Cover image for Extinctions / Josephine Wilson.
Title:
Extinctions / Josephine Wilson.
ISBN:
9781947793088
Edition:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
Portland, Oregon : Tin House Books, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
356 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Abstract:
Professor Frederick Lothian, retired engineer, has quarantined himself in a place he hates: a retirement village. His headstrong wife Martha, adored by all, is dead. His adopted daughter Caroline has cut ties, and his son Callum is lost to him in his own way. And though Frederick knows, logically, that a structural engineer can devise a bridge for any situation, somehow his own troubled family--fractured by years of secrets and lies--is always just out of his reach. When a series of unfortunate incidents brings him and his spirited next-door neighbor Jan together, Frederick gets a chance to build something new in the life he has left. At the age of 69, he has to confront his most complex emotional relationships and the haunting questions he's avoided all his life. Unbeknownst to him, Caroline--on her own journey of cultural reckoning--is doing the same. As father and daughter fight in their own ways to save what's lost, they might finally find a way toward each other. A masterful portrait of a man caught by history, and a sweeping meditation on the meaning of family, love, survival, and identity, Extinctions asks an urgent question: can we find the courage to change?
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Summary

Summary

Professor Frederick Lothian, retired engineer, has quarantined himself in a place he hates: a retirement village. His headstrong wife Martha, adored by all, is dead. His adopted daughter Caroline has cut ties, and his son Callum is lost to him in his own way. And though Frederick knows, logically, that a structural engineer can devise a bridge for any situation, somehow his own troubled family--fractured by years of secrets and lies--is always just out of his reach.When a series of unfortunate incidents brings him and his spirited next-door neighbor Jan together, Frederick gets a chance to build something new in the life he has left. At the age of 69, he has to confront his most complex emotional relationships and the haunting questions he's avoided all his life. Unbeknownst to him, Caroline--on her own journey of cultural reckoning--is doing the same. As father and daughter fight in their own ways to save what's lost, they might finally find a way toward each other.A masterful portrait of a man caught by history, and a sweeping meditation on the meaning of family, love, survival, and identity, Extinctions asks an urgent question: can we find the courage to change?


Author Notes

Josephine Wilson is a Perth-based writer. Her writing career began in the area of performance. Her early works included The Geography of Haunted Places, with Erin Hefferon, and Customs. Her first novel was Cusp, (UWA Publishing, 2005). Josephine has lectured and taught in the tertiary sector. She is the busy parent of two children and works as a sessional staff member at Curtin University, where she teaches in the Humanities Honours Program, in Creative Writing and in Art and Design history. She completed her Masters of Philosophy at Queensland University and her PhD at UWA. Extinctions (UWA Publishing, 2016) was the winner of the inaugural Dorothy Hewett Prize and won the 2017 Miles Franklin Award.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Wilson's American debut artfully portrays the nuances of death and extinction through its characters' reluctant self-examinations. Sixty-nine-year-old Frederick Lothian resents living in a retirement village near Melbourne, but his wife has died, and although his daughter, Caroline, lives nearby, she often travels to gather material for an exhibit of extinct animals. Frederick and Caroline are both submerged in regrets about their family's disconnections: Frederick ruing his past preoccupation with work; Caroline wondering about how she came to be adopted and the other family she has out there. Caroline is on a quest to shed light on the atrocities of human destruction on the animal kingdom (such as the American bison), while Frederick's own history as an engineer, professor, husband, and father provides grist for a disturbing journey of self-reflection, even as he tries to resist: "Why was he digging up what was done when he'd just have to go bury it again?" Frederick's introspection is shaken by Jan, another resident of St. Sylvan Village, who is as challenging as she is helpful. Unearthing the human need to feel connection to others, this contemplative novel skillfully delves into Frederick and Caroline's psyches, resulting in a potent depiction of loneliness and contact. Agent: Catherine Drayton, InkWell Management. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Winner of Australia's Miles Franklin Literary Award, this work focuses on Frederick Lothian, a retired engineering professor struggling to adjust to life alone in a senior housing development. When his neighbor, Jan, pushes her way into his life, he is forced to confront his past traumas and his lifelong tendency to disengage from challenging emotional situations. Recognizing too late how his behavior impacted his wife, he makes steps toward repairing his relationship with his adopted daughter and his -severely brain-damaged son while also helping Jan with a difficult family situation. Fred's thought process often translates complex issues into metaphors involving architecture and design, and the book helpfully includes illustrations of many of the structures and objects referenced. Given the long-term self-centered and emotionally abusive behavior demonstrated by Fred, his transformation within the course of just over a week seems abrupt and leaves readers with some doubt as to its extended viability. A subplot involving Fred's daughter Caroline's search for her birth mother isn't given enough time to make much of an impact. VERDICT What works best here is the frank depiction of coping with loss and regret, and the lasting effects of tragedy.-Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.