Affairs of Others (Loyd)

The Affairs of Others 
Amy Grace Loyd, 2013
Picador : Macmillan
304 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781250041296

A young woman haunted by loss, who resdiscovers passion and possibility when she's drawn into the tangled lives of her neighbors.

Five years after her young husband’s death, Celia Cassill has moved from one Brooklyn neighborhood to another, but she has not moved on. The owner of a small apartment building, she has chosen her tenants for their ability to respect one another’s privacy. Celia believes in boundaries, solitude, that she has a right to her ghosts. She is determined to live a life at a remove from the chaos and competition of modern life.

Everything changes with the arrival of a new tenant, Hope, a dazzling woman of a certain age on the run from her husband’s recent betrayal. When Hope begins a torrid and noisy affair, and another tenant mysteriously disappears, the carefully constructed walls of Celia’s world are tested and the sanctity of her building is shattered—through violence and sex, in turns tender and dark. Ultimately, Celia and her tenants are forced to abandon their separate spaces for a far more intimate one, leading to a surprising conclusion and the promise of genuine joy.

Amy Grace Loyd investigates interior spaces of the body and the New York warrens in which her characters live, offering a startling emotional honesty about the traffic between men and women. The Affairs of Others is a story about the irrepressibility of life and desire, no matter the sorrows or obstacles. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Education—B.A., Bowdin College; M.A.,
   Hollins University
Currently—lives in Brooklyn, New York Ctiy

Amy Grace Loyd is an executive editor at Byliner Inc. and was the fiction and literary editor at Playboy Magazine. She worked in The New Yorker's fiction department and was associate editor on the New York Review Books Classics series. She has been a MacDowell and Yaddo fellow and lives in Brooklyn, NY. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
It is hard to read through Loyd’s novel without stopping to digest her lovely prose. Nearly every sentence has layers of meaning…. Loyd’s words read like the best kind of poetry. There are lines that leave you thinking about larger truths.
New York Daily News

Loyd is acute and unsparing in her portrayal of Celia’s grief over the loss of her husband. Though the chapters are short and the radius of action is small, Affairs still feels substantial. Celia moves almost ghostlike through her own apartment, her building, the streets of Brooklyn and the reaches of her mind, with the reader being just as absorbed in her thoughts as she is.
Minneapolis Star Tribune

This is a book filled with larger-than-life feelings, raw nerves, and sexual intrigue. Small details of everyday life become fraught with as much passion as stolen moments in presumed privacy… Remarkably, Loyd creates a dramatic tension that gives the most domestic of concerns a lusty weight because of what they mask—betrayal, love, and violence.
Daily Beast

From start to finish, Loyd’s prose flows exquisitely through the story, as she limns the depths of the protagonist’s mind, the complexity of human intimacy, and the idiosyncrasies of each new character with the grace of a seasoned novelist.
Vanity Fair

[A] mesmerizing debut….beautifully, even feverishly described. As Celia discovers, the magnetic pull of other people's everyday experiences proves impossible to resist.
Entertainment Weekly

For first-time novelist Amy Grace Loyd, an apartment building is not simply housing. It is also a metaphor for the paradoxical isolation and proximity we feel among others...With forceful, sensual prose (the author is captivated by the scents of people and places), Loyd allows Celia to discover that ‘life had as many gains as losses as long as we were willing to tally them.
Oprah Magazine

A riveting, raw debut…. Loyd brilliantly keeps us holding our breath as Celia's barriers disintegrate, her rules fall away, and the shield she holds so tightly over her heart slowly lowers….Stunningly rendered, acutely emotional.

Lloyd’s burnished, spare sentences conceal hidden volumes of emotion, and in its different moods, the book may put readers in mind of Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland or of a more hopeful version of Claire Messud’s recent The Woman Upstairs.

Widowed five years earlier, Celia Cassil....chose the tenants in her Brooklyn brownstone for their discretion and respect for “separateness.” When one of them moves to France, she reluctantly allows him to sublet his apartment to Hope.... Not long after Hope moves in, another of Celia’s tenants...disappears, and his daughter holds Celia responsible. [A] character study...narrow in scope but long on intensity and emotion
Publishers Weekly

Celia Cassill...still in mourning for her young isolated and withdrawn. Now she finds herself pulled into the problems of her tenants.... [A]a sophisticated, sympathetic, and beautifully written portrayal of contemporary individuals who come to share more than just an apartment building. —Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA
Library Journal

Loyd’s writing is rich and elegant, with elements of allusion and allegory and beguiling characters to draw readers in. Dark and sensual, with just a touch of suspense, this first novel offers a heartwrenchingly honest story about grief while still allowing for a glimmer of hope.

[C]uriously flat: Celia is matter-of-fact and, it seems, scarcely involved in the heart of her own story; only the supporting players seem to feel much of anything.... As a result, the feel of the book overall is more memoir than novel.... More emotional investment would have given this story, competent though it is, more life.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. When we first meet Celia she tells us that her husband died five years ago, and “I went with him, or a lot of me did” (2). What does Celia mean here? What kind of life is she living at the beginning of the novel?

2. Hope brings about an immediate change in the building when she arrives. What do we learn about Hope from Celia’s first impression of her? Why is Celia so hesitant to let Hope live in the building?

3. Discuss the different ways that Celia and Hope deal with their respective grief. Do their actions make sense in light of what’s happened to them, or are they simply impulsive and reckless?

4. Hope’s old boyfriend Les is a polarizing presence in the novel. Celia initially describes him as a “terrifying and bitterly handsome giant” (31). Why is Hope so drawn to him? What does Celia understand about Les and how does that influence the confrontations she has with him?

5. For most of the book Celia’s tenant on the fourth floor, the retired ferry captain Mr. Coughlan, is missing. What role does his character play in the novel? What do Celia and the other tenants learn from Coughlan when he does return?

6. Celia and Hope’s relationship takes on a new dimension late in the novel. What do the women gain from each other? How do you see their relationship evolving?

7. At one point Celia asks, “Why shouldn’t the past…be as real as anything else?” (139). What does Celia do to make this true for her own life? Does Celia’s attitude about the past change by the end of the book?

8. One of the many themes in the novel is the varying degrees of privacy and intimacy in our lives, especially for people living in close proximity to one another. Discuss the different ways that privacy is either protected or violated in the novel. How is intimacy achieved in this story? Is it always connected to physical space?

9. The novel begins and ends with a party scene. Compare Celia in the first party and the last. How has she changed? What do you think will happen to her after the final scene?

10. How does the style of Amy Grace Loyd’s writing fit the nature of the story? Discuss your favorite lines and why they were meaningful to you.
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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