Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Heavens

by Sandra Newman

A work of rare literary brilliance and emotional power, The Heavens is a mesmerizing novel of love and dreams that moves between a reimagined New York City and Elizabethan England and asks how our world comes to be

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 272
  • Publication Date February 12, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2902-4
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Publication Date February 12, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4683-0
  • US List Price $26.00

About the Book

New York, late summer, 2000. A party in a spacious Manhattan apartment, hosted by a wealthy young activist. Dozens of idealistic twenty-somethings have impassioned conversations over takeout dumplings and champagne. The evening shines with the heady optimism of a progressive new millennium. A young man, Ben, meets a young woman, Kate—and they begin to fall in love.

From their first meeting, Ben knows Kate is unworldly and fanciful, so at first he isn’t that concerned when she tells him about the recurring dream she’s had since childhood. In the dream, she’s transported to the past, where she lives a second life as Emilia, the mistress of a nobleman in Elizabethan England.

But for Kate, the dream becomes increasingly real and compelling until it threatens to overwhelm her life. And soon she’s waking from it to find the world changed—pictures on her wall she doesn’t recognize, new buildings in the neighborhood that have sprung up overnight. As she tries to make sense of what’s happening, Ben worries the woman he’s fallen in love with is losing her grip on reality.

Transporting the reader between a richly detailed past and a frighteningly possible future, The Heavens is a powerful reminder of the consequences of our actions, a poignant testament to how the people we love are destined to change, and a masterful exploration of the power of dreams.

Praise for The Heavens

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2019 by the Guardian, the Huffington Post, the Millions, and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune

“Newman is known for her bold imagination, and this kaleidoscopic novel is no exception. Like an apocalyptically tinged version of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Kate and Ben’s love story encompasses difficult questions: What is mental illness? Can art, or love, have power? Is humanity doomed? And if it is, then how do we create a life with meaning? . . . Newman’s sentences, like the embroidery Kate practices, pull the story along with their intricate beauty. A complex, unmissable work from a writer who deserves wide acclaim.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Newman neatly manages the uneasy feat of pulling off a historical novel featuring both William Shakespeare and Alexander the Great, foreshadowing the action with philosophical musings on the butterfly effect and the Great Man theory of history. A thought-provoking, head-spinning fever dream of a novel; highly recommended.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“In this tender love story, Newman ponders the impact of individual action on the world as she creates alternative universes, realities, even endings . . . Provocative.”—Booklist

“I was bewitched by the ambition and charge of Sandra Newman’s time-slip narrative, which is at once troubling and beautiful, emotionally resonant and fantastically strange.”—Olivia Laing, author of Crudo

“What a wonderful, strange, terrifying, brilliant novel this is.”—Kamila Shamsie, author of Home Fire

“Reading Sandra Newman’s The Heavens is like falling up a brilliant flight of stairs. Inventive and moving and surprising on every level, it’s a novel that doesn’t just play with time and history and certainty: it turns those things inside out. I’ve been haunted by its characters and ideas ever since I reluctantly finished it.”—Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck & Other Stories and Bowlaway

“An elegant and untamed novel that illuminates the soft edges between love, madness, idealism, and the narrative power of the unconscious mind.”—Catherine Lacey, author of The Answers and Certain American States

“Unique and brilliant, I tore through The Heavens and I loved it. It is a house made of trapdoors, where dreams are real and reality a dream. Through this strange labyrinth of 21st century New York and Renaissance England, it is love which deftly, movingly, finds the way.”—Adam Foulds, author of The Quickening Maze

The Heavens, shifting restlessly between worlds, gently encouraging Elizabethan England into eccentric New York, rolling everything into a dreamy, desperate new reality, is everything we expect from Sandra Newman. It’s strange but focused, beautifully written and put together, dangerously benign, comic and clever, bright as a knife.”—M. John Harrison, author of Light and You Should Come with Me Now

“This is a brilliant book. It plays with you the way you, an ardent reader, like to be played with. The back and forth of time and settings, the increasing hold of the Elizabethan reality on ‘this’ reality, makes for a mesmerizing read.”—Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company

The Heavens is, frankly, perfect. It opens with an immediately irresistible love story; the writing is clever and surprising but has the simple ring of truth; the story builds with a dawning sense of both hope and dread; and then it releases the reader into a changed reality. I’m recommending it to everyone.”—Christie Olson Day, Gallery Bookshop

The Heavens will sneak up and surprise you. Animating dreams in fiction seems so difficult, and risky. They usually feel clumsily inserted into a book to explain a character’s inner life. Sandra Newman’s smarter than that, and instead writes an enchanting split narrative, toggling between reality and a very compelling dream world. The sense of place and time, in both settings, is scarily vivid, and fans of The Country of Ice Cream Star will be happy to learn she’s still an expert at inventing the kind of language (here a sort of Elizabethan dream-speech) needed to tell her story.”—John Francisconi, Bank Square Books

