Praise for Aria:
“Eve Miller is the only survivor of a boating accident in the South Pacific that has killed her husband and two small children, and she appears in the opening pages of Aria lying almost helpless in a hospital bed in Australia. From this book’s very first pages, Eve’s awkward, painful attempts to disengage herself from reality are hypnotic.
Susan Segal’s novel is about Eve’s efforts to construct a new life, a task that will yield both operatic tragedy and a smart look at unwanted celebrity. Aria turns on a meeting in the hospital between Eve and Isabel Stein, an aging diva who visits her after reading sensational reports about the accident in the press. Stein and her husband, Leo, invite Eve to take refuge in their home in suburban New York, a proposition Eve initially rejects: ”I want to say, My home is at the bottom of the sea.” But she ultimately decides to accept, an act that begins her slow, reluctant re-entry into the world. Things between Eve and Isabel sour when Isabel becomes jealous of Eve’s growing relationship with Noah, a young composer also living at the Steins’ house. Isabel also envies Eve’s new notoriety and plots a betrayal worthy of the darkest opera.
Throughout Aria, the characters and the story are pleasantly unpredictable. This is an unassuming but engrossing novel that takes on big ideas like the dark side of human nature and the perils of fame.” – New York Times
Hasn’t celebrity born out of tragedy always been less desirable than that resulting from achievement? Segal’s exceptional debut suggests that fame-wanted or not-takes its toll no matter how it is acquired.
Eve Miller is the lone survivor of a shipwreck. Her adventurous husband, Charlie, had convinced her to take their young children, Nick and Jessica, sailing around the world. All went well until a mystery vessel struck their yacht, and her family was swept away by the sea, one by one, until only she remained. When Eve wakes up in an Australian hospital, she berates herself for having the will to survive, for clinging to the lifeboat when she had three very good reasons to let herself slip into the sea, too. During her physical rehabilitation, her worried mother and sister desperately wish to bring her home to California, and hospital employees try to shield her from the media.
Meanwhile, aging opera diva Isabel Stein, who is on tour down under, and her savvy agent-husband, Leo, offer Eve a haven in their guest cottage on a secluded estate outside of New York City. Overwhelmed by guilt, paparazzi and bags of well-intentioned “fan” mail, Eve overlooks her suspicions of the Steins’ generosity and accepts their invitation. She grows to trust her hosts and develops a friendship with their other temporary houseguest, young composer Noah Stewart, who is writing an opera for Isabel, but her sanctuary is short-lived.
With razor-sharp insight and adroit imagery, Segal masterfully builds layers of tension by methodically exposing her tragically flawed characters’ true motives. Most compelling is Eve’s dynamic narration, initially pianissimo and controlled, crescendoing to a climactic forte. – Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review
The characters in Segal’s haunting, beautifully written first novel are fully realized, vibrant, and believable. Highly recommended for contemporary fiction collections.
– Library Journal
Susan Segal did more than cringe when she read about [a tragic] incident. The California writing teacher spun the situation into her first novel, providing a fictional answer to the obvious question: How does one go on after such a tragedy?
Segal’s notion was courageous, even more so because she chose to tell the story in the first person, from the point of view of the survivor. How much easier it would have been for a different character – or a nameless narrator – to watch her stumble through the ensuing days and make conjectures. But that would have been less interesting, too.
Better still, Segal’s approach succeeds admirably. Bridge Works is a small publisher that has been discovering some promising talent, and Segal is a great new addition.
Segal’s book is eloquent and riveting, soulful and surprising. [She] skillfully keeps readers inside her head, leaking tidbits about the character and the incident at logical moments.
The book is interesting simply because it’s a good story. But it also has important things to say about privacy and publicity, about heartache and fame and the intersection of the two in today’s world. – Philadelphia Inquirer
The timely theme of survival after heartbreak resonates in Susan Segal’s first novel, Aria, a sophisticated meditation on music, grief, and the bond of mother and child, as well as ambition, power, and betrayal.
Susan Segal’s writing sparkles with originality and promise as she explores the tangled lives and motives of the beautiful people. She deploys her flawed, ego-stricken characters with delightful skill. Each individual speaks in a persuasive voice as he or she manifests the inclination to betray his or her own best interests. Her imagery is precise, a bit satirical (“retired executives resolutely tanned and Protestant”) in this tender story of one woman’s odyssey of rediscovery and of how she found the missing chord in her life. – Dallas Morning News
This is one of those rare novels that flows effortlessly as a gentle stream… …amazing insight into the difficulty of suffering in the public eye… Segal’s stunningly rendered prose propels this story along and reveals the breathtaking beauty and wonder that is everyday life. – Today’s Librarian
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Excerpts from Aria
“When they asked me afterwards, I estimated it was about four hours. Four hours of hypnotized survival, doomed optimism that these ten, maybe fifteen-foot waves, this cold and exhaustion couldn’t go on forever…”
“‘You are now a celebrity. That confers favors upon you, whether you believe it or not. Six-figure book deals or appearances on talk shows that would be yours for the asking. I’m talking about people offering you obscene sums of money just to tell your story over and over and over again. No need for talent, just have something unspeakable happen to you….’
“‘I don’t understand how your mind works, Leo,’ I say.
“He smiles. ‘It works like America.'”
“‘Oh, yes,’ she says. ‘I forgot. You imagine you know Noah better than I do. I think you imagine you know him better than he knows himself. But I guarantee you, Eve, you’re wrong about him.'”
“I have an…unsettling feeling about…listening to La Boheme obsessively…I have the feeling that what I’m doing is bad for me…I always cry at the same parts – the third act where Mimi and Rodolfo part, the fourth where Mimi dies. I’m sure these are the parts where most people cry, but the thing is, I know I’m not crying for the people in the opera. That’s what makes me wonder if there’s something…wrong with me. That I can only cry for my family by pretending to cry for someone else.”