Underground Fugue

It’s April and Esther has left New York for London, partly to escape her buckling marriage, and partly to care for her dying mother; Lonia, Esther’s mother, is haunted by memories of fleeing Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II; Javad, their next-door neighbor and an Iranian neuroscientist, struggles to connect with his college-aged son; and Amir, Javad’s son, is seeking both identity and escape in his illicit exploration of the city’s forbidden spaces.

As Esther settles into life in London, a friendship develops among them. But when terrorists attack the London transit system in July 2005, someone goes missing, and the chaos that follows both fractures the possibilities for the future, and reveals the deep fault lines of the past.

With nuanced clarity and breathtaking grandeur, Margot Singer’s Underground Fugue is an elegant, suspenseful, and deeply powerful debut.

  1. MARGOT SINGER won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction, the Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, and an Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award for her story collection, The Pale of Settlement. Her work has been featured on NPR and in the Kenyon Review, the Gettysburg ReviewAgni, and Conjunctions, among other publications. She is a professor of English at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.

One of Elle’s “Most Anticipated Books by Women for 2017”

“Subtle, affecting…The novel shimmers between meanings, never settling on the single one. It…continues to reverberate in the mind after its final words.”—Columbus Dispatch

“An unusually layered debut. In short, taut chapters, [Underground Fugue] alternates between two families who have suddenly become neighbors…When terror strikes, the plot accelerates and the novel’s strands converge brilliantly.”—Publishers Weekly

“Singer gracefully weaves the fugue motif throughout her debut novel…The result is a nuanced, realistic exploration of themes of loss and identity, which seem particularly relevant in these uncertain times.”—Library Journal

“Singer’s introspective tale of displaced characters casts a subtle light on current events.” —Booklist/American Library Association

“The characters…are constructed with depth and richness…Singer’s London emerges as a place of missed connections, miscommunications and misinterpretations.” —New York Times Book Review

“In this extraordinarily accomplished debut novel, Margot Singer confronts life’s essential losses—aging, illness, accidental death—but also the scalding, self-inflicted wounds of alienation, estrangement and prejudice. The book’s tender, questing spirit imbues even these dark recesses with a kind of luminosity, making Underground Fugue a pleasure to read from beginning to end.” —Geraldine Brooks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March

“A beautiful novel about affinities, assumptions, and family mysteries.  We know less than we think we do, and we need each other more than we thought.” —Allegra Goodman, bestselling author of Intuition

“I haven’t been able to get Underground Fugue out of my mind. Haunting and breathtaking, this debut sticks, the way good literature always does, because it awakens us to the majesty—all the pain, all the joy—our lives contain.” —Lee Martin, author of The Bright Forever

Underground Fugue—an absorbing, deeply poignant intersection of lives and histories—establishes Margot Singer as a world-class writer. May the literary gods rejoice.” —Bob Shacochis, author of The Woman Who Lost Her Soul

Underground Fugue swept me away. I could not put it down. Here is a writer aptly named—Singer. Read and savor the music, even as your blood jumps.” —Richard Bausch, author of Peace

“A riveting, deeply affecting novel I will be thinking about for years.” —Eileen Pollack, author of A Perfect Life

“Intense, unblinking, elegant and smart, Margot Singer’s Underground Fugue had me—sometimes by the heart, sometimes by the throat—from its first striking sentence to its last.” —Laird Hunt, author of Neverhome

Underground Fugue is a literary novel of moral heft and stylistic grace.” —Laurie Loewenstein, author of Unmentionables, President of the James Jones Literary Society

“Elegantly written and extraordinarily timely, Underground Fugue, a recipient of the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, is clearly one of the most accomplished and powerful winners to date.” —Kaylie Jones, author of The Anger Meridian and co-founder of the James Jones Literary Society 

“Thrilling, tender, and dangerously seductive, Underground Fugue is an exhilarating journey into the perilous depths of London’s tunnels and the bewildering labyrinth of the human heart.” —Melanie Rae Thon, author of The Voice of the River

“Margot Singer writes like the dark angel cast down to live among us in these troubled times.” —Brad Watson, author of Miss Jane

“Deftly handled, this novel’s characters reflect a time and place and the attitudes gripping much of the Western world still.” —Read It Forward

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