The Alternatives: A Novel (Hardcover)

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“A bold, beautiful, complex novel, and I can’t wait to read what Hughes writes next. She, too, is an unstoppable force.” New York Times Book Review

“A tale about sisterhood, a novel of ideas, a chronicle of our collective follies, a requiem for our agonizing species, The Alternatives unfolds in a prose full of gorgeous surprises and glows with intelligence, compassion, and beauty.”  —Hernan Diaz


From the writer Anthony Doerr calls “a massive talent,” the story of four brilliant Irish sisters, orphaned in childhood, who scramble to reconnect when the oldest disappears into the Irish countryside


The Flattery sisters were plunged prematurely into adulthood when their parents died in tragic circumstances. Now in their thirties—all single, all with PhDs—they are each attempting to do meaningful work in a rapidly foundering world. The four lead disparate, distanced lives, from classrooms in Connecticut to ritzy catering gigs in London’s Notting Hill, until one day their oldest sister, a geologist haunted by a terrible awareness of the earth’s future, abruptly vanishes from her work and home. Together for the first time in years, the Flatterys descend on the Irish countryside in search of a sister who doesn’t want to be found. Sheltered in a derelict bungalow, they reach into their common past, confronting both old wounds and a desperately uncertain future. Warm, fiercely witty, and unexpectedly hopeful, The Alternatives is an unforgettable portrait of a family perched on our collective precipice, told by one of Ireland’s most gifted storytellers.

About the Author


Caoilinn Hughes is the author of Orchid & the Wasp, which won the Collyer Bristow Prize and was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award, and The Wild Laughter, which won the Royal Society of Literature’s Encore Award and was longlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize. She was recently the Oscar Wilde Centre Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin, and is now a Cullman Fellow at New York Public Library.

Praise For…


Praise for The Alternatives:

“Exuberant. . . . to categorize this novel into a tidy box undermines the daring genius of its author. . . . Hughes’s prose is like a virtuosic jazz number — loose, free and surprising. . . . A bold, beautiful, complex novel.” New York Times Book Review

“The novel begins with alternating chapters that sharply delve into each woman’s life and work in brief, fascinating lectures on subjects from land subsidence to locavorism. . . . Ultimately The Alternatives is concerned with the duties of caring for the planet and one’s loved ones. The fact that these responsibilities are often in conflict makes this lively novel’s sense of confusion feel well-earned.” Wall Street Journal

“The Alternatives contains multitudes. Its mysteries and complexities reward a second reading. . . [its] ending is a stunner. And Olwen, Maeve, Nell and Rhona make it unforgettable.” Star Tribune

I burned through Caoilinn Hughes's book, The Alternatives.” Andrew Limbong, NPR's Book of the Day
 
“At the center of the novel is a question: what does it mean to center one’s work on slowing our collective hurtling toward destruction?. . . . This is a powerful and timely novel.” Brooklyn Rail

“Told with biting wit and warmhearted insight, The Alternatives by award-winning Irish author Caoilinn Hughes reflects our collective yearning to make sense of our lives.” —Real Simple
 
“Funny, intelligent, tenderhearted, and aching. . . . Hughes is one of the greatest writers of dialogue at work today. She is peerless in her ability to develop and communicate complex ideas through witty banter and possesses remarkable range in her ability to write across various points of view. Her sentences are to be relished. . . . We need more writers like Hughes.” —Electric Literature

“Intelligent, impassioned, and wholly satisfying.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Simply brilliant. . . . The dynamics of the sisters’ interactions and the easy way they anticipate each others’ needs while slipping into decades-old roles are the novel's highlights.” Booklist (starred review)

“Hughes shines.” Publishers Weekly

“Each sister’s voice is clear, purposeful, realistic and hopeful. . . . [the novel] becomes even more engaging as their stories overlap, growing increasingly complex and intertwined. . . . Hughes balances ordinary details with those that surprise and raise the stakes, keeping the reader hooked.” —BookPage

“Intriguing. . . .  Readers will enjoy this story about the need for family, independence, and support.” Library Journal

“Yet another example of [Hughes’s] gift for illuminating the dark places in the lives of dysfunctional, but deeply sympathetic, families. . . . [A] bighearted, wise, and frequently sharply funny novel.” —Shelf Awareness

“I wish I knew how Caoilinn Hughes has managed to write a book of such depth and gravity that is also so gripping and relentlessly funny. A tale about sisterhood, a novel of ideas, a chronicle of our collective follies, a requiem for our agonizing species, The Alternatives unfolds in a prose full of gorgeous surprises and glows with intelligence, compassion, and beauty.”  —Hernan Diaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Trust
 
“Caoilinn Hughes is one of the most intelligent, surprising, and delightful writers around. The Alternatives made me laugh, cry, and think. Any one of the Flattery sisters would have made a compelling story; together they are glorious, as is this novel.”  —Louise Kennedy, author of Trespasses

“Caoilinn Hughes’s beautiful new novel uses a fairy-tale premise—four sisters, orphaned in their youth, each brilliant in her own way—to explore some of the most pressing issues of our time: the environment, politics, and how to live in the world. The Alternatives is both a book of ideas and a gripping read, formally audacious yet deeply humane. Superb.”   —Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind

The Alternatives is fizzy, brainy, and brilliant, always at the service of a drama of great emotional power. Caoilinn Hughes is an extraordinarily gifted writer.” —Joseph O’Neill, author of Netherland and The Dog

“Hughes’s elegiac romp into our collective crises erupts in gorgeous language and sizzles with wit, yet is undergirded by pathos. A shapeshifter of a writer, she can draw any character, any foible with crystalline precision.” —Diane Cook, author of The New Wilderness
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593545003
ISBN-10: 0593545001
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: April 16th, 2024
Pages: 352
Language: English