Cover image for The regrets : a novel
Title:
The regrets : a novel
ISBN:
9780316516167
Edition:
First edition.
Physical Description:
296 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
Reality and dream collide in Amy Bonnaffons's dazzling, darkly playful debut novel about a love affair between the living and the dead. For weeks, Rachel has been noticing the same golden-haired young man sitting at her Brooklyn bus stop, staring off with a melancholy air. When, one day, she finally musters the courage to introduce herself, the chemistry between them is undeniable: Thomas is wise, witty, handsome, mysterious, clearly a kindred spirit. There's just one tiny problem: He's dead. Stuck in a surreal limbo governed by bureaucracy, Thomas is unable to "cross over" to the afterlife until he completes a 90-day stint on earth, during which time he is forbidden to get involved with a member of the living -- lest he incur "regrets." When Thomas and Rachel break this rule, they unleash a cascade of bizarre, troubling consequences. Set in the hallucinatory borderland between life and death, The Regrets is a gloriously strange and breathtakingly sexy exploration of love, the cataclysmic power of fantasies, and the painful, exhilarating work of waking up to reality, told with uncommon grace and humor by a visionary artist at the height of her imaginative power.
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Summary

Summary

Reality and dream collide in Amy Bonnaffons's "dazzling," wildly inventive "miracle of a love story" about an affair between the living and the dead ( NPR )
For weeks, Rachel has been noticing the same golden-haired young man sitting at her Brooklyn bus stop, staring off with a melancholy air. When, one day, she finally musters the courage to introduce herself, the chemistry between them is undeniable: Thomas is wise, witty, handsome, mysterious, clearly a kindred spirit. There's just one tiny problem: He's dead.
Stuck in a surreal limbo governed by bureaucracy, Thomas is unable to "cross over" to the afterlife until he completes a 90-day stint on earth, during which time he is forbidden to get involved with a member of the living -- lest he incur "regrets." When Thomas and Rachel break this rule, they unleash a cascade of bizarre, troubling consequences.
Set in the hallucinatory borderland between life and death, The Regrets is a gloriously strange and breathtakingly sexy exploration of love, the cataclysmic power of fantasies, and the painful, exhilarating work of waking up to reality, told with uncommon grace and humor by a visionary artist at the height of her imaginative power.


Author Notes

Amy Bonnaffons's work has appeared in the New York Times , the Wall Street Journal , and the Kenyon Review , among other places, and has been read on This American Life . She is a founding editor of 7x7.la , an online journal that publishes collaborations between writers and visual artists. She holds an MFA from NYU and currently lives in Athens, GA, where she is pursuing a PhD at the University of Georgia.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bonnaffons's wonderful debut novel (after the collection The Wrong Heaven) is a tale of ghostly love and passion. Thomas Barrett has died, but there has been an "institutional error," and he's been returned to Earth for 90 days to live an odd pseudo-life until they--whoever "they" are--can receive him. He's given guidelines that explain how he can reduce the possibility of regrets while he awaits death, such as avoiding connections with his previous life and resisting sexual contact. Thomas respects the advice until he meets Rachel Starr, a young librarian he first spots in a New York coffee shop. Rachel is drawn to Thomas, too, and they become intensely involved during Thomas's final weeks. However, Thomas begins to have episodes of fading, first with large holes temporarily appearing in his body, and then an overall increasing insubstantiality. As Thomas's days on Earth wind down, the two bittersweetly make the most of their time together. The tension of an ephemeral romance and impending loss will keep readers turning the pages, and the luminous prose is vibrant with penetrating observations, whether about moments that are a "crucial node in the universe's vast plan" or about dying--with or without regrets. This sexy, witty novel about life, death, and love's power will enchant readers. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (Feb.)


Kirkus Review

A surreal love story about the courtship between a living woman and a dead man.Rachel is a dark-haired, red-lipped reference librarian living in Brooklyn for whom romance, so far, has been a general disappointment. "I have fallen in love with my own daydreams," she explains, "and then they have gone out into the world and returned to me embodied as men." But the men disappoint, in the end. "It was not that the men themselves were realer than the daydream," she says, but rather that the men were too weak to "withstand the daydream's reality." And then, at the bus stop, she sees Thomas and becomes fascinated by this electric, sad-seeming man. He notices her, too, drawn to her perpetual air of alert discomfort, "like a squirrel, or some other kind of nervous prey," and one Saturday, she follows him onto his bus instead of her own and their courtship begins. ("Men like to believe that they initiate things, but often they only initiate when the fruit is very low-hanging," she observes, in one of the book's many delightfully blunt and correct observations.) The problem, of course, is that Thomas is dead. But because of an "institutional error"the institution being deathhe is "insufficiently dead" and so must be temporarily "re-manifested," returned to a body that "exactly resembles" his own until "the Office" is able to "complete the procedures necessary to process" his arrival. They have issued a set of instructions designed to help him navigate this new phase of his not-quite-existence, all designed to prevent him from incurring regrets. "Sexual contact" is not advised in this state; it is "the most efficient way to incur regrets." And also, his body is beginning to dissolve. It is a plot that could bethat should beunbearably twee, oppressively quirky, in love with its own melancholy. Instead, Bonnaffons' (The Wrong Heaven, 2018) first full-length novel is a rare pleasure: a philosophical rom-com too weird, too bodily, too precise, too fun to get bogged down in trembling sentiment.Deep and deeply funny. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

This tight and lyrical debut novel follows the flawed members of a sticky love triangle. Thomas is dead, more specifically a half-dead apparition. Rachel has never felt fulfilled by a lover, and Mark is one of her dorky ex-boyfriends. When Rachel meets Thomas, she is enchanted by his ethereal and fleeting nature. She falls fast, and is rightfully terrified when she finds literal holes in Thomas' body holes that grow daily until Thomas is a totally unbodied spirit. Thomas' invisibility doesn't stop the runaway train of their hot and heavy affair he makes love to her all day long, unseen by the world around. Unfortunately, this ghost-honeymoon phase doesn't last. Rachel is soon suffocated by the constant contact, which is, conveniently, exactly when dull Mark steps back into the picture to help halt her haunting. Bonnaffons (The Wrong Heaven, 2018) has a deft hand for dialogue and character development, which grounds the fantastical nature of her novel in the sharp truths of real-life love and desire. Perfect for fans of Melissa Broder's The Pisces.--Courtney Eathorne Copyright 2019 Booklist


Library Journal Review

DEBUT On page one of Bonnaffons's wildly imaginative debut novel (following an acclaimed story collection, The Wrong Heaven), the demise of 26-year-old Thomas Barrett goes seriously awry when his Angel of Death, sent to fetch him, realizes she's made a terrible mistake. Thomas finds himself insufficiently dead and facing the Officer of the afterlife, who explains that Thomas must return to Earth for three months in his former body while corrections are made. Thomas is given a list of rules he is encouraged to follow in order to avoid regrets, with sexual contact especially discouraged. So of course Thomas finds himself irresistibly attracted to Rachel, a beautiful, quirky librarian he meets at a bus stop. They embark on a passionate, obsessive relationship that presents extraordinary challenges when Thomas slips into invisibility, body part by body part. Enter Mark, Rachel's old college boyfriend, who is literally caught between Rachel and her ghost lover. VERDICT Bonnaffons raises many provocative questions about human relationships in the 21st century, particularly the urgent search for intimacy that ironically is so often sabotaged by endless casual encounters. Spicy hot, impish, and not without its moments of poignancy and, yes, regrets. [See Prepub Alert, 8/5/19.]--Beth Andersen, formerly with Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI