The Sunken Cathedral


Product Details

Scribner Book Company
Publish Date
6.2 X 0.8 X 9.4 inches | 0.9 pounds
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About the Author

Kate Walbert is the author of seven works of fiction: She Was Like That, longlisted for the Story Prize and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; His Favorites, an Atlantic Monthly Best Book of the Year; The Sunken Cathedral; A Short History of Women, a New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of the Year and finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Our Kind, a National Book Award finalist; The Gardens of Kyoto; and the story collection Where She Went. Her work has appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize stories. She lives with her family in New York City.


"The Sunken Cathedral is impressionistic, a bookof drifting shadows and blazing clarity; Kate Walbert has written a gorgeousand moving requiem for a people and a city that are not yet lost. Amagnificent achievement."--Lauren Groff, author of Arcadia and Monsters of Templeton
Praise for The Sunken Cathedral

"The Sunken Cathedral is a gem of a novel--lyrical, ominous, and unexpectedly funny. Kate Walbert has somehow managed to write an elegy for a Manhattan that still exists, and characters who--like most of us--would prefer not to think about their impending doom."--Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers
"Kate Walbert's frightening, timely novel follows an achingly particular cast, small flames unexpectedly doused, so that the prevailing uncertainty of what it is to be alive rises like the waters flooding coasts. The insufficiencies of sheltering-in against Sudden Weather turn Who We Are Stories into Who Are We plaints, yet Walbert is wise and funny and compassionate, and she gifts The Sunken Cathedral with birds and strokes of blue. 'Much to learn from blue, ' a painter considers, and much to learn from this ambitiously made, great fiction."--Christine Schutt, author of Florida and All Souls
"Hypnotic...though the novel seems to be set in the present, it feels more menacing than our current world, with sudden, dangerous stormsand terrorism drills in school. An unconventional and unsettling novel withvivid imagery and passages of pure poetry."--Library Journal, starred review
"[A] sense of a remembered world that lives on just beneath the ever-changing surface is at the heart of Kate Walbert's stunning new novel, The Sunken Cathedral. A powerful elegy for a fading New York City and for the planet as a whole, it is also a deeply human story, full of rich and complex characters...[Walbert] writes with such precision that she's able to pack 80 years worth of personal and world history -- war, climate change, marriage, parenthood, friendship, death, grace, love, petty betrayal, and sudden violence -- into a slim volume. She's also very funny... the footnotes work beautifully...audacious...masterful."--J. Courtney Sullivan, The Boston Globe
"Walbert writes unlike anyone I've read before, imbuing each of her finely-tuned sentences with stunning detail. Trust me: You won't ever have been more eager to read the footnotes in your life."--Bustle
"Insightful...Like so many elements of this rich new novel, its title points backward and forward... though Walbert never allows her narrative to dissolve into stream of consciousness, she manipulates time and space as though they were as viscous as oils. And she allows the central plot to drip off the edges of this canvas. That effect is structurally emphasized by footnotes that read like little prose poems of ineffable grace... Some of these notes are long, taking up more than two pages, and some contain incidents as moving and significant as anything in the main text of the novel, a strategy that implicitly challenges what's central and what's tangential in our lives... Walbert's narrative method is a gentle lesson in empathy, a reminder that it's only artifice and egotism that give us the misimpression that we're the central protagonist of the life we're composing."--Ron Charles, The Washington Post
"Kate Walbert's TheSunken Cathedral paintsan elegant picture of a LowerManhattan neighborhood and its citizens, at risk from both 'suddenweather' and relentless gentrification."--Shelf Awareness
"A brief book with limitless depth, TheSunken Cathedral usesfootnotes to move between past and present, thought and action. Set in New YorkCity, most of the voices are female, starting with two 80-ish widows whoventure out to take an art class.--The Houston Chronicle
