Fault Lines

Fault Lines

by Nancy Huston


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A best seller in France, with over 400,000 copies sold, and currently being translated into eighteen languages, Fault Lines is the new novel from internationally-acclaimed and best-selling author Nancy Huston. Huston's novel is a profound and poetic story that traces four generations of a single family from present-day California to WW II¨Cera Germany. Fault Lines begins with Sol, a gifted, terrifying child whose mother believes he is destined for greatness partly because he has a birthmark like his dad, his grandmother, and his great-grandmother. When Sol's family makes an unexpected trip to Germany, secrets begin to emerge about their history during World War II. It seems birthmarks are not all that's been passed down through the bloodlines. Closely observed, lyrically told, and epic in scope, Fault Lines is a touching, fearless, and unusual novel about four generations of children and their parents. The story moves from the West Coast of the United States to the East, from Haifa to Toronto to Munich, as secrets unwind back through time until a devastating truth about the family's origins is reached. Huston tells a riveting, vigorous tale in which love, music, and faith rage against the shape of evil.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802170514
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 10/01/2008
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt


Sol, 2004

I'm awake.

Like flicking on a switch and flooding a room with light.

Snapping out of sleep, clicking into wakefulness, a perfectly functioning mind and body, six years old and a genius, first thought every morning when I wake up.

My brain floods into the world, the world floods into my brain,

I control and own every part of it.

Palm Sunday early G.G. here visiting Mom & Dad still asleep

A sunny Sunday sun sun sun sun king Sol Solly Solomon

I'm like sunlight, all-powerful, instantaneous and invisible, flowing effortlessly into the darkest corners of the universe

capable at six of seeing illuminating understanding everything

In a flash I'm washed and dressed, my hair is combed and my bed is made. Yesterday's socks and underwear are in the dirty laundry basket, later in the week they'll be washed, dried, ironed and folded by my mother, then returned to my top drawer ready to be used again. This is called a cycle. All cycles have to be controlled and supervised, such as the food cycle. Food circulates through your body and turns you into who you are, so you have to be careful about what you let in and what you keep out. I'm exceptional. I can't allow just anything into my body: my poop has to come out the right colour and consistency, this is part of the circulation.

I'm actually never hungry and Mom is very understanding about this, she only gives me foods I like because they circulate with ease, yoghurt and cheese and pasta, peanut butter and bread and cereal, she doesn't insist on the whole vegetable-meat-fish-eggs aspect of eating, saying I'll get around to that when I'm good and ready for it. She makes me mayonnaise sandwiches and cuts the crusts off for me, but even then I eat only half or a quarter of the sandwich and it's enough, I nibble at the bread and wet the small pieces with the saliva in my mouth and swish them up between my lips and gums to let them gradually dissolve because I don't want to actually swallow them. The point is to keep my mind sharp.

Dad wishes I'd eat like a normal growing American boy. He orries about how I'll manage at the cafeteria when I start school next fall but Mom says she'll pick me up and bring me home for lunch, that's what stay-at-home moms are for!

God gave me this body and mind and I have to take the best possible care of them so I can put them to the best possible use. I know He's got high intentions for me, otherwise I wouldn't have been born in the wealthiest state of the wealthiest country in the world, with the most powerful weapons system capable of blasting the whole human species to kingdom come. Fortunately God and President Bush are buddies. I think of heaven as one big Texas in the sky, with God rambling around in a cowboy hat and boots and checking to make sure everything's in order on his ranch. Taking an occasional pot shot at a planet for the fun of it.

When they dragged Saddam Hussein out of his rat hole the other day his hair was all matted and dirty, his eyes bleary and bloodshot, his beard unkempt and his cheeks gaunt. Dad sat there in front of the TV set and cheered. 'Boy, that's what I call defeat,' he said. 'I hope all those Muslim terrorists know what's in store for them.' 'Randall,' said Mom, who was just then setting down a tray in front of him with an icy glass of beer and a bowl of peanuts, 'we should be careful about what we say. You wouldn't want to give Solly the impression that all Muslims are terrorists, would you? I'm sure there are Muslims living right here in California who are very nice people, I just don't know them personally'. She said this in a joking tone of voice but I know she was also telling the truth. Dad took a long swig of beer and said 'Yeah, you're right, Tessie, I'm sorry,' and burped quite loudly which Mom decided to take as a joke so she laughed.

I've got wonderful parents who love each other which isn't the case of most kids in my kindergarten. You can tell they love each other because their framed wedding photos are still standing on the buffet along with all the congratulations cards even though they got married seven years ago! Mom is actually two years older than Dad, I hate to admit it and she certainly doesn't look it but she's thirty years old, some of the kids in kindergarten have moms in their forties and my friend Brian's mom is fifty which is older than my Grandma Sadie. That means she had him when she was forty-four years old which is disgusting, I can't believe people go on screwing in old age. Yes I know how babies are made, I know everything.

