An enthralling and fast-moving epic of two families—one from New England, the other from the Middle East—Correspondents is a wry, haunting portrait of the best and worst sides of America.
The world is Rita Khoury’s oyster. The bright and driven daughter of a Boston-area Irish-Arab family that has risen over the generations from poor immigrants to part of the coastal elite, Rita grows up in a 1980s cultural mishmash. Corned beef and cabbage sit on the dinner table alongside stuffed grape leaves and tabooleh, all cooked by Rita’s mother, an Irish nurse who met her Lebanese surgeon husband while working at a hospital together. The unconventional yet close-knit family bonds over summers at the beach, wedding line-dances, and a shared obsession with the Red Sox.
Rita charts herself an ambitious path through Harvard to one of the best newspapers in the country. She is posted in cosmopolitan Beirut and dates a handsome Palestinian would-be activist. But when she is assigned to cover the America-led invasion of Baghdad in 2003, she finds herself unprepared for the war zone. Her lifeline is her interpreter and fixer Nabil al-Jumaili, an equally restless young man whose dreams have been restricted by life in a deteriorating dictatorship, not to mention his own seemingly impossible desires. As the war tears Iraq apart, personal betrayal and the horrors of conflict force Rita and Nabil out of the country and into twisting, uncertain fates. What lies in wait will upend their lives forever, shattering their own notions of what they’re entitled to in a grossly unjust world.
Epic in scope, by turns satirical and heartbreaking, and speaking sharply to America’s current moment, Correspondents is a whirlwind story about displacement from one’s own roots, the violence America promotes both abroad and at home, and the resilience that allows families to remake themselves and endure even the most shocking upheavals.
Praise for Correspondents:
“Love and war connect characters in the U.S. and Middle East in this family saga from Murphy . . . [A] finely tuned, well-researched novel . . . Murphy traces echoes across cultures, how each character is more of a mixture of heritages than simplified media coverage shows . . . The novel is infused with the complexities of Arabic language and culture; well-turned depictions of life in Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut; and scenes capturing the anxiety and drudgery of war reporting . . . For all its wealth of detail, the novel is propulsive and engrossing and rooted in the simplest of storytelling points: Empathy can erase prejudice . . . Fresh, affecting . . . A surprisingly moving war novel alert to global violence and politics but thriving on the character level.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Correspondents is the novel I’ve been hoping would emerge for a long time. Some might classify it as an American epic, or an epic of the 9/11-Wars, or even a Middle Eastern epic; however, like all great art it asserts our shared humanity across categorizations. So, ultimately, the story of Rita and Nabil transcends categorization itself to become a human epic, one you won’t soon forget.”—Elliot Ackerman, author of Waiting for Eden
“Correspondents is an ambitious and confident novel that succeeds brilliantly in being both epic and intimate. Tim Murphy strides across generations, continents, and war zones to tell an unforgettable story about family, immigration, and what has become of the American Dream. Murphy’s imagination, insight, and empathy are extraordinary, and in Correspondents as in his previous novel Christodora he has produced an important political and historical document as well as an immensely entertaining read.”—Stephen McCauley, author of My Ex-Life
Praise for Christodora:
Longlisted for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
Named a Best Book of the Year by the Guardian
An Indie Next Selection
An Amazon Editors’ Top 100 Best Books of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Big Indie Book of Fall 2016
“A powerful novel about the AIDS crisis and its legacy . . . Hugely ambitious . . . [A] rich, complicated story . . . No book has made me feel so intensely not just the ravages of AIDS but also the devastating cost of activism . . . Christodora recounts a crucial chapter in the history of queer life, which is to say in the history of American life. It’s also, for all the despair it documents, a book about hope.”—Garth Greenwell, Washington Post
“[A] thrillingly accomplished novel . . . [The] varied minds and voices are realized so convincingly that Christodora sometimes seems the product of spirit possession. And it is joyous despite its subject matter . . . Murphy’s skills are most nakedly on display as he describes the addictions in which Mateo and others find solace, and their electrical-shocking, soul-warping, mind-annihilating trips . . . Desperately intense, it is the kind of scene that requires putting a book down for a moment to take a breather.”—New York Times Book Review
“A rich and complicated New York saga . . . An exciting read . . . Christodora has the scope of other New York epics, such as Bonfire of the Vanities, The Goldfinch and City on Fire . . . Capacious yet streamlined, it is a very fine book.”—Newsday
“An ambitious, time-traveling novel textured with the detail and depth of a writer who spent years reporting from the front.”—New York
“In the East Village, the Christodora has long symbolized gentrification, luring well-heeled professionals (and celebrities like Iggy Pop, Julia Stiles and Vincent D’Onofrio) to a once-gritty neighborhood that was a hotbed of boundary-pushing art and transgressive lifestyles. The building’s totemic power is a driving force in Christodora . . . A sprawling social novel in the Tom Wolfe tradition.”—New York Times
