Winner, 2013 Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers
After losing her husband and daughter in an auto accident, 42-year-old Emma flies to Paris, discovers she has a twin brother whose existence she had not known about, and learns that her birth parents weren't the Americans who raised her, but a White Russian film star of the 1920s and a French Stalinist. A story about identity and the shaping function of art, My Life as a Silent Movie presents a vividly rendered world and poses provocative questions on the relationship of art to life.
"In this sharply drawn chronicle of grief, a woman reassembles her identity through her father’s art and her brother’s tenuous offer of a new life. . . . Kercheval delves deeply into the rawest of emotions and the most wrenching of choices, richly detailing each twist and turn with grace." —Kirkus Reviews
"Fans of literary fiction will devour this tale of heartbreak, family, and politics. This is a story not to be missed." —Library Journal
"Kercheval . . . blends fiction with fact in this often tense page turner. The book’s energy is by turns bleak and frenetic, and Kercheval deftly draws the reader in to Emma’s search for identity. . . . she delivers a compelling rumination on family and the losses that we often consider unimaginable." —Wisconsin State Journal
"Ms. Kercheval writes with clear economy, establishing a complicated plot with apparent effortlessness, and creating a less than strictly realistic narrative. . . . with sly wit and a wink at conventions that go beyond contemporary realism." —Erin McGraw, author of Better Food for a Better World: A Novel
"Provocative and playful, My Life as a Silent Movie is a lean and, yes, cinematic novel about a grief stricken woman who escapes to Paris and soon discovers a series of secrets that both rattle and embolden her. A considerable achievement, this novel grapples with the unpredictable march of history and the way it affects the most intimate parts of our private lives." —Dean Bakopoulos, author of My American Unhappiness
"Jesse Lee Kercheval's precise and sharp new novel My Life as a Silent Movie shows us what happens in the wake of an unimaginable tragedy. Kercheval's prose is as clear as a silent film star's face, and the novel's twists and turns are wonderfully unexpected. Whether in Paris or in Indiana, readers will swoon." —Emma Straub, author of Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures
"Jesse Lee Kercheval brings a poet's precision to this suspenseful story of one woman's journey to find what is left of her family. My Life As A Silent Movie is a brilliant, heartbreaking page-turner." —Jennifer Vanderbes , author of Easter Island and Strangers at the Feast
"Wildly entertaining, fascinating, and deeply moving, My Life as a Silent Movie will make you fall in love all over again with Paris, the history of silent cinema, and the enduring, mysterious drama of being alive. I did not want it to end." —Holiday Reinhorn, author of Big Cats: Stories
"A beautiful, evocative novel. . . Kercheval has that rare ability to bring a number of characters alive simultaneously on the page, to make us care about each one for their quirkiness, their hard luck stories and their equally hard-won wisdom. Readers will embrace this story as it melds the magic of old movies with the redemptive power of family. An original, poignant, and truly irresistible story for our time." —Jonis Agee, author of The River Wife: A Novel
"In this finely-wrought odyssey of reconstructing a life while tracing birth parents, Kercheval's prose reads like woof scuttling feverishly to fill in the warp." —Nuvo
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