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Half The Kingdom

A brilliant new novel about life, death, and growing old in today’s America.

The renowned New Yorker writer and Pulitzer Prize finalist Lore Segal creates a hilarious, poignant, and profoundly moving portrait of life today—where terrorist paranoia and end-of-the-world hysteria mask deeper fears of mortality; where parents and their grown children vacillate between frustration and tenderness; and where the broken medical system leads one character to quip, “Kafka wrote slice-of-life fiction.”

At Cedars of Lebanon hospital the doctors have noticed a marked uptick in Alzheimer’s patients. People who seemed perfectly lucid just a day earlier suddenly show signs of advanced dementia. Is it just normal aging or an epidemic? Is it a coincidence or a secret terrorist plot? With buoyant black humor, Segal masterfully interweaves her characters’ disparate lives—lives that will, for good or for ill, all converge in Cedars’ ER.

Funny, tragic, and tender—with a deep humanity and a great appreciation for the absurd—Segal’s writing always surprises, making Half the Kingdom both a brilliant portrait of life in America today, and a joy to read.

LORE SEGAL is the author of Shakespeare’s Kitchen, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, as well as the novels Lucinella, Other People’s Houses, and Her First American. She is the recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an O. Henry Award, and the Harold U. Ribalow Prize. She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, and other publications. She also writes children’s books and translates from the German. At eighty-two years old, Segal lives and works in New York City.

“[Half the Kingdom is] masterful. Concise and incisive. The prose assured and confident. The subject matter complex, transcendent of genre. Mordant and wise, and terribly sad without being maudlin… Everyone should read Lore Segal.”
Ayelet Waldman, Haaretz

“Both funny and tragic, delightful and dizzyingly complex, Half the Kingdom feels whole.”
—the Los Angeles Review of Books

“Segal portrays the absurd horrors of medically prolonged eternal life…[and] tells their stories in poignant vignettes… Now 85, Segal herself is a heroic survivor.” —Elaine Showalter, the Guardian

Selected for the Los Angeles Times 2013 holiday book gift guide

New York Times Notable Book of 2013!

“Both good and bad writers have been known to pillory their own sort, even their own lives, and Segal continues to best the best of them with her light hand and heavy comedy.” —the Globe and Mail

“An acerbic, compassionate, astonishingly keen, very funny report back from the territory of old age .” —the Boston Globe

“Segal artfully connects the stories of several individuals’ lives into a patchwork quilt… No one tells a story better than the 85-year-old Segal.” —Library Journal, starred review

“Happiness, Segal seems to suggest, comes as naturally at the end of life as despair, and joy abounds in this novel about people waiting for death.” —The Millions

“Glorious.” —Maclean’s

Jewish Book Council Weekly Recommended Read

“The beloved New Yorker writer has penned a daring satirical novella with a plotline that involves dementia, phobias, and the health care system–and still manages to be funny and wise.” —O Magazine

“A dark comedy…Segal grounds her premise in the most real and authentic detail, exposing the impatience and self-interest of families, as they try to discover what is going wrong.” —The Independent (UK)

“Segal’s narrative unfolds in snapshot scenes… The well-crafted and respectfully comedic depictions of the aged grant this book much of its mind and heart.” —The Intentional

“Lore Segal is a marvelous and fearless writer. No subject is too hard, too absurd, or too painful for her wise, peculiar and brilliant fiction. There is no one quite like her. Bravo!” —Lily Tuck

“Segal’s talent for injecting comedy into seemingly hopeless situations is utilized with spectacular aplomb.” —Bustle

“An intriguing blend of black farce and modern horror… Ripe with metaphysical resonance and, at times, Segal comes across as a bit like Beckett with a flamboyant sense of humour. Best of all is her prose style.” —Metro (UK)

“A writer who deserves all the acclaim her biggest fans throw at her, and more.” —Flavorwire, 10 Must Read Books for October

“At once wry and poignant, this surreal novel takes up themes of aging, terrorism, our labyrinthine medical system, and the old fear of mortality pressing on our modern lives.” —the New YorkerBooks to Watch Out For this October