It's actually Grandma Sadie who chose my name for me. She always regretted not giving Dad a Jewish name, so when the next generation came along she didn't want to miss her chance a second time and Mom said it was okay with her. Mom's an easygoing person, she basically wants for everybody to be as happy as possible, and I guess Sol can be a Christian name too.

That's about the extent of my grandmother's influence in my life because luckily she lives far away in Israel and I almost never see her except in the photos she sends us which are always closeups so you can't see she's sitting in a wheelchair. I say luckily because if she lived any closer she'd try to interfere with us and boss us around like Dad says she always does. Even though he's her own son he dislikes her, but at the same time he's scared of her and doesn't dare to stand up to her so whenever she comes here for a visit there's quite a lot of tension in the air which upsets my mother. As soon as Grandma Sadie's back is turned, Dad gets courageous and attacks her, once he said she was to blame for the death of his beloved father Aron who was a failed playwright at the age of forty-nine, and Mom said that as far as she knew Dad's father was killed by smoking cigarettes rather than by his wife, but Dad said there was a well-known connection between cancer and repressed anger which I'm not sure what that means, repressed.

My father once lived in Israel himself when he was my age and he loved the city of Haifa so much that of all the places to live in the United States of America that's why he chose California, because the eucalyptus and palm trees and orange groves and flowering bushes reminded him of those good old days. Israel is also where he started not liking Arabs because of some Arab girl he fell into and out of love with there, which I don't know anything about because whenever he talks about it he gets all tense and clams up and even to Mom it's a mystery what happened with this childhood sweetheart of his.

Grandma Sadie is a cripple and an orthodox Jew unlike anyone else in the family. She wears a wig because when you're an orthodox Jewish female you're not supposed to show your hair to anyone except your husband in case they covet you and want to screw you out of wedlock. Given that she's widowed and confined to a wheelchair, I'd be surprised if anyone would like to covet and screw her but she still refuses to take off the wig. Recently this rabbi in Florida ordered Jewish women to stop wearing wigs made out of Indian women's hair because in India they bow down to gods with six arms or elephant heads or whatever and their hair gets all sullied by praying to these gods so Jewish women will also get sullied by wearing wigs made out of it so they have to buy new synthetic wigs at once, the rabbi said, but Grandma said that was going too far.

The wheelchair is because of a car accident she was in many years ago but it certainly doesn't keep her from getting around, she's been to more countries than everyone in our family put together. She's a famous lecturer and her own mother Erra (namely my great-grandmother who I call G.G.) is a famous singer and when Daddy gets around to enlisting for Iraq he'll be a famous war hero and it's up to me to decide what I want to be famous about but that'll be no problem at all, fame runs in the family.

Unlike my father, whose mom was away hectoring in universities all the time when he was little, I have an excellent mom who decided to be stay-at-home out of her own free will and not because it was women's destiny like in the olden days. Her name is Tess but I call her Mom. All children call their mothers Mom of course, and sometimes in the park another kid yells 'Mom!' and my mother spins around, thinking it's me. I can't believe she could confuse me with anyone else. 'It's like when someone else's cell phone has the same ring as yours,' she says. 'You sort of snap to attention and then realise — oh, nope, it's not me they want.'

It's not like a cell phone. I'm unique. My voice is MY VOICE.

At kindergarten and elsewhere, I amaze everybody with my reading skills because Mom taught me to read when I was just a little baby. I've heard her tell the story a thousand times, how I'd be lying there in my crib and she'd flash these cards at me with words printed on them and pronounce the words, which she did for twenty-minute periods three times a day practically from the day I was born so I pretty much learned to talk and read at the same time and I can't even remember when I didn't know how to read. Mom says my vocabulary is awesome.

Dad's away from dawn to dusk every weekday because he commutes more than two hours each way to work in Santa Clara at a job of programming computers in a very demanding capacity. He earns an excellent salary so we're a two-car family —'We've got more cars than kids!' they sometimes say laughingly because Mom comes from a family where they had six kids and only one car. Her family was Catholic which meant my grandma wasn't allowed to do family planning so she just kept on having babies until they got into deep financial waters and then she stopped. My father had a Jewish upbringing, so when he and Mom fell in love they decided to find a church halfway between Catholic and Jewish, and what they finally decided on was Protestant so they're allowed to do family planning, basically what that means is the wife takes a pill and her husband can screw her as much as he likes without putting babies in her stomach, which is why I'm an only child. Mom wants to have another baby some day and Dad says they should be able to afford it a year or two down the line, but no matter how many kids they have I'm not worried about sibling rivalry, Jesus had a whole slew of brothers, too, and you never hear about what they did with their lives, there's just no comparison.

Once a month my Dad goes to a men's group where they talk about what it's like to be a man nowadays since women started working. I'm not sure why he needs this group given the fact that my mother doesn't work but anyhow they all take turns sitting in the hot seat and telling the truth about their problems and then they're supposed to follow the group's advice and if they disobey they're punished with lots of push-ups and sometimes the whole group goes out and does manly things together like hiking and swearing and sleeping out in the wild and enduring mosquito bites because men have more stamina than women.

