Read A Stranger on the Planet by Adam Schwartz Online


In the summer of 1969, twelve-year-old Seth lives with his unstable mother, Ruth, and his brother and sister in a two-bedroom apartment in New Jersey. His father lives with his new wife in a ten-room house and has no interest in Seth and his siblings. Seth is dying to escape from his mother’s craziness and suffocating love, her marriage to a man she’s known for two weeks,In the summer of 1969, twelve-year-old Seth lives with his unstable mother, Ruth, and his brother and sister in a two-bedroom apartment in New Jersey. His father lives with his new wife in a ten-room house and has no interest in Seth and his siblings. Seth is dying to escape from his mother’s craziness and suffocating love, her marriage to a man she’s known for two weeks, and his father’s cold disregard.   Over the next four decades, Seth becomes the keeper of his family’s memories and secrets. At the same time, he emotionally isolates himself from all those who love him, especially his mother. But Ruth is also Seth’s muse, and this enables him to ultimately find redemption, for both himself and his family....

Title : A Stranger on the Planet
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781569478691
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Stranger on the Planet Reviews

  • Jill
    2019-02-05 11:31

    If there were a family lottery, Seth Shapiro would have been a loser. His mother is cloying if not well meaning, with cringe-worthy observations like, “Oh, look, you have pubic hair, too! So does your sister.” His father is married to the stepmother-from-hell, Hortense, who fine-tuned her mothering techniques from Mommie Dearest. His brother Seamus has gone Orthodox on him. And his sister Sarah pretends that she is a virgin so her mother won’t pry into her personal life. No wonder he’s constantly on a search to look for another family to belong to!If this reminds you a little of, say, Jonathan Tropper – well, it’s meant to. It’s Jewish-American humor that’s often belly-laughing funny and sometimes strikes close to home. Indeed, the entire first part of the novel – Seth’s coming-of-age – is as if J.D. Salinger and the aforementioned Tropper collaborated to come up with a needy and endearing Jewish anti-hero.As a teenager and college student, Seth gets his meaning in life from books. At one point, he muses about an impending talk to the college dean of admissions, “How could I explain to him that nothing felt real to me except the novels I read – not the other books I was supposed to read for school, not the grades I received, not the things I said to people – that something was always lost in translation between my feelings and actions, that, except for books, everything about my life felt alien to me.” Seth ends up losing himself in books and his own writing; a short story he writes called “A Stranger In The Planet” is acknowledged by those close to him as being literary genius, finally affirming him.As Seth grows up – if one can truly call it growing up – he remains largely stunted, wishing his father would provide him with affirmation, getting involved – and withholding intimacy – with women that range from a best friend who has just come out to a beautiful adult orphan of Irish descent who yearns to complete a family she never had.But the blunt adolescent hero is a little less successful as a protagonist as an adult. His emotional isolation tends to distance the reader as well. Some of the psychological insights begin to feel a little bit pat: “I had always been too cautious to embrace what I most wanted; I had always played the odds in life.” The last third feels a little overwrought and moves a tad from the caustic wit of the first part.On additional problem: there is much made of the short story, which is revealed to the reader in the last 20 pages or so in the book. At that point, expectations are very high: we’re told the story has traces of Saul Bellow, it’s been solicited by a literary publication, his family is over-the-moon about it. No short story can live up to that much hype and this one is rather stilted. it would have been better if Adam Schwartz had simply left it to the reader’s imagination.That being said, Adam Schwartz is an author who bears watching; an author with the talent to keep the reader turning pages. There’s a quirky humor and some very fine scenes that promise a great future for him.