“The novel’s comedy beats back the darkness.” —New York Times Book Review

“Underlying some extremely funny gallows humor is a damning commentary on the cultural anxiety over tending to the elderly.” —Wall Street Journal

“A sassy circumnavigation of hospital culture and mortality.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In the market for a witty, paranoid, tangent-­happy, 9/11-influenced conspiracy novel? No need to limit yourself to the new Thomas Pynchon. The less heralded but very wonderful Lore Segal’s Half the Kingdom is about terror, aging, insanity, eschatology, our health-care system, and a Blindness-esque epidemic of Alzheimer’s in a post–September 11 Manhattan emergency room.” —New York

“A tour de force… Segal’s novel is a beautiful, down-to-earth tragicomic meditation on age, failing powers and the loss that comes to all of us.” —Shelf Awareness

“The venerable Lore Segal, now 82, saucily invites readers to stereotype her as an old person with her unflinching but humorous look into the waning lives at a nursing home called Cedars of Lebanon.” —Village Voice, Fall Books Picks

“A funny, and remarkably touching portrait of mortality.” —New York Observer, Top 10 Books of the Fall

“With masterful dialogue and a good dose of black humor, [Segal] creates characters that are both easily recognizable and refreshingly new. Funny, sad, and at times deeply moving, Half the Kingdom is a fascinating novel, a well-crafted, meaningful examination of life and death and all that lies in between.” —Booklist

“Lore Segal is a treasure-house of wit and a power-house of style.” —The Millions, Most Anticipated Books

Early praise for Half the Kingdom

”No one writes like Segal — her glittering intelligence, her piercing wit, and her dazzling insights into manners and mores, are a profound pleasure.  From first to last I loved this wise and irreverent novel.” —Margot Livesey

”I always feel in her work such a sense of toughness and humor…. Her writing is sad and funny, and that makes it more of both.”—Jennifer Egan

”If America had anything resembling a wise elder, or cared to, it would be Lore Segal, and Half the Kingdom would be her moving, blackly-comic revelation.” —Shalom Auslander

“I have never read such an astonishing book about old age. It’s remarkable. This woman is one of the best writers I’ve ever had the privilege of reading.”—Ayelet Waldman

Praise for Lore Segal

“Clever, original, and flabbergasting” Chicago Tribune 

“Segal is an enchanting storyteller…. Her oddly telescoping paragraphs are impossible to resist. We read them, we read them again.”Los Angeles Times

 “Lore Segal is an astute and gentle observer.”The New York Times Book Review

“Segal exhibits a rare insight into the human character that is at once humbling and shamelessly enjoyable to behold.” Publishers Weekly

“A voice … unlike any other I had ever known.” —Cynthia Ozick

 “Lore Segal has taken our literary life apart so sweetly that no one will want to put it together again.”—William Gass

“Every now and then a piece of work bursts the bounds of its own conventions…announcing the existence in our midst of a genuine writer.” — Vivian Gornick, The Nation

“[Her First American] outdistances our contemporary expectations of fiction…to maintain a lasting place not only in American literature but in that of the world.” —Stanley Crouch

“One of the rare writers who combines art, eccentricity, honesty, and wisdom….” Chicago Tribune

Praise for Segal’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated Shakespeare’s Kitchen:

“One realizes that only in the hands of a master do a few vaguely defined characters and themes create such an exquisite tapestry… The cumulative power of Shakespeare’s Kitchen lies in Segal’s dazzling ability to merge the mundane details of life—a missing pencil sharpener, a tipped-over garbage can—with the arc of human emotions.”The Washington Post

“Brilliant distillations of everyday life… Segal’s crystalline prose elevates even the most banal workaday details into art.  Grade: A.”Entertainment Weekly

“Reading Lore Segal’s fiction is like peeling away intricately patterned wallpaper only to find another layer underneath. Shakespeare’s Kitchen seems to me the best book by one of our best writers…. So attuned to her craft that her imaginative genius sees itself in every character she writes.”The Christian Science Monitor

“Wry, finely honed.”—The Atlantic Monthly

“Hilarious and telling. Segal exhibits a rare insight into the human character that is at once humbling and shamelessly enjoyable to behold.”Publishers Weekly