I'm sure glad I was born a boy because it's far more unusual for boys to be raped than girls, except if they're Catholic which we're not. On the sobbingweb which I stumbled on one day when I asked Google for images of the war in Iraq you can see hundreds of girls and women being brutally raped for free and it says they were really and truly harmed in front of the cameras. They sure don't look as if they're enjoying themselves especially when they're gagged and tied up. Sometimes the men are not only screwing them in their mouth or their vagina or their anus but also making as if to cut their nipples off with craft knives, although you don't see the nipples actually getting cut off so it might just be make-believe. Mohamed Atta and the other 9/11 terrorists also used craft knives when they flew the planes into the Twin Towers when I was three years old, I can still remember Dad calling me in to watch the towers falling down over and over again and saying 'fucking Arabs' and drinking beer.

I've got my own little computer on my desk in my room, surrounded by all my stuffed toys and picture books, my drawings from kindergarten neatly taped to the walls with Magic ©Scotch tape that won't tear the wallpaper when you take it off, and also my name in wooden letters on wheels — S — O — L — which my mom painstakingly covered with gold leaf so it would shine and shine. My computer allows me to play games all by myself because I don't have any brothers and sisters which is the main reason my parents bought it for me, so I wouldn't feel lonely. I can play Scrabble and checkers, snakes-and-ladders, and a bunch of idiotic little computer games for kids, where you get to shoot people who are climbing up the walls of buildings and watch them tumble to the ground and then you get a point, or whatever. But given that my room is right next to my parents' room, and given that I've got perfect control of my body and can walk on tiptoe without making a sound, it's a cinch for me to slip into Mom's computer while she's doing the housework downstairs and get on Google and learn about what's happening in the real world.

My mind is huge. As long as I keep my body clean and the food circulating correctly, I can process any amount of information, I can be President Bush and God combined, guzzling google. Dad told me the word googol used to mean the biggest number you could imagine — one followed by a hundred zeros — but now it's pretty much the same thing as infinity. You just have to download and you can get the girls being raped or screwed in the anus by horses or dogs or whatever else you want, click click click, with animal cum dripping out of their mouths which are half-smiling. Mom almost never uses her computer and also she sings as she does the vacuuming so how could she possibly hear me clicking with my right hand on the mouse as I put my left hand on my crotch and start to rub. My mind is racing my stomach is almost empty I'm an exciting machine. I'm not allowed to but it's easy to be two people a thousand people plus all the animals, everything will be fine as long as it's carefully controlled and timed and structured.

did Dad ...?

good thing I'm a boy

The corpses of Iraqi soldiers lying in the sand is one of my favourite things to click on. It's a whole slide show. Sometimes you can't even tell what body parts you're looking at. Torsos maybe? Or legs? They're sort of wrapped in rips and strips of clothing and they're lying in the sand, partially covered by the sand which has absorbed their blood, it's all very dry. You can see American soldiers standing around them, looking down at them and thinking There but for the grace of God ... was this a human being?

When I was really little and my dad worked right nearby in Lodi, at a job that didn't have as good a salary but didn't take as long to commute to, he used to sing to me at bedtime, giving me a paddle-whacking like his father used to give to him. Now I'm usually asleep by the time he gets home so he doesn't sing to me anymore but I know he still loves me as much as before and he's just working so hard to keep us up with a good standard of living and be able to meet the mortgage payments for a two- garage house in one of the cushiest real estates in the country. Mom says this is something to be proud of, even if I miss those bedtimes with my dad.

Anyway one of my favourite songs he used to sing was called 'Dry Bones':

E-ze-kiel cried, 'Dem dry bones'!
E-ze-kiel cried, 'Dem dry bones'!
E-ze-kiel cried, 'Dem dry bones'!
Oh hear the word of the Lord The foot bone connected to the — leg bone,
The leg bone connected to the — knee bone,
The knee bone connected to the — thigh bone

He'd go paddle-whacking all the way up my body in semi-tones, then all the way down again. I used to love it, and I always think about that song when I see the dead Iraqi soldiers or the photographs of people sliced in two by a car accident, like wow, this is not reparable, not even by God when they get to heaven, you know what I mean? This torso is — all alone. This leg bone is connected to — nothing at all. It's pretty scary because when you're little and you watch old-fashioned cartoons on TV, you see characters like Tom and Jerry or Bugs Bunny or the Roadrunner getting crushed by heavy stones, whammed and blammed by cement mixers, sliced and diced by electric fans, or plummeting down cliffsides and splatting flat as pancakes on the highway, and then a couple of seconds later they're all in one piece again and ready to go on to their next adventure. But with those Iraqi soldiers you can really tell there are no more adventures in store.


Excerpted from "Fault Lines"
by .
Copyright © 2006 Nancy Houston.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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