The Illusion of Separateness: A Novel (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

— HarperCollins

The circle of life is no illusion. This novel, while spare and focused, is bursting with magnificent intelligence and humanity. Every sentence is crafted and precise, leading the reader on a path to realization. — Karen Frank

With exquisite prose, Simon Van Booy intertwines the lives of seemingly disparate characters spanning from World War II to the present day. With masterful storytelling, he unveils that what connects them all are acts of kindness and mercy. This touching and compelling narrative is a testament to the power of compassion and human connection that transcends time and circumstance. — Nicole Ihasz

How many of us ever consider the number of lives that our own life touches as we pass through it? The connection may be as tentative as the amount of time it takes to say a single word or it might be an act of compassion that comes back to repay someone a hundred times over. Our lives both echo and reverberate in the lives of others. This beautiful book is a reminder of that. — Alden Graves


“The uncanny beauty of Van Booy’s prose, and his ability to knife straight to the depths of a character’s heart, fill a reader with wonder.” — San Francisco Chronicle

Award-winning author Simon Van Booy tells a harrowing and enchanting story of how one man’s act of mercy during World War II changed the lives of strangers, and how they each discover the astonishing truth of their connection.

The characters in Van Booy's The Illusion of Separateness discover at their darkest moments of fear and isolation that they are not alone, that they were never alone, that every human being is a link in a chain we cannot see. This gripping novel—inspired by true events—tells the interwoven stories of a deformed German infantryman; a lonely British film director; a young, blind museum curator; two Jewish American newlyweds separated by war; and a caretaker at a retirement home for actors in Santa Monica. They move through the same world but fail to perceive their connections until, through seemingly random acts of selflessness, a veil is lifted to reveal the vital parts they have played in one another's lives, and the illusion of their separateness.

About the Author

Simon Van Booy is the author of two novels and two collections of short stories, including The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books and has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

Praise For…

“The uncanny beauty of Van Booy’s prose, and his ability to knife straight to the depths of a character’s heart, fill a reader with wonder….There are so many wonderful sentences in this book, a reviewer groans for want of room to list them.” — San Francisco Chronicle

“Masterful prose....From minimalistic sentences he wrings out maximum impact, stripping away artifice and elaboration in favor of stark, emotional clarity and honesty.” — Boston Globe

“His writing is consciously poetic and at times aphoristic, and he deftly portrays his characters’ raw emotions.” — Wall Street Journal

“Van Booy writes like Hemingway but with more heart. It’s a gorgeous story about people whose lives are connected all because of a baby who is saved during World War II. Warning: don’t read this in public, or you might sob in front of strangers.” — New Hampshire Public Radio

“World War II flashbacks, random acts of kindness, and the amazing thing that happens when seemingly disparate story lines come full circle.” — Daily Candy

“Using restraint and a subtle dose of foreshadowing, Van Booy expertly entangles these disparate lives; but it’s what he leaves out that captures the imagination. Full of clever staccato sentences bookended by snippets of inner monologue -- obvious, but ripe with meaning, the writing is what makes this remarkable book soar.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A spare, elliptical story of human connection, framed by the horror of World War II….The story snaps together beautifully. A brilliant if elusive novel that shows how a single act can echo through time.” — Library Journal

“This short and deceptively simple novel, which affords the pleasure of discovering its well-wrought patterns, is likely to grow in stature as it lingers in memory.” — Booklist

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062248459
ISBN-10: 0062248456
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: July 29th, 2014
Pages: 224
Language: English
Series: P.S.