The Stars Are Not Yet Bells: A Novel (Hardcover)
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NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORKER AND NPR
Through the scrim of fading memory, an elderly woman confronts a lifetime of secrets and betrayal, under the mysterious skies of her island home
Off the coast of Georgia, near Savannah, generations have been tempted by strange blue lights in the sky near an island called Lyra. At the height of WWII, impressionable young Elle Ranier leaves New York City to forge a new life together on the island with her new husband, Simon. There they will live for decades, raising a family while waging a quixotic campaign to find the source of the mysterious blue offshore light—and the elusive minerals rumored to lurk beneath the surface.
Fifty years later, Elle looks back at her life on the mysterious island—and at a secret she herself has guarded for decades. As her memory recedes into the mists of Alzheimer’s disease, her life seems a tangle of questions: How did her husband’s business, now shuttered, survive so long without ever finding the legendary Lyra stones? How did her own life crumble under treatment for depression? And what became of Gabriel—the handsome, raffish other man who came to the island with them and risked everything to follow the lights?
Darkly romantic and deeply haunting, The Stars Are Not Yet Bells pulls us into a story of the tantalizing, faithless relationship between ourselves and the lives and souls we leave behind.
About the Author
Hannah Lillith Assadi teaches fiction at the Columbia University School of the Arts. Her first novel, Sonora, received the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. In 2018, she was named a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.
Praise for The Stars Are Not Yet Bells:
“An exhilarating reading experience.” —NPR, Best Books of 2022
“This poignant novel is a testament to love and loss [and] the sacrifices made for love.” —The Washington Post
“A prophetic fever dream sprung from a singular imagination. Hannah Lillith Assadi is an incomparable stylist and a fearless storyteller. This novel is a lush, addicting, daring wonder.”
—Claire Vaye Watkins, author of I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
“The beauty of Assadi’s prose and the splendid depiction of a love that transcends death make for a singular rendition of an oft-told story. This will leave readers undone.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A lyrical, beautiful writer. . . the musicality of her language carries the emotion of it in such a way that’s unique to her.” —Shelly Oria, Los Angeles Review of Books Podcast
“A poetically stunning and heartfelt story of love, loss and loneliness. . . . Assadi wonderfully keeps both Elle and the reader on the same pace toward discovery, remembrance and closure. . . . It was the beauty of Assadi’s writing that never failed to astonish me, encapsulated in elegant prose with lyrical, resonant language, chock-full of rich descriptions with haunting imagery and sensory detail.” —Michigan Daily
“The poetic beauty of the writing and a certain swirling Gothic passion and drama bowl the reader along. . . . An unusual, intense, experimental novel.” —Daily Mail (UK)
“A heartbreaking and profoundly visionary book. Hannah Assadi movingly renders the kaleidoscopic nature of memory—revealing not only one woman’s disordered heart and mind, but the way our consciousness recombines shards of memory to create a glittering, prismatic view of a life. I wanted to stay in Assadi’s shimmering sentences for as long as I could.” —Emily Fridlund, author of History of Wolves
“A haunting elegy for loss, desire, and memory.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A luminous and deeply moving portrait of the end of life and the persistence of desire. While Hannah Lillith Assadi’s characters are forced to deny the truth of themselves and who they love, in her assured hands the extraordinary beauty of life and love and the natural world is never lost.”
—JoAnne Tompkins, author of What Comes After
“A rich, mesmerizing novel, in which waves of overlapping memory erode the landscape of a woman's life until only feeling remains—both in the story and in the reader.” —Simon Van Booy, author of The Illusion of Separateness