Ascension: A Novel

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9780786712083: Ascension: A Novel

It is the summer of 1976 and Salvo Ursari, a man of retirement age, is walking on a taut wire strung between the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center, almost fourteen hundred feet above the city. Far below him in the gaping crowd stands his wife, Anna, to whom he has made a solemn promise: This wire walk will end his career. In this daring moment, Steven Galloway opens his riveting novel about Salvo Ursari, whose life begins in 1919 amid a Transylvanian boyhood inhabited by gypsy folklore and inspired by the bravery of his persecuted people. Salvo's story moves irresistibly from a tragic fire that envelops his family, to street life in Budapest, where he learns the skills of a wire walker, to the carnivals of Europe and the competitive world of the American circus. Most fulfilled when living with paradox, Salvo feels safest while performing startling feats of balance on a wire high above the dangerous world; and most endangered if performing above a net. With compassion, warmth, and blazing originality, Ascension combines jaw-dropping storytelling, and fantastical symbolism with mesmerizing detail of Romany and circus culture, and an unforgettable walk with the amazing Salvo Ursari.

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Review:

In Steven Galloway's Ascension the story of Salvo Usari, a Romany tightrope walker, begins where it ends: almost 1,400 feet about the streets of New York City in a fictional 1976 performance on a wire suspended between the World Trade Center towers. From this first moment, Galloway establishes a careful balance between a thrilling adventure story enriched by circus lore and ca haracter-driven tale reflecting Salvo's complex life and remarkable immigrant history.

Leaving New York, Galloway shifts to Savlo's youth in Transylvania, circa 1919. Salvo's father, Miksa, has taught his nine-year-old son the essential myths that form the Rom, or gypsy, identity, but the legends cannot prepare the boy for an abrupt tragedy, an accident at a gadje church, that leads to the murder of his father and mother and to Salvo's long separation from his brother and baby sister. Salvo climbs to the pinnacle of the mammoth church steeple, tears out his soul--flinging it towards God--and begins a wandering life. Galloway then traces the paths of the Usari siblings over the years until they are rejoined at work as a family of tightrope walkers, eventually achieving acclaim in the Fisher-Fielding circus in the United States. But even reunited the Usaris cannot escape tragedy and further death. In the end, Salvo must return to the wire alone to pacify his unquiet mind.

Galloway's execution of story and character is nearly flawless throughout, and his narrative, like Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, captures the essence of the 20th-century immigrant odyssey. But it is the blending of Romany folk tales and well-researched circus craft with this otherwise powerful narrative that defines Ascension and makes its unique contribution to literary art. --Patrick O'Kelley

From the Back Cover:

“One of the most suspenseful introductory chapters in Canadian literature. … Once you’re a handful of paragraphs into Ascension you’re rapt; this is a book that comples attention, then holds it throughout…. His knack for a gripping story never falters.” -- The Georgia Straight

“Galloway shows a rare flair for inhabiting minds at moments of exhilaration and peril…. His attention to detail lends an uncanny veracity to the skywalk passages and the book has loads of neat lore….. Ascension is a novel that has stuck in my mind, and I don’t expect it to leave any time soon.” -- The Gazette (Montreal)

“Steven Galloway negotiates a mesmerizing line…. Rising above all else soars the elegance of the storytelling. Galloway’s balance on the narrative line is a pleasure to experience.” -- Vancouver Sun

“This is an rengaging read. Each episode, like the high wire, is tautly strung between two places of refuge.” -- Denise de Montreuil, Times-Colonist (Victoria)

“Galloway is a master of suspense, dangling his readers by an elbow or foot from a sagging wire. Throughout his tale, his storytelling left me on the edge. His narrative is so gripping that I often had to pause and take a breath before carrying on. … You simply will not put this book down until the final sentence.” -- Andrew Armitage, The Sun Times (Owen Sound)

“Galloway is a born story teller. In Ascension, he takes us up to the high wire. The tale we find there -- through its setting and complicated characters -- is taut and compelling. Once you start, there is no safe turning back. You really must finish.” -- Timothy Taylor, author of Stanley Park

“What a gorgeous novel. Salvo Ursari is a great hero, a man who lives and perhaps survives our deepest fears. Steven Galloway has imagined a story that is as alluring and spellbinding as the wire itself.” -- Madeleine Thien, author of Simple Recipes

“Steven Galloway weaves his tale with the sure hand of a born storyteller.” -- Thomas Wharton, author of Salamander

“Will be remembered as one of the year’s best books.” -- Noah Richler, National Post

“What makes Ascension worth the read is Galloway’s storytelling powers; his is a self-possessed voice that seamlessly weds narrative and tone. . . . Galloway has the power to move and astonish, seemingly without sweat or effort.” -- Quill & Quire

Praise for Finnie Walsh:

Finnie Walsh is a terrific first novel, brilliantly conceived and inventively executed, with a power house of an ending that resonates long after the book is finished -- a stunning accomplishment from a young writer who deserves a close look.” -- Quill & Quire

“An eminently readable and warmly witty debut with a seamless narrative and a sucker-punch ending.” -- The Georgia Straight

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