novel, but a lovely one. This was such a well-told, heartbreaking book, but I didn't love it as much as I loved Flying in Place.

I need to bump Palwick's Shelter far higher on my TBR list. And I need acquire a copy of her short-story collection, The Fate of Mice STAT.
May 25, 2015 rated it liked it
An intimate, well-crafted, somewhat anthropological book (think Ursula LeGuin, Mary Dora Russell, or Samuel Delany) at the intersection of science fiction, fantasy, and ghost story. Refugees are currently dominating US headlines; this story of a family of interdimensional exiles who end up in a refugee resettlement camp is true to the experiences of forced migrants while also fantastically inventive. The hyper-achieving, self-denying daughter fixated on fitting into US society will be immediatel ...more
Mar 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-and-fantasy
Excellent tale of the refugee experience, chronicling the toll that adaptation takes and the hidden cost of secrets. When one of their number is exiled for murder, his extended family joins him in exile, stepping through the doorway to an unknown alternate dimension- ours.

Together, they must learn to adapt to this new world, first in a refugee camp and then in the larger world. The acculturation process is not an easy one for everything here is truly alien to them. The family strives to fit in
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Our characters have been exiled from their universe due to the crime of one member, and wind up as refugees in our universe. I loved the detailed evocation of their culture and beliefs, and the resonance between those and the new culture and beliefs they are exposed to their new life in America. I am not a religious person, but I enjoyed the exploration of the theme of forgiveness and charity in the two universes. Some of the ideas are a bit of a stretch, in particular (view spoiler) ...more
Mindy Miller
Aug 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-lit
Some graphic sexual situations that still bother me months later. That was very diappointing since I appreciated the ponderous character of the grandfather and what he had to say. Did not finish reading, mainly because the passionate relationship became based solely on sex and severly lacked trust--resulting in death and exile. Was afraid the book would condone those relationships despite the consequences (saying the consequences were tragic but there was nothing wrong with the journey that led ...more
Feb 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A great novel, with both substance and story. My husband and I chose this to read together based on the title, and were pleasantly surprised and what a good book it was.
It doesn't read nearly as sci-fi as the premise suggests (a family from another world transported here through a mystical portal). It's much more like a fictional middle eastern society than an alien one. The writing was good but not spectacular, but the characters were endearing and their plight interesting.
Nov 27, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a hard book to classify. The sticker on the outside labels it science fiction and it is sort-of that because it is set in our reality with a few tweeks. It is more a philosophical exploration of Christianity, morality, acceptance, family love and honesty, wrapped up in an interesting story.
This would be a good book club read, although there are a couple of swear words scattered throughout the book.
May 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm in the middle of reading it for the second time. Parts of it are so sad, but it's very sweet too. It'll probably make you cry if you're one of those watery types. It's about a family from another world that gets banished from their world when one of the young men is accused of murder. They walk through a door and end up in our Nevada about 10-20 years from now. I highly recommend it.
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sffantasy
The premise (critique of US society generally and of its treatment of refugees in particular through the eyes of a family of refugees from Fantasyland) is fraught with opportunities for heavy-handed triteness, but it's all done sensitively and with a lightness of touch and acuity of observation that make it as involving as it is persuasive.
Sep 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: alex-award, fantasy
When Darroti, a young merchant in the city of Lemabantunk, is accused of murdering a highborn woman, he and his family are exiled to the unknown world that lies beyond a mysterious gate, where they encounter a world tormented by hatred and warfare. Alex Award. One of the best fantasies I've read this year.
May 27, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: duds
Couldn't get into it, so slow to start and the bland description of acts that every reader would already understand since they were from our culture were tedious. I don't like the idea of zama being the golden child - maybe she wouldn't be if I finished the book - because it was so cliche. I was left saying so what and unable to keep reading.
Jan 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Part science fiction, part fairy tale, part spiritual tale. I enjoyed this story of family grief, family love and acceptance. I especially loved the image of the towel that would not dry as it was filled with tears.
Sep 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Wow short and meaningful- I loved this look at American life from the view of outsiders. Item was also a look at multiple viewpoints in a multi generational family. Secrets and lies create much of the drama in this story. The ending provides a very satisfactory closure.
Oct 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Palwick is a wonderful writer who creates vivid characters and intelligent, engaging plots. This novel is almost, but not quite, a parable -- and it makes points in the way a parable does: quietly, unobtrusively, and unforgettably.
Feb 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
A family from another dimension is exiled to ours and ends up at a refugee camp in Nevada in the near-future. We see them adjust to life in the US and also, eventually, unravel the issue that brought them here.

Carly R
Jan 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Engaging and thought provoking read. The writing is heart wrenching and captivating. I particularly enjoyed the way the author didn't subscribe to any single genre. I would have liked more background about the land of Lémabantunk.
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the most beautiful family stories I've ever read. The challenges the family face as they are exiled in a strange world (U.S.A.) test their close-knit bonds, and no one is perfect but there is a deep love.
Hope N
A simple but beautiful story about love and family, exile and forgiveness. Easy to read. Decent writing with an especially profound understanding of human relationships (even if the main characters are from another dimension).
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Susan Palwick is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she teaches writing and literature.

Raised in northern New Jersey, Palwick attended Princeton University, where she studied fiction writing with novelist Stephen Koch, and she holds a doctoral degree from Yale. In the 1980s, she was an editor of The Little Magazine and then helped found The New York Review
More about Susan Palwick

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“I realized then how much alike we were. Both of us looked backwards to a beloved time that was lost to us, a time where everything had been beautiful. Both of us looked forward to some time and place that would be better. And both of us were here, now, in a grim, unhappy time where little was as we wanted it to be. We lived in our memories and in our hopes, enduring the present because we had no other choice, and because we loved the people who lived here with us.” 4 likes
“He knows that kind of love. It is what he feels for Gallicina. It is the world reformed, made new, each time the lover sees the beloved's face. It is the miracle which makes the cosmos dance, which keeps the planets in their courses, which fuels the fire of the stars. It is salvation.” 2 likes
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