Lifelines

“A graceful, attentive, and beautiful debut.” —George Saunders

"Gorgeous...Lifelines has everything you'd want in a book." —Cosmopolitan

Named a Best Book of the Summer by O Magazine,Cosmopolitan, Nylon, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune

For fans of Meg Wolitzer and Maggie Shipstead: a sweeping debut novel following an American artist who returns to Germany—where she fell in love and had a child decades earlier—to confront her past at her former mother-in-law’s funeral.

It’s 1971 when Louise leaves Oregon for Düsseldorf, a city grappling with its nation’s horrific recent history, to study art. Soon she’s embroiled in a scene dramatically different from the one at home, thanks in large part to Dieter, a mercurial musician. Their romance ignites quickly, but life gets in the way: an unplanned pregnancy, hasty marriage, the tense balance of their creative ambitions, and—finally, fatally—a family secret that shatters Dieter, and drives Louise home.

But in 2008 she’s headed to Dieter’s mother’s funeral. She never returned to Germany, and has since remarried, had another daughter, and built a life in Oregon. As she flies into the heart of her past, she reckons with the choices she made, and the ones she didn’t, just as her family—current and former—must consider how Louise’s life has shaped their own, for better and for worse.

Exquisitely balanced, expansive yet wonderfully intimate, Lifelines explores the indelible ties of family; the shape art, history, and nationality give to our lives; and the ways in which we are forever evolving, with each step we take, with each turn of the Earth.

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  • Format: Hardcover

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9781328483720

  • ISBN-10: 132848372X

  • Pages: 336

  • Price: $26.00

  • Publication Date: 06/18/2019

  • Carton Quantity: 12

Heidi Diehl
Author

Heidi Diehl

HEIDI DIEHL's writing has appeared in Colorado Review,Crazyhorse,Indiana Review,Mississippi Review,Witness, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from Brooklyn College and has won fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Saltonstall Foundation, and the Vermont Studio Center. She lives in Brooklyn.  
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  • reviews

    Praise for Lifelines 

    One of Oprah's Summer Reading Picks 

    An O Magazine Best Book of the Summer 

    A Cosmopolitan Best Book of the Summer 

    A Minneapolis Star-Tribune Best Book of the Summer 

    A Nylon Best Book of the Summer 

     

    "Gorgeous...Lifelines has everything you'd want in a book: family secrets, love triangles, and beautiful writing." 

    Cosmopolitan 

     

    "Richly textured, kaleidoscopic." 

    O Magazine 

     

    "Diehl chronicles Louise's creative and emotional growth from Nixon's crash-and-burn era to the hope-and-change sunrise of Obama...Diehl's energies seem most activated by her expats' feelings of dislocation...When Dieter, momentarily at sea in Oregon, cringes at a rusted car stranded on cinder blocks in someone's front yard, you don't have to be German to feel his pain." 

    New York Times Book Review 

     

    "What a graceful, attentive, and beautiful debut. Among Diehl’s abundant gifts are a wonderful eye for the telling detail, a lovely narrative patience, a playful comfort with structural panache, a genuine affection for her characters, and a keen understanding of the ways in which families actually work. The novel thrums with the sadness of life, and also with its comforts." 

    —George Saunders 

     

    "A fascinating interrogation of complicated histories—both cultural and personal—as well as an exploration of the roles that art, family, and creativity play in our lives.” 

    Nylon 

     

    "Deeply woven...The family drama is interlaced with beautiful, meticulously detailed scenes describing Germany, from the underground music scene to the architecture and urban planning that shapes daily life. Streetscapes, stone facades, unofficial trodden pathways across grassy parks, outdoor markets selling dense rye bread—the scene is built on each page with precise detail. Diehl also writes knowledgeably about the arts, from sculpture and performance art to painting and avant-garde music. The book pulses with an almost obsessive level of musical detail, cataloguing genres like psychedelic drone and experimental dub, cult bands like Kraftwerk and the Grateful Dead, and the liberated cultural scene that thrived in the 1970s...Lifelines weaves a rich tapestry out of interconnected personal histories and shows that we are all greater than the sum of our parts." 

    The Oregonian 

     

    "Ambitious." —Saratoga Living 

     

    Lifelines is a true tapestry of a book, intricate and elegantly told, about family and nationhood, and the ways that each generation is shaped by the one that came before it. Diehl writes with a remarkable emotional intelligence that will stay with me for a very long time.” 

    —Julia Pierpont, New York Times-bestselling author of Among the Ten Thousand Things and The Little Book of Feminist Saints 

     

    “From the collision of art and family to the prolonged misunderstandings between characters living across cultures, Heidi Diehl has crafted a complex novel that builds with subversive power, to an assured ending. With riveting precision, Lifelines addresses an inevitable reality of adulthood: for better or worse, we remain beholden to all our relationships, even those we choose to end.” 

