When the tragic death of his son compels Dr. Neil Downs to flee New York City for India, he takes a job as the resident physician at the American Embassy, where he is introduced to the paradoxes of Indian social and political life. Unable to mourn, and angry about a betrayal on the part of his wife, Sarah, Neil seeks philosophical refuge in the writings of Levi Furstenblum, whose work grapples with the nature of language and god after Auschwitz. At the same time, he becomes involved with a prestigious Indian family and forms a bond with Holika, the rebellious, activist niece of the family's industrial and political doyen. With this relationship, Neil discovers the intrigues and the horrors that plague a society not dissimilar to the one he left behind. Through a complex interplay between the external and internal, foreign and domestic, the promises of faith and the ineluctability of evil, Neil slowly unravels the lies and misrepresentations that had woven the texture of his life.
This tightly plotted novel will be irresistible to anyone who yearns for affirmation in spirituality and matters of the heart. A stunning reinterpretation of the Abraham and Isaac sacrifice myth, And the Word Was is guaranteed to leave readers profoundly moved.
About the Author
Bruce Bauman's work has appeared in "Salon, BOMB, Bookforum," and numerous anthologies and literary magazines. He is an associate editor of "Black Clock" magazine and is adjunct professor in the CalArts MFA Writing Program. He is married to the painter Suzan Woodruff, and lives in Los Angeles.
Bauman's first novel is a magnificent debut, smart and intense, but accessible and riveting. Its central character, Neil Downs, is embraceable and human, a doctor for all the right reasons; and though he has led a good life, it is overturned by a random act of violence. His treasured young son, a brilliant and lovable pre-teen, is gunned down in a school shooting, and Downs finds later that day that his wife has betrayed him. When Downs' medical expertise cannot save his son and his spirituality cannot save his faith in his marriage, he turns to the universe in utter despair and moves to India, hoping to find either oblivion or hope. What he finds is a fascinating play of world politics encompassing a wide cast of characters. This story at first seems a strange foil for his internal turmoil, but as the two plots weave together, the connections become clearer. The binding thread of this narrative is the integration of suffering into one's worldview. Downs' favorite writer, Holocaust survivor Levi Furstenblum, denies all meaning in the universe, and his writings are interspersed within the book and espoused in real conversations between him and Downs, since Furstenblum is now living in India. In the end, the world does turn again, for all the characters, and the resolution is hopeful and fulfilling. This is simply a great novel, and hopefully only the first in what will be many more from the author. Debi Lewis
"[And the Word Was] is utterly absorbing, a page-turner in the most literal sense of the phrase. Seamlessly structured, it is at once intellectually ambitious and emotionally alive. Bruce Bauman is one of the most engaging and engaged writers and thinkers that I know."
- Rebecca Goldstein, author of The Mind-Body Problem and winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Jewish Book Award, and a Whiting Award.
"This book in its entirety is deelpy moving, sophisticated, intricate, elegant, with a neatly woven narrative and powerful culminations. It is a loving, sensitive novel, which asks many hard questions about life and faith."
- Joanna Scott, author of Arrogance: A Novel and winner of a MacArthur Fellowship and the Lannan Foundation Award