Music, war, and imperial ambition touch three lives in this intricately woven story.
“Darkly evocative . . . the book has a prismlike quality; each story makes us see the city from a different but overlapping perspective.” —Philadelphia Inquirer
World-renowned composer and Holocaust survivor Lajos Harkályi has returned to Hungary to debut his final opera and share his mother’s parting gift, the melody from a lullaby she sang as he was forced to leave his Hungarian home for the infamous Czech concentration camp Terezín.
Private First Class Jonathan “Brutus” Gibson is being blackmailed by his commanding officer at the US Army base in Hungary, one of the infamous black-sites of the global War on Terror, and he must decide between going AWOL or risking his life to make an illegal firearms deal in Budapest.
Aspiring musician Melanie Scholes is preparing for the most important performance of her career as a violinist in Harkályi’s opera, but before she takes the stage she must extricate herself from a failing relationship and the inertia that threatens to consume her future.
As this book reaches a crescendo, their three stories achieve an alchemical harmony, reminding us that each individual has the spirit to contend with tyranny, apathy, and the brutal circularity of history.
Publisher’s Weekly Top 100 Books of 2010
The Millions’ 13 Most Underrated Books of 2010
“The variety of viewpoints and the author’s evident intimacy with an ancient foreign capital are promising, and Ervin makes it plain that he is taking on weighty themes: history, empire, race, the power of art.” —The New York Times
“Ervin keeps his emotionally and politically fraught setting animated, thanks largely to his skill at inhabiting each of his characters. . . . [Extraordinary Rendition’s] ending makes a poignant case for the power of art in an age of war.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Set in a madly grasping modern Budapest, literary critic Ervin’s debut mines very different ways of achieving personal and artistic freedom in three neatly polished, interlocking tales. . . .With dexterous sensibility and fluid prose, Ervin’s protagonists find liberation from the onerous strictures of Budapest’s Nazi and Communist past.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Andrew Ervin writes with an empathetic passion, near poetic words, daring politics, and a sensitive and mature grasp of his characters. This is a strong debut.” —Chris Abani
“I can’t decide what amazes me most about this book: the confident, muscular beauty of Andrew Ervin’s writing; the breadth of his imagination; or the depth and diversity of his profoundly engaging characters. Again and again, though the force of the narrative drove me relentlessly onward, I would stop simply to marvel. Extraordinary Renditions is an extraordinary debut.” —Julia Glass
“Through the eyes of three outsiders, Extraordinary Renditions takes the reader deep into the heart of Budapest, both its past and present. The whole city is here, the banks of the Danube brimming with history, intrigue, art, food, drink, and most important of all, music. His characters may be lost—even the one native is a foreigner—but Andrew Ervin is a sharp-eyed, sure-handed guide.” —Stewart O’Nan
“This tautly plotted, richly detailed trio of linked stories documents, with devastating and blackly comic ardor, the impossibility of simple morality in the rapidly aging era of terror. With Philadelphia and Budapest as his unlikely anchors, Andrew Ervin gives us crooked military men, postmodern artists, marauding skinheads and concert musicians, all rendered in nimble prose that never fails to shock and delight. An awesome debut.” —J. Robert Lennon
“There is a striking moral clarity—a certainty even to the questions the work poses—evidenced as these narratives ponder the long-form’s grand themes. Being. Music. War. Love. Extraordinary Renditions’ clear tenor hearkens the ancient masters of the novel in the most sublime way, even as it points toward that which is post-mastery.” —Bayo Ojikutu
“[Ervin’s] decision-making as an author is exceedingly mature, particularly in his pacing, as he smoothly weaves these separate stories into a single narrative of courage and transformation and the different shapes they take. He is keenly aware of his form and its challenges, and he guides us seamlessly to the heart of each story and the novel as a whole: how one fights oppressive and unjust forces. . . . For those especially interested in the subjects of music and war, love and injustice, Extraordinary Renditions is a novel that should not be missed. For those beginning to lose sight and sympathy for their neighbors, Ervin’s writing could be the very melody that reminds them of the indisputable connectedness we share.” —Mid-American Review