    —Idra Novey, author of Ways to Disappear and Those Who Knew 

     

    "Lifelines is an arresting portrait of selves left behind and selves discovered. Heidi Diehl writes with precision and heart about home, history, identity and the lives we might have led." 

    —Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty and Awayland 

     

    "At once moving and intelligent, Heidi Diehl’s Lifelines is about history and politics, memory and art. It spans continents and generations, and it earns its ambition. It’s a riveting, important debut." 

    —Joshua Henkin, author of Matrimony and The World Without You 

     

    "Diehl's debut confidently handles these cultural and historical complexities and is equally fluent in depicting the concerns and processes of visual artists and musicians. A serious, nuanced portrait of a family of creative people as their decisions, large and small, play out in their lives." 

    Kirkus 

     

    "Diehl finds the bittersweet heartache of retrospection, and compassionately explores how art helps heal. This complex, intimate story memorably portrays what it looks like to reckon with one’s choices and to feel both uncertainty and peace." 

    Publishers Weekly 

     

    "A strong debut novel from a writer with a talent for character building." 

    Booklist

  • excerpts

    Louise was a passenger in her own car. Richard, her husband, the inveterate cyclist, was driving her to the airport. When they got to Amazon Parkway, he turned left instead of making the right that led to the freeway, the fastest route there. They passed the rose gardens, then the pizza place run by second-wave hippies. Soon the streets were unfamiliar. Houses sank into hard yellow grass. Flowers, their stems bleached and brittle, offered no premonition of the rainy season ahead. Louise had lived in Eugene a long time; it was nearly impossible that this terrain could feel new. But Richard taught urban design, and he never took the same route twice. That detour made us discover those donuts, he liked to remind her. We never would have found that park. Life presented constant opportunities for research, he told his graduate students.

    And maybe he wanted her to miss her flight.

    It was October, and for the first time in many years, Louise was not shackled to the school calendar. At fifty-nine, she was newly retired, or perhaps just unemployed. Until a few months earlier, she’d taught art at a private school across town—?the Cedar School, with its experimental curriculum and sliding-scale tuition—but in June, the principal had confirmed the swirling rumors: the strapped school would be closing for good.

    Normally at this point in the fall, Louise would have been dreading the annual barbeque at the vice principal’s house—a time for teachers to get together and moan about their seasonal panic, to swap verbal recipes for horrible dips made of sour cream. Now she longed for that familiar slump. The usual classroom anxieties had filled her recent dreams, and it took a few minutes in the middle of the night to remember that she wasn’t going back.

    This drive to the airport prompted similar feelings: she was urgently nostalgic for Eugene’s hippie pizza and ordered green spaces, even though it was all still right there, the colors softened by fog.

    Richard squeezed the wheel. “Remind me what I’m doing with the wood.”

    Louise had charged him with maintaining her project while she was gone, adding a piece to the cumulative sculpture she had been working on for almost twenty years on the land behind their house.

    “The next piece is in the garage,” she said. “With the drawings.” She’d cut plywood into triangles and squares already, their sides four or five feet long, and painted them. Each new shape was added to a line in the yard that pushed forward and turned back as its tail end decomposed. The rules were simple: a new piece and two photos on the 18th of every month, documenting how the untreated wood had faded and settled into the earth. The wood’s decay was the most interesting part?—it gave her a way to measure time, to feel its pressure. An ongoing reminder, a clock. The 18th project was at once a utopian vision—that plotted spectrum against the green grass—and a document of its failure. Fading and breakdown left in its wake. To see both the possibility and the aftermath offered a gratifying sense of control.

    What will you do when you run out of space? people often asked. That wasn’t the threat. Their two-acre yard cut into a patch of forest at the edge of the property. She could work on the project at the same rate for decades longer; the wood’s decay cleared space for a return, and that promised room had always reassured her. Money was the real limitation. The question was whether she and Richard could afford to stay in the house now that Louise had lost her job and her pension.

    “What about the camera?” Richard asked.

    “One shot from the ladder, one from the roof,” Louise said. “You know how to do it.”

    He’d done it before. Taken over for Louise when she was out of town. But it was unusual for her to go away without him. The two of them timed their trips to the project—camping on the coast, visiting their scraps of extended family. Some things were unavoidable, of course. Graduations, weddings, parents’ weekends: occasionally they fell on the 18th. Louise would ask their younger daughter, Margot, to set the next piece, or else a friend, if the whole family was away.

    “What if the pictures come out wrong?” Richard asked. Back when she’d first devised the project—an eroding line—Richard had been the one to suggest the photos in regular increments. She hadn’t switched to digital photography, at least not for the strict confines of the project. Her simple rules made it easier to keep going.

    “You’ve always done it right,” Louise said.

    Richard nodded. He knew exactly how to take the pictures, but knowing and wanting to be told were two different things.

    Louise would be taking three flights that day.

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: Hardcover

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9781328483720

  • ISBN-10: 132848372X

  • Pages: 336

  • Price: $26.00

  • Publication Date: 06/18/2019

  • Carton Quantity: 12

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