SLSA members interested in species demise and land use, the dawn of the Anthropocene, 20th century South American history, or science—ornithology and microbial ecology—in realist literary fiction may want to check out Susan M. Gaines’s new novel, Accidentals.
When Gabriel’s immigrant mother returns to her native Uruguay after thirty years in California, he takes a break from his uninspiring desk job to accompany her. A birdwatcher since childhood, Gabe is as intrigued by the unfamiliar species in the wetlands on his squabbling family’s ranch, as he is by crumbling, politics-obsessed Montevideo. But when he falls in love with a local biologist, he is transformed from observer to main character in his mother’s transnational saga. As Gabe ventures more deeply into the marshes, the election ramps up, and his mother’s family feuds escalate, he is forced to contend with the environmental cataclysm of his turn-of-millennium present—even as he confronts the Cold War era ideologies and political violence that have shaped his family’s past.
‘Gorgeous, smart, and surprising, Gaines’ family saga takes us into the large world of nations and politics, but also the microscopic world of mud and microbes. Tender and powerful. Also with birds!’ – Karen Joy Fowler. author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, The Jane Austen Book Club, and Wit’s End
‘In clean, beautiful prose and with an environmental sensibility evocative of Stegner, Accidentals sings with the vibrancy of the living world. It is a novel both erudite and emotionally compelling, suffused with science and natural history, and one which places Gaines firmly in the company of Richard Powers, Barbara Kingsolver, and Anthony Doerr.’ – Christian Kiefer, author of Phantoms, The Animals, and The Infinite Tides
‘Accidentals is an intimate family story with an astonishingly epic scope. Alive with history, politics, science, romance, and birds, it is as entertaining as it is intelligent, as beautiful as it is wise. Gabe’s evolution from a passive observer to the passionate creator of his own destiny is a life-changing experience not only for him, but for readers as well.’ – Jean Hegland, author of Into the Forest, Still Time, and Windfalls
‘The personal is political: if anybody has ever wondered what this insight means then I recommend Accidentals as an enchanting path toward understanding…. masterfully encompasses so many levels, from the biology of microbes to the chaos of politics and the mysteries of the human heart…. A novel that is, above all, about how seeing is an act of love.’ – Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of Plato at the Googleplex and 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction
‘…the reader will walk away with an understanding of not only Uruguay’s repressive regimes, but also biomass, bird preservation, and more.” Kirkus Reviews
‘As a conservation biologist, as well as an Uruguayan immigrant and mother of two first-generation Americans, I was as moved by the Quiroga family’s layers of history, secrets, and struggles around land, politics and love, as I was intrigued by the beautiful depictions of birds and the musings on evolution and extinction. This is a novel I would like to share with my daughters someday!’ – Ana Luz Porzecanski, Director of the Center for Biodiversity & Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History
You can learn more about Susan’s work here.
Susan M. Gaines
Co-Director, Fiction Meets Science | Writer in Residence
Languages and Literatures (FB10), University of Bremen, 28359 Bremen GERMANY
http://susanmgaines.com | www.fictionmeetsscience.org