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A Separation
Cover of A Separation
A Separation
A Novel
"Kitamura's prose gallops, combining Elena Ferrante-style intricacies with the tensions of a top-notch whodunit." —Elle

"Kitamura is a writer with a visionary, visual imagination." —The New Yorker

This is her story. About the end of her marriage. About what happened when Christopher went missing and she went to find him. These are her secrets, this is what happened...


A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it's time for them to separate. For the moment it's a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go look for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she's not even sure if she wants to find him. As her search comes to a shocking breaking point, she discovers she understands less than she thought she did about her relationship and the man she used to love.
A searing, suspenseful story of intimacy and infidelity, A Separation lays bare what divides us from the inner lives of others. With exquisitely cool precision, Katie Kitamura propels us into the experience of a woman on edge, with a fiercely mesmerizing story to tell.
"Kitamura's prose gallops, combining Elena Ferrante-style intricacies with the tensions of a top-notch whodunit." —Elle

"Kitamura is a writer with a visionary, visual imagination." —The New Yorker

This is her story. About the end of her marriage. About what happened when Christopher went missing and she went to find him. These are her secrets, this is what happened...


A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it's time for them to separate. For the moment it's a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go look for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she's not even sure if she wants to find him. As her search comes to a shocking breaking point, she discovers she understands less than she thought she did about her relationship and the man she used to love.
A searing, suspenseful story of intimacy and infidelity, A Separation lays bare what divides us from the inner lives of others. With exquisitely cool precision, Katie Kitamura propels us into the experience of a woman on edge, with a fiercely mesmerizing story to tell.
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  • From the book 1.

    It began with a telephone call from Isabella. She wanted to know where Christopher was, and I was put in the awkward position of having to tell her that I didn't know. To her this must have sounded incredible. I didn't tell her that Christopher and I had separated six months earlier, and that I hadn't spoken to her son in nearly a month.

    She found my inability to inform her of    -Christopher's whereabouts incomprehensible, and her response was withering but not entirely surprised, which somehow made matters worse. I felt both humiliated and uncomfortable, two sensations that have always characterized my relationship with Isabella and Mark. This despite Christopher often telling me I had precisely the same effect on them, that I should try not to be so reserved, it was too easily interpreted as a form of arrogance.

    Didn't I know, he asked, that some people found me a snob? I didn't. Our marriage was formed by the things Christopher knew and the things I did not. This was not simply a question of intellect, although in that respect Christopher again had the advantage, he was without doubt a clever man. It was a question of things withheld, information that he had, and that I did not. In short, it was a question of infidelities—betrayal always puts one partner in the position of knowing, and leaves the other in the dark.

    Although betrayal was not even, not necessarily, the primary reason for the failure of our marriage. It happened slowly, even once we had agreed to separate, there were practicalities, it was no small thing, dismantling the edifice of a marriage. The prospect was so daunting that I began wondering whether one or the other of us was having second thoughts, if there was hesitation buried deep within the bureaucracy, secreted in the piles of paper and online forms which we were so keen to avoid.

    And so it was entirely reasonable of Isabella to call me and ask what had become of Christopher. I've left three messages, she said, his mobile goes directly to voice mail, and the last time I rang it was a foreign ringtone—

    She pronounced the word foreign with a familiar blend of suspicion, mystification (she could not imagine any reason why her only son would wish to remove himself from her vicinity) and pique. The words returned to me then, phrases spoken over the course of the marriage: you're foreign, you've always been a little foreign, she's very nice but different to us, we don't feel as if we know you (and then, finally, what she would surely say if Christopher told her that it was over between us), it's for the best, darling, in the end she was never really one of us.

    —therefore, I would like to know, where exactly is my son?

    Immediately, my head began to throb. It had been a month since I had spoken to Christopher. Our last conversation had been on the telephone. Christopher had said that although we were clearly not going to be reconciled, he did not want to begin the process—he used that word, indicative of some continuous and ongoing thing, rather than a decisive and -singular act and of course he was right, divorce was more organic, somehow more contingent than it initially appeared—of telling people.

    Could we keep it between us? I had hesitated, it wasn't that I disagreed with the sentiment—the decision was still new at that point, and I imagined Christopher felt much as I did, that we had not yet figured out how to tell the story of our separation. But I disliked the air of complicity, which felt incongruous and without purpose. Regardless, I said yes. Christopher, hearing the hesitation in my voice, asked me to promise. Promise...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 14, 2016
    The unnamed narrator of Kitamura’s third novel has been separated from her husband, Christopher, for six months when she travels from London to southern Greece to find him, prompted into action by Christopher’s mother, who is unaware of the separation and worried because her son isn’t returning phone calls. The narrator describes Athens traffic and the Peloponnesian coast, but it is her internal landscape—her imaginings, suspicions, speculations, thoughts, and feelings—that dominates the narrative. Habitually unfaithful Christopher has left his wife in the dark regarding much of his private life. She means to ask for a divorce, and then wavers. When she arrives at the hotel where he is registered, she delays calling his room. When Christopher fails to appear by checkout time, she takes no part in clearing out his things. When a pretty hotel receptionist turns out to be one of Christopher’s lovers, the narrator buys her dinner. The narrator’s deepest feeling comes not from learning the reason for Christopher’s disappearance but from listening to a professional mourner’s lament. Research into this mourning ritual had been Christopher’s excuse for visiting Greece, although even his mother understood he also anticipated extra-marital indulgences. Kitamura suggests but never specifies the extent of these indulgences; likewise she leaves plot issues unresolved. Instead, she focuses on capturing a disarray of contradictory emotions, delineating the line between white lies and betrayal, legal and personal relationships, the impulse to hold on and the need to let go. Despite the mysterious premise, readers may find that the narrator’s frequent contemplation frustratingly stalls the novel.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from December 1, 2016
    Dread and lassitude twist into a spare and stunning portrait of a marital estrangement.At the end of this unsettling psychological novel, the narrator suggests that "perhaps wife and husband and marriage itself are only words that conceal much more unstable realities, more turbulent than can be contained in a handful of syllables, or any amount of writing." Kitamura's third work of fiction builds into a hypnotic meditation on infidelity and the unknowability of one's spouse. In precise and muted prose, the entire story unspools in the coolly observant mind of a young woman, a translator. She is estranged from Christopher Wallace, her "handsome and wealthy" husband of five years. He is a relentless adulterer; the narrator herself is now living with another man. The novel begins with a phone call from Isabella, a hostile and unpleasant mother-in-law, petulant that she can't reach her only son and ignorant of the separation. Christopher has decamped to rural Greece, and Isabella insists her daughter-in-law leave England to go after him. Thinking it time to ask for a divorce, she agrees. In the remote fishing village of Gerolimenas, there are grim portents: stray dogs, high unemployment, a landscape charred from a season of wildfires, and the hostility of a hotel receptionist who appears to have slept with Christopher. Each of 13 taut chapters turns the screw; at the beginning of the seventh there is a murder. Kitamura leaves it unsolved. Instead of delivering a whodunit, the author plucks a bouquet of unforeseen but psychologically piercing consequences. The narrator thinks, "One of the problems of happiness--and I'd been very happy, when Christopher and I were first engaged--is that it makes you both smug and unimaginative." As this harrowing story ends, her life is diminished and her imagination is cruelly awake. A minutely observed novel of infidelity unsettles its characters and readers.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    September 15, 2016
    Kitamura, whose Gone to the Forest and The Longshot were finalists for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award, turns in a mindbender about a woman whose husband vanishes in the Peloponnese shortly after they separate.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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