  • switterbug (Betsey)
    2019-01-25 15:28

    This fictional and comical memoir about a Jewish man's youth and his family grabs you right away, maintaining a galloping pace from start to finish. The marathon rhythm and gonzo narrative gets you through the first, rather (too) earnest and overeager pages, and before long you are installed in a compulsively readable, page-turning story that is endearing and funny.Seth Shapiro is an aspiring writer from a family that puts the dis in dysfunction. His parents divorced when he was very young, and his father essentially abandoned the family for a new one--with a repressed and cruel French wife. Lots of angst and abandonment issues there. Seth is close to his twin sister, Sarah, but not so much with his younger brother, Seamus, who found solace in religion and ritual.Seth, Sarah, and Seamus live with their mood-shifting mother, Ruth, who fails to edit herself or her feelings, often causing a bit of a role reversal with her kids. When she drinks, take cover. Ruth denigrates their father at every opportunity, but Seth is determined to win back his love, anyway.Seth's hero is Saul Bellow, who is a distinct model for Adam Schwartz's writing style. There are also hints of Philip Roth, Jonathan Tropper, and Woody Allen--a pastiche of Jewish humorists and writers. (There is also a whiff of Brock Clarke.) While still in high school, Seth garners praise for a story, which helps his acceptance into the University of Chicago.While in college, Seth writes a story called "A Stranger on the Planet," a fictionalization of his hapless and battered family life, which earns him high praise from an esteemed literature professor and a scholarly award.Herein lies the problem. Although Schwartz's novel is a crackling good read, his eponymous story within the story is a big letdown. This is Seth's prize-winning bildungsroman, also a fictionalized memoir, yet it was actually stilted, amateurish, and ungainly. I was not convinced that any luminaries from the scholarly university would praise it. It shrank the triumph of the book for me and squandered some of its essence.In retrospect, I am able to regain much of that lost essence, as it was a wild ride with many moving, primordial events and memorably rich characters. The love of Seth's life, Rachel, is a compendium of touching cross-purposes and levity, and his relationship with Sarah has that Jewish brother-sister realism (that I can relate to!). The dynamics between Seth and Ruth were the most captivating of all, a Freudian roller coaster of a ride.Although I assigned four stars to Schwartz's debut novel, I highly recommend it for lovers of Jewish familial stories and turbo comic humor. It is a swift read--two or three sittings, and never dull. There is also a very intriguing dissection on the craft of writing, woven into the story organically. Schwartz is an author on the rise, and a few missteps are forgivable.

  • Anita Pomerantz
    2019-01-20 12:04

    I really enjoyed this tale narrated by a Jewish child of divorce whose mother is a bit crazy and whose father is distant. What it hard for me to discern is if anyone else would like it. I am Jewish. And, I'm a child of divorce. So it is easy for me to relate to Seth on so many levels.Schwartz's writing style is really strong; I found his voice to be engaging, original, and witty. He really portrays his characters in all three dimensions. That being said, the story really hinges on that character development and the plot is quite secondary. Stuff happens, but it really isn't the type of plotline that creates suspense in and of itself. It's more as though you feel the needs and desires of the characters so deeply that you just have to find out what happens to them.As a total aside: Apparently, the author of this book teaches at my alma mater. I had no idea, but one of my close college friends was on the faculty, and she was excited when she saw I read his book on Facebook. Small world really. I am quite tempted to write him a fan email, lol.

  • Hyeon
    2019-02-04 14:24

    90% of the book was amazing, it was funny, honest, unique and original. It was far from typical stories. It's about a jewish guy and about his life and his family problems. But it's told in a absolutly interesting way. There weren't any times that I wanted skip few pages<But....maybe it's because I wasn't forcused but last 8% of the book seems to dread a bit and was bit boring. Anyhow, it's so much better than some crap typical books that the Library is full of. I'd definately look foward to reading more books like this.

  • J. Cafesin
    2019-02-09 18:30

    I screwed up. I hurt the author with my last review, so I've changed it up. Same message, but less...hurtful, hopefully. Sorry Adam!Adam Schwartz writes cleanly and competently throughout this work, but it seems to have a lot of exposition and not so much dialog. What dialog there is often seemed to me to be flat, stilted, even with seemingly intimate exchanges.The main character, Seth, came across to me as self-absorbed, rather ungracious, angry, and disappointed at everyone but himself most of the time. His rare self-glimpses of his own fragility seem mild and forgiving while he holds his mother in contempt after she basically gave her life to raise him, his father in contempt for siding with his new wife instead of his son, his younger brother in contempt for being religious...etc.The story moves through Seth's life from his first blow job through his failed marriage and so forth, but I care less and less about Seth while he leaves in his wake people he unwittingly (Seth seems clueless) slights. No offense to you, Adam. The writing is good. Clean. Clear. I just didn't care for the story. As a mom of two, and a partner/best friend to my DH, I guess I need kudos for my efforts in these roles, while I put myself on hold to tend to everyone's needs. Seth didn't seem to get that about his mom or most anyone in his life. But his resentment was always clear.j. cafesin