“[I] fell hard for Tim Murphy’s Christodora . . . A sprawling account of New York lives under the long shadow of AIDS, it deals beautifully with the drugs that save us and the drugs that don’t.”—Guardian (Best Books of 2016)
“[An] ambitious novel . . . Powerful and compelling. It feels deeply relevant even when it covers events set several decades in the past . . . This is a novel that abounds with ambition, but it largely succeeds in grappling with a host of grand themes.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Epic in scope, [Christodora] cannily grapples with many of the seminal touchstones of contemporary New York City life . . . Murphy is a gifted writer . . . For those invested in HIV/AIDS, and the ongoing response, Christodora is a must read. It is the work of fiction many within the movement have been waiting for . . . What emerges is imagination and experience refracting onto the page. It is a beautiful—and often painful—sight to behold.”—Lambda Literary
“[A] perceptive debut novel . . . Murphy vividly recaptures 1980s and ’90s New York, dampening any pop-culture nostalgia with reminders of the crude pharmacology and callous bureaucracy imposed upon those struggling with AIDS . . . His multigenerational tale is a clever inversion of the usual addiction-begets-AIDs narrative . . . It never wavers in its warmth toward its characters, or its insistence upon the possibility of healing.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Tim Murphy’s book is a masterful and panoramic story of New York City and the East Village from the 1980s to the present.”—Ira Sachs
“Christodora tells a compelling story of family, friendship, love, and loss that spans decades, but manages to fully immerse you in an important and difficult time in downtown Manhattan . . . [An] outstanding book.”—Cary Fukunaga
“An impassioned, big-hearted, and ultimately hopeful chronicle of a changing New York that authoritatively evokes the despair and panic in the city at the height of the plague.”—Hanya Yanagihara, author of A Little Life
“A moving portrait of New York in the time of AIDS, Tim Murphy’s honest and insightful writing gives Christodora a particular vibrancy that causes the characters to leap, whole, into the reader’s imagination. This spectacular novel is an important addition to literature that captures New York in all its glory and despair.”—Candace Bushnell
“An intimate portrait of a bohemian family, Christodora is also a capacious historical novel that vividly recreates the lost world of downtown Manhattan in the eighties—a nuanced portrait of an era in which artists were unwitting agents of gentrification and the bright dawn of gay liberation was brutally interrupted by the AIDS epidemic.”—Jay McInerney
“An exuberant, ambitious, funny, gorgeously written epic, Tim Murphy’s Christodora not only makes us privy to the most intimate secrets and dreams of a group of unforgettable diverse characters, this brilliant tale also sweeps us up into the spirit of our age, from the AIDS crisis to now and even into the future, so that we can see and feel the devastating effects of time as it changes us forever.”—James Hannaham, author of Delicious Foods
“Every once in a while a writer truly gets this town with its buffet of hipsters, crazy characters, and endearing troublemakers. Christodora is a bit of Tom Wolfe, a streamlined City on Fire, and, well, something special and all its own. Tim Murphy—smart, perceptive, and streetwise—is an author with a dazzling eye and ear who delivers a real New York narrative with an absorbing storyline and a gallery of characters fit for a twenty-first century Manhattan mural. It came, I sat, I read and read. I emerged completely satisfied.”—George Hodgman, New York Times bestselling author of Bettyville
“Murphy dives into the story of one of the East Village’s most storied buildings—and returns with a moving novel, a love letter to the complicated families we make here in New York, and to the city itself.”—Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night
As a family, they threaded their way through the tables, joined up hands and at-tached themselves to the end of the line as it snaked its way around the dance floor. Ramona and Nicole Bistany sang together above the clamor. Rita had lived in Beirut long enough to know what the lyrics meant: “My heart is scared of growing up estranged. / And my home wouldn’t recognize me. / Take me home, take me home.”
Rita’s right hand was enlaced in Jonah’s, her left in Bobby’s. To the right and then ever so slightly back to the left, everyone stepped, stepped, kicked, and stomped, repeating this sequence in endless cycles. Ramona and Nicole Bistany joined the end of the line as they continued to sing, linked by a silk handkerchief that each clutched in one hand.
Rita laughed, smiled first at Jonah, then Bobby, who was keeping up with the steps flawlessly. She watched her mother on either side of her nephew and niece, all traces of being put-upon lost, her face in a wide, open expression of pleasure.
Much later Rita wondered whether it was her instincts from Iraq, that adrenaline-induced hyper-attentiveness to one’s surroundings so typical of veterans and others who’ve lived in a war zone, that made her notice, well before anyone else seemed to, the man walking toward the dancers at a strangely swift clip from the parking lot, bent slightly forward, a dark object in his hands that Rita at first could not decipher. Even as she continued to dance, her eyes remained transfixed on him as he came closer toward them. Then she identified the object in his hand, and her heart was stabbed with terror.