Praise for The Country of Ice Cream Star:

Longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Folio Prize
Washington Post Notable Fiction Books of the Year
NPR Best Books of the Year

“The latest novel to imagine the Earth undone by illness is Sandra Newman’s epic, The Country of Ice Cream Star. And it is an epic, with all that connotes: It’s a big, sweeping saga set in Western Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., with ferocious battles, a desperate romance and an against-all-odds quest for a cure . . . what makes the novel so fascinating—and, yes, so challenging—is the language Newman has created for Ice Cream and the way we see this disease-ravaged world through her eyes . . . I worried about Ice Cream, and I rooted for Ice Cream. And when I was done with her story, I was very glad that I had gotten my flu shot.”—Washington Post

The Country of Ice Cream Star is in many ways a classic story, craftily refold and made contemporary . . . [It] builds towards a powerful, horrifying, and beautifully-written climax, one that’s epic in scope but also feels intensely personal.”—New York Times Book Review

“This remains one of the most beautiful books I have read this year—the one I champion everywhere. It’s a challenging book . . . and is written completely in a debased (but inarguably beautified) version of English, developed among isolated knots of survivors. Newman’s voice is powerful, and her protagonist, Ice Cream Star, would make the perfect YA heroine if not for the fact that she is 10 times the heroine in any of the tales whose bones this one steals.”—NPR Books, Best Books of 2015

“The central reason I believe this text is so striking is its use of language . . . The Country of Ice Cream Star should join A Clockwork Orange and Riddley Walker on the relatively short list of future fictions that interrogate the value of the vernacular in creating a believable yet challenging image of our possible future . . . what is truly inspiring is the interior meditations of the protagonist, Ice Cream. Set against the other contemporary female protagonists in postapocalyptic literature, Ice Cream is a welcome change. She is strong when she needs to be, weak when no one is looking, quick on her feet, and in love with two very different men. She seems a lot like Katniss Everdeen at first, but she is much more honest with her emotions and her descriptions of these emotion . . . an intimate, provocative, and beautiful story about the end of our world.”—Los Angeles Review of Books

“Dystopian science fiction is everywhere. So what sets apart this haunting and heartbreaking novel, about a young girl who survives a plague that wipes out most of the population? Both the author and her heroine are total badasses; the prose and the young girl are unrelenting in their purpose . . . Reminiscent of Hunger Games and José Saramago’s Blindness and McCarthy’s The Road, this is an epic about love and hope that will inspire—and probably be screening at a movie theater near you in the next few years.”—Vanity Fair

“The future evoked in The Country of Ice Cream Star, the resonant epic by Sandra Newman, is one you would not wish on your worst enemy . . . the mythology and propaganda of warring factions; a tomboy protagonist with romantic dilemmas; ruined cityscapes; graphic violence . . . What sets [it] apart from its rivals is the extraordinary, blistering insistence of its language . . . As the momentum builds, scene by assured scene, a raw, addictive lyricism develops . . . Time and again I found myself surprised into revisiting a sentence or exchange of dialogue—first to grasp it thoroughly, and then to delight in it again. While the glittering linguistic shackles slow the reading process, the narrative still manages to unfold at rampaging speed . . . By the last page I was emotionally battered but euphoric: the book had held me so effectively hostage that I felt I had Stockholm syndrome . . . potent, stimulating and cathartic.”—Guardian

“What an astonishing achievement . . . I can’t remember when I last read something so original or sophisticated or emotionally engaging or so breathtakingly ambitious.”—Kate Atkinson, author of Life After Life

“Wonderfully inventive, The Country of Ice Cream Star pulls you into a world of betrayal, loyalty, desire and war. Ice Cream Star is a glorious, flawed heroine, and Newman’s writing about sexuality—its threat, and its power—is astonishing.”—Kamila Shamsie, author of Home Fire


Ben met Kate at a rich girl’s party. He didn’t know the rich girl personally; it was one of those parties where no one knew the hostess. He’d come with the rich girl’s cousin’s co-worker, whom he instantly lost in the crowd. It had started out as a dinner party, but the invitations proliferated, spreading epidemically through friends of friends until it turned into a hundred people. So the rich girl opened up both floors, made punch instead of risotto, and ordered a thousand dumplings from a Chinese restaurant. It was August and you had to let things happen the way they wanted to happen. Everyone was in their twenties then, anyway, so that was how they thought.

It turned out to be a mostly francophone party, conversational and quiet; a party with the windows open to the night, a party where people sat talking on the floor. Most of the illumination was from solar-powered tea lights, which the rich girl had hung on the fire escapes all day to charge, then pasted along the walls. That light reflected softly from the heavy glass tumblers into which wine was poured. There wasn’t even music playing. The rich girl said it gave her bad dreams. New York City, so everyone was interning at a Condé Nast publication or a television program or the UN. Everyone a little in love with each other; the year 2000 in the affluent West.

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