  • Vanessa
    2019-02-08 12:25

    Exciting! My old boss from the Wellesley Writing Department apparently just got his novel published. Better yet, it actually sounds like something I would otherwise like to read. It's neat when people you know do cool stuff. Update 3/26: Wow! This was some good stuff! Maybe my favorite since Skippy Dies. I was worried that I would think it was kind of mediocre and then wonder whether I should write a bad review of an author I like as a person, but fortunately I thought this book was fantastic. The only critique I can really muster is that I thought the seams did show a bit re: the fact that these were originally individual short stories that were then woven together into a novel. It made the jumps in time feel not so much like deliberate decisions about how the novel should flow overall as simply remnants of the way the short pieces were originally written. I could be wrong. It definitely still worked well, and, overall, decidedly excellent. I miss the characters already.

  • Meredith Barnes
    2019-02-10 16:12

    This Soho title slipped under my radar when I started working here, but boy am I glad I took it on vacay with me. Not only did it make a great beach read (in Australia!!) but it also surprised me. A lot.I was expecting your typical literary fiction. But this book is exemplary in bringing to the table what I find so often lacking in lit fic: a plot. A really good one. One that bends so many rules--time jumping, multiple "Is this the end???" moments, etc.A MUST READ if you're looking to write lit fic and want to know how to achieve the holy grail of making it marketable, too. As an ex-agent, I beg of you on behalf of my colleagues. :)

  • George Ilsley
    2019-01-24 13:10

    Perhaps because I had read the credits and saw that chunks had been previously published over the years, I viewed this book as linked stories rather than a novel. It does feel that something is missing, but perhaps it is the same something that people in the book feel is missing from the central character. The smoothness of the story-telling is at odds with the big gaps in the text. Certainly I found myself less and less engaged, the more I read. The much-talked-about "fictional" piece at the end only serves as a reminder of how everything has become decidedly less interesting.

  • Jon
    2019-02-07 11:15

    I said in my review of The Lie, that it was the last book that I love, and that was a lie, fancy that.This book was. Having never been a huge Bellow fan, nor that big of a Roth fan, I've never really had a great Jewish novelist to call my own. Adam Schwartz feels like he should have been that novelist all along. Rather than re-review this book, you should check out my review of this on Jewcy.com

  • Ivy
    2019-01-30 11:28

    Quick-reading, rather sad, story about a dysfunctional family told from the point of view of the oldest son. I found the jumping back and forth in time somewhat confusing and I'm not sure what it added to the story. My husband liked this story a lot more than I did -- I think it might be more of a guy's book.

  • Michelle
    2019-01-21 11:26

    I prefer my coming of age novels to have a lot less sex than this one does.While at times I really felt for Seth and what he had to endure with his mother, his father, and his stepmother, I also just got tired of his inability to be a decent person every time it really mattered.Can't really recommend this one.

  • Vicki Jaeger
    2019-02-08 16:04

    Uggggghhhh. I wanted to feel empathy for the main character, and really wanted to stick with the book to see if he actually grew and learned by the end. But I just couldn't. Didn't like him, didn't like his siblings, parents, or anyone connected with him.Got through 50% of the book, and had to put myself out of my misery. Another advance reading copy fail.

  • Brian
    2019-01-17 16:11

    In this Jewish themed story, the narrator, Seth is a twin who comes from a neurotic Jewish mother who is divorced. The story starts when he is 12 and catapults itself several years. The story was both humorous and sad at the same time, with the first section making me laugh out loud. I read this book very quickly, but was gripped by the storyline, and found each section to be very enjoyable!

  • Kyle
    2019-01-24 13:10

    This is a very engaging book. The characters were well written and the style was interesting. The main character Seth derived empathy and his relationship with his family was frustrating to say the least. I would definitely recommend this book as a quick, engaging read.

  • Kevin
    2019-01-27 13:21

    A funny and honest story of growing up in a dysfunctional Jewish family and charting his subsequent romantic relationships. I wish more literary novels were as funny as this. Dialogue was really convincing too.

  • Wyatt
    2019-02-15 16:25

    I have many different feelings about this book. I was bored for the first quarter of it, and didn't really find his character descriptions or development all that compelling. But, then I got sucked into it, regardless of the cliches. In the end, I mostly liked it.

  • Curtis Edmonds
    2019-02-08 15:26

    My review at the Quivering Pen blog:

  • Beth
    2019-02-13 18:24

    good plotting and characters. "Jewish dysfunctionaol family." told from pov of oldest son (twin) comic