The Limits: A novel (Hardcover)

The Limits: A novel By Nell Freudenberger Cover Image

The Limits: A novel (Hardcover)


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The most thrilling work yet from the best-selling, prize-winning author of The Newlyweds and Lost and Wanted, a stunning new novel set in French Polynesia and New York City about three characters who undergo massive transformations over the course of a single year

From Mo’orea, a tiny volcanic island off the coast of Tahiti, a French biologist obsessed with saving Polynesia’s imperiled coral reefs sends her teenage daughter to live with her ex-husband in New York. By the time fifteen-year-old Pia arrives at her father Stephen’s luxury apartment in Manhattan and meets his new, younger wife, Kate, she has been shuttled between her parents’ disparate lives—her father’s consuming work as a surgeon at an overwhelmed New York hospital, her mother’s relentless drive against a ticking ecological clock—for most of her life. Fluent in French, intellectually precocious, moving between cultures with seeming ease, Pia arrives in New York poised for a rebellion, just as COVID sends her and her stepmother together into near total isolation. 

A New York City schoolteacher, Kate struggles to connect with a teenager whose capacity for destruction seems exceeded only by her privilege. Even as Kate fails to parent Pia—and questions her own ability to become a mother—one of her sixteen-year-old students is already caring for a toddler full time. Athyna’s love for her nephew, Marcus, is a burden that becomes heavier as she struggles to finish her senior year online. Juggling her manifold responsibilities, Athyna finds herself more and more anxious every time she leaves the house. Just as her fear of what is waiting for her outside her Staten Island community feels insupportable, an incident at home makes her desperate to leave.

When their lives collide, Pia and Athyna spiral toward parallel but inescapably different tragedies. Moving from a South Pacific “paradise,” where rage still simmers against the colonial government and its devastating nuclear tests, to the extreme inequalities of twenty-first century New York City, The Limits is an unforgettably moving novel about nation, race, class, and family. Heart-wrenching and humane, a profound work from one of America’s most prodigiously gifted novelists.
NELL FREUDENBERGER is the author of the novels Lost and Wanted, The Newlyweds, and The Dissident, and of the story collection Lucky Girls, which won the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Storyand the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in New York, NY.
Product Details ISBN: 9780593448885
ISBN-10: 059344888X
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: April 9th, 2024
Pages: 368
Language: English

“Deeply moving . . . An astonishingly real­istic portrayal of every­day people facing the challenges of modern life.”Real Simple

“Engaging . . . The Limits is insightful about the ways the Covid crisis applied pressure to unsteady joints, as if testing which bonds would last.” Wall Street Journal

"In Freudenberger’s worldly, sophisticated storytelling, characters who are essentially good fumble and cause accidents everywhere they go.​" Vogue

"Freudenberger ably captures the sense of uncertainty and displacement during the height of the pandemic, matching the inner confusion of major life changes with the outer turmoil of a world in crisis." The Washington Post

“From New York City to a Zoom screen, from a hospital full of early COVID-19 cases to an island off the coast of Tahiti, Freudenberger brings the anxieties and challenges of the early pandemic days to vivid, engaging life. The characters have full and fascinating inner lives, and real concerns—parenthood, a spreading virus, preserving the natural world—that layer with their interpersonal conflicts . . . In The Limits, Freudenberger deftly employs the questions posed by climate change, seafloor mining and the struggle of modern medicine in the face of the unknown to shape the story.” BookPage (starred review)

“Freudenberger’s exceptional skills as a novelist, her seamless prose and formidable intelligence, are on full display in The Limits. A novel about privilege and precarity, isolation and trauma, it is also a story of tenderness, love, and ultimately, hope.” –Katie Kitamura, author of Intimacies

“A big-hearted, tightly-plotted novel that bravely takes on our times—from Covid-19 to climate change—by looking at the timeless stuff of human intimacy. Nell Freudenberger writes beautifully about the bonds between people: parents and children, lovers and exes, even strangers. The Limits is an immersive and powerful book.” –Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind

“Nell Freudenberger proves yet again a masterful novelist, deftly painting her characters' interwoven lives against the backdrop of our tumultuous times. Rich, nuanced and compelling, The Limits is a deeply satisfying novel.” –Claire Messud, author of The Burning Girl

The Limits brilliantly renders the era of the pandemic, capturing how two families, in all their imperfections, try so valiantly to hold on to their loved ones in a difficult time. When you combine Freudenberger's meticulous research with her ability to portray our most complicated selves, the result is a novel that enlightens us in all the ways that truly matter. You will be transformed by this story.” –Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of Take My Hand

The Limits is a transcendently powerful novel, one that will haunt you with its urgent questions. What happens when we reach our own limits: of our capacity to love, or to meet the needs of those who rely on us, or to brook the extraordinary uncertainties of our world? You’ll stay up long past bedtime reading and rereading these exquisitely wrought pages. Freudenberger is a master of the novelist’s art, and this is her best work yet.” –Julie Orringer, author of The Invisible Bridge

“As in Freudenberger's previous work, scientific points are well integrated and explained, and the intelligent, precise narration is a pleasure, with graceful depiction of the characters' inner lives.”Kirkus Reviews

“A layered story of race and privilege set against the backdrop of Covid-19 lockdowns . . . Freudenberger’s longtime fans will find all the probing social insights and well-drawn characters they’ve come to expect from this accomplished author.” –Publishers Weekly
“Freudenberger is fluent in every realm, social conundrum, and crime against the earth she brings into focus, keenly attuned to science and emotion, tradition and high-tech, race and gender, greed and conscience, irony and tragedy. Each characters’ challenges are significant on scales intimate and global and their wrestling with secrets, anger, and fear grows  increasingly suspenseful in this lambent, deeply sympathetic, and thought-provoking novel.”Booklist (starred review)

"Freudenberger brings the anxieties and challenges of the early pandemic days to vivid, engaging life . . . In The Limits, Freudenberger deftly employs thequestions posed by climate change, seafloormining and the struggle of modern medicinein the face of the unknown to shape the story." BookPage (starred review)
“Sensitive, luminous, and sometimes wryly funny, The Limits is a nuanced portrait of the difficult, worthwhile work of connecting with others-–even during a global disaster.” –Shelf Awareness