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  • Published: 10 May 2022
  • ISBN: 9781787333390
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 224
  • RRP: $34.99

Defenestrate




A wildly inventive, exhilarating debut narrated by a young woman meditating on her Czech ancestors' 'falling curse', her twin brother's fall from a window, and the malleable, breakable bonds keeping her family from falling apart.

'Our speech is so full of falling. We fall down laughing, fall apart, fall away, we fall prey to things, fall from grace, fall in love. We fall down dead.'

One thing that the city of Prague is famous for is its recurring incidents of throwing men out of windows. The word for this is defenestration.

In 1895, Marta's great-great-grandfather Jiri was said to have given a gentle push to the back of a stonemason for having wronged him. The stonemason fell to his death and the family fled the Czech capital for the American Midwest, where they set up a new life.

So begins the story of Marta and her brother Nick, deeply interwoven twins haunted by the mysterious curse that has plagued their family for centuries, one that has doomed them to suffer various types of falls. And when Nick falls out of a window and ends up seriously injured, Marta embarks on a heart-breaking quest to find out whether or not his fall was intentional, and to stop her family from falling apart.

Grappling with family myths, sexual repression and mental illness, Defenestrate is a novel about the kinds of tales we tell ourselves and others in order to cope. With heartfelt and deeply-drawn characters, Renée Branum shows us how stories can shield us, and reveal and conceal life's secrets. From a major new voice in literary fiction, Defenestrate is a novel about belonging, and finding one's place in a world in which you are, quite literally, plummeting.

  • Published: 10 May 2022
  • ISBN: 9781787333390
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 224
  • RRP: $34.99

About the author

Renee Branum

Renée Branum's stories and essays have appeared in several publications including The Georgia Review, Narrative Magazine, The Gettysburg Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Best American Nonrequired Reading. She has earned MFAs in Fiction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and Creative Nonfiction from the University of Montana. She was a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Prose Fellowship in 2020. She currently lives in Cincinnati where she is pursuing a PhD in Fiction.

Praise for Defenestrate

Renée Branum writes with exceptional wisdom and tenderness about inheritance, obsession, and the power of storytelling as a means of understanding who we are. As family secrets are revealed, Defenestrate builds to a symphonic, exhilarating end that embraces uncertainty alongside the miracle of surviving the greatest of falls.

Sanaë Lemoine, author of THE MARGOT AFFAIR

Branum's prose lights up the imagination, every line a discovery and a pleasure. Beyond simple elegance or precision, she weaves sense and simile so stunningly, you have to throw your hands up and say "damn!" Defenestrate is both a transporting story, and a poetic reflection on family myths, death and danger, creation, self preservation, and the great free-fall of life. I was constantly thrilled by the beauty and insight of her words, and, at the same time, ever on the precipice of that titular drop, the one that's always just about to happen, the one we all know from childhood dreams

Dina Nayeri, author of THE UNGRATEFUL REFUGEE and REFUGE

The wonders of this beautiful novel come to you the way ghosts do, almost invisibly, and from the past. The voice is haunted too, by family secrets, the history of Prague, an addiction, and much else. But its central subject is that of falling-and everything that falling can imply. This is a fine and wonderful book.

Charles Baxter, author of THE SUN COLLECTIVE

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