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A novel written as a sharp parable of American society, addressing love, purpose, discrimination, and poverty.
In Jeffrey Lewis’s novel, the Land of Cockaigne, once an old medieval peasants’ vision of a sensual paradise on earth, is reimagined as a plot on the coast of Maine. In efforts to assuage their grief over their son’s death and to make meaning of his life, Walter Rath and Catherine Gray build what they hope will be a version of paradise for a group of young men from the Bronx. As Walter and Catherine work to reinvent this land, formerly a summer resort, the surrounding town of Sneeds Harbor proves resistant. The residents’ well-meaning doubts lead to well-hidden threats, and the Raths’ marriage unravels as Walter loses faith in democracy. Meanwhile, the Bronx boys, who have only ever known the city, try to navigate this new land that is completely alien to them. Written as a parable of contemporary American society, Land of Cockaigne is by turns furious, funny, subversive, tragic, and horrifying. Faced with the question of what to do amid disastrous times, Walter Rath offers a clue: Love is an action, not a feeling. Once you go down this path of faith, there is much to be done.
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