"Walbert tunes in toa complex chorus of female characters in contemporary Manhattan, a cityrecently altered by climate change, tragedy and new wealth...The tapestry ofvoices weave a rich pattern, and the novel is strengthened by Walbert's use offootnotes, which allow her characters' thoughts to move freely from the presentto the past, uncovering private or previously unshared memories...TheSunken Cathedral is a reference to a piano sonata by Debussythat itself alludes to the mythical story of a cathedral that rises up from thesea. Like Debussy's impressionistic music, the novel is poetic, full of lyricalimagery and subtle shifts of tone. Ambitious, elegiac and occasionally even funny, TheSunken Cathedral is an emotionally resonant story of people caught ina time of unease and change--and a striking portrait of the way we livenow."--Lauren Bufferd, BookPage
"[A] shimmering newnovel...At its heart is a wonderful pair of widowed French-born friendswho both survived World War II, married Americans, and raised their onlychildren together...Walbert has beenrightly celebrated for her ability to capture the variety and vulnerability ofwomen's lives with a combination of lyricism and brawn...In TheSunken Cathedral, she again creates multiple narrative strands whicheventually dovetail as satisfyingly as tightly fitted joints on awell-constructed rocking chair. But then she takes her remarkable technical prowess to a newlevel with long footnotes...This literal subtext forms a secondary narrativeline that cleverly reflects the way attention is so often fragmented...abeautiful tribute to a city that's continually in flux."--Heller McAlpin,
"Kate Walbert's fourth novel, The Sunken Cathedral, makes a music that is dissonant, haunting, vibrant, moving and wise. It may be her best work yet, and may spark youto go find all her prior books... Walbert packs everything into [a] series ofbraided narratives: deliciously human, memorable characters; the sensuousphysical world ('a collection of wet smells, furtive cigarettes, coffee'); atart omniscience (though points of view alternate) shepherding a brisk pace.Best, she infuses The Sunken Cathedral(an apt, eerie image) with a sense of time's relentlessness (figuring often asthreatening weather): how it pools and eddies, drowns or sweeps away what oncemattered -- and how we respond to our arbitrary placement in it... Time isdeepened in these pages by commentaries or expansions in the form of longfootnotes -- a form I've rarely liked elsewhere but which works powerfully here...Walbert's past oeuvre has notably examined -- in a spiky, oblique prose style --the predicaments of women. She accomplishes that here again brilliantly, butthis time her style allows easier entry, and her scope widens... Sharp, richly imagined, The Sunken Cathedral serves -- like much of Walbert's work --as a lovely manifesto: Attention must be paid."--Joan Frank, The San Francisco Chronicle
"Walbert is a writerwith the power to alter your view of the world and of what constitutes story...The Sunken Cathedral is an experience, afriend, an intellectual companion, a jewel with many facets...a collection ofobservations and impressions, a carefully curated collection of words that theauthor has polished to a brilliant shine."--Martha Sheridan, The Dallas Morning News
"Kate Walbert not only sees vanishing women -- a pair ofwidows in their 80s, the suddenly uncertain mother of a teenage son, amiddle-aged art historian with visions of a drowning city -- but paints theirlives in indelibly rich and vibrant colors in her stunning new novel, The Sunken Cathedral... Walbert conjures [the] past as she embodiesthe present, in shimmeringly lovely prose embedded with jewellike details.Marie's story becomes, in essence, a love story, although the heartbreaking endof one: She is the sole survivor of a happy marriage. Walbert capturesperfectly Marie's precise sense of loss."--Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times
"[Walbert] gives us prose that is poetic, luscious, and utterly exquisite, while remaining both accessibleand elusive. She also litters her story with footnotes...these tidbits addextra color to an already brilliantly vibrant mosaic...I haven't read a book thisbeautifully written since Ondaatje's The English Patient...I cannot recommend it more highly."--Davida Chazen, BookBrowse
"In The SunkenCathedral, Kate Walbert renders an impressionistic portrayal of animperiled New York, whose residents live with the threat of weather surges andterrorism in a city that is at once mythical and real...[a] brilliant allegory... fascinating characters and theirbackstories propel the novel from serenity to angst, as each character preparesfor the coming deluge."--Joseph Peschel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"[Walbert's] compelling characters achieve highs ofself-knowledge and certainty about their place in the world - and also sinkinto depths of depression, regret, and worry about the future...Walbert's work isa win-win. It is both wise andbeautifully written."--Katharine Bailey, Philadelphia Inquirer