Mary Kay Zuravleff's third novel, Man Alive!, was published this fall by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. See Events for upcoming appearances. Her earlier books, The Bowl Is Already Broken and The Frequency of Souls, were also published by FSG. Among the honors she has received are the American Academy's Rosenthal Award and the James Jones First Novel Award, and she was nominated for the Orange Prize. Mary Kay taught writing at American University, Johns Hopkins University, and George Mason University, and she has written and edited extensively for the Smithsonian Institution. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two children. Mary Kay serves on the board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and is a cofounder of the D.C. Women Writers Group.
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The one-paragraph version, no spoilers
All it takes is a quarter to change Owen Lerner’s life. When lightning strikes the coin he’s feeding into the parking meter, the pediatric psychiatrist survives, except that now he only wants to barbecue. The bolt of lightning that lifts Dr. Lerner into the air sends the entire Lerner clan into free fall, and Man Alive! follows along at that speed, capturing family-on-family pain with devastating humor and a rare generosity. This novel explores how much we are each allowed to change within a family—and without.
The one-minute movie, by John Hluchyj
Praise for Man Alive!
“A lightning bolt to a parking meter certainly packs a punch, but so does every sentence and scene of this exuberant novel. Mary Kay Zuravleff writes so well—with such wit and compassion and wry intelligence—that she can make the daily, domestic life that follows Owen Lerner’s encounter with the transcendent as electrifying as the lightning strike itself. A suburban marriage, a young romance, gymnastics, brain chemistry, backyard barbeque, wherever Zuravleff aims her keen eye, something transformative happens, the way a thunderbolt turns sand to glass. Man Alive! is vividly alive and breathing. A sparkling book.”
—Alice McDermott, author of After This and Someone
“Random happens, as Mary Kay Zuravleff ably demonstrates in this witty and engaging novel about a psychiatrist struck by lightning. Man Alive! chronicles the tensions and resentments that pull a family apart in the wake of a freak accident, and the lingering affections and connections that ultimately keep them together.”
—Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Little Children
Shelf Awareness sends Debra Ginsberg to ask whatever her heart desires. We turn out to be a good match.
The Man Alive! bracelet my sweet daughter made me
Deborah Kalb wants to hear about Man Alive! and writing. I'm happy to oblige.
Lisa Gornick and I interview each other because her wonderful new novel, Tinderbox, revolves around a psychiatrist, as does Man Alive!
Sometimes people give me presents. No pressure. And by people, I usually mean Yael Gen.
Bonus round, parenting division: here's how I turned my son into a reader.
And here's my discovery that E. L. Konigsburg was my muse.
A little more praise
“Man Alive! is all pleasure, even as the Lerner family suffers acutely. Mary Kay Zuravleff's novel delivers the particular pleasure of the thing perfectly described. This is a book to share, reading sentences aloud to marvel at—how’d she come up with that! How does she know so much! How can she be so funny, and then so poignant: a one-two, punch? The Lerner family is a family to remember—and to raise a glass to every time you grill outdoors. Cheers to the amazing and fabulous Owen Lerner, and to his creator.”
—Jane Hamilton, author of A Map of the World and The Book of Ruth
"I really like these people and I want to go to a barbecue at their house. This is a novel of equal parts wit and heart, edge and deep warmth, hands open with hope for humanity alongside a firm foot still in reality. A terrific treat."
—Aimee Bender, author of The Color Master and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
"Man Alive! is a vibrant book, immersive and complex, buzzing with the rhythm of life the way we live it. Mary Kay Zuravleff is masterful as she dissects the collective consciousness of a family, with all the tangled bonds and arbitrary isolation."
—Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Nobodies Album and The Dogs of Babel
Previous books and their champions
The Bowl Is Already Broken challenges what we deem precious and valuable. In the first sentence, a rare Chinese bowl tumbles down the steps of the Museum of Asian Art in Washington, D.C. It is up to Promise Whittaker, the museum's reluctant acting director, to contend with the broken bowl along with her unexpected pregnancy, self-serving colleagues, and the fate of the museum.
"A winsome novel with a serious message—if loss is embedded in our everyday realities, then we must live as though the bowl is already broken."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"A tart, affectionate satire of the museum world's bickering and scheming."
—New York Times
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