A novel by Sam Savage

September 13, 2011 • 5 x 7.7 • 210 pages • 978-1-56689-273-5

From the acclaimed author of Firmin and The Cry of the Sloth—a widow, aging and alone, tells her side of the story.

Tasked with writing the preface to a reissue of her late husband’s long-out-of-print novel, Edna is unexpectedly asked to take care of a vacationing neighbor’s pet rat, an aquarium of fish, and an apartment full of potted plants. Sitting at her typewriter day after day, her mind drifts from one thing to another in a Proustian marathon of introspection. What eventually unfolds, as if by accident, is the story of a marriage and a portrait of a mind pushed to its limits. The reader is never quite certain if Edna’s preface is an homage to her late husband or an act of belated revenge. Is she the cultured and hypersensitive victim of a crass and brutally ambitious husband? Or was Clarence the long-suffering caretaker of a neurotic and delusional wife?

The unforgettable characters in Savage’s two hit novels Firmin and The Cry of the Sloth garnered worldwide critical acclaim. In Edna, once again Sam Savage has created a character marked by contradiction—simultaneously appealing and exasperating, comical and tragic.

About the Author

Sam Savage is the best-selling author of Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife, The Cry of the Sloth, Glass, and The Way of the Dog. A native of South Carolina, Savage holds a PhD in philosophy from Yale University. He was a finalist for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, the PEN L.L. Winship Award, and the Society of Midland Authors Award. Savage resides in Madison, Wisconsin.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


“An intriguing story. . . . Savage’s skill is in creating complex first-person characters using nothing but their own voice. . . . Edna’s voice, too, is unique and hypnotic, although it is full of evasions and omissions. She tells a difficult story: It is cold and critical, a fading picture in place of memory. Typically, memoir gives us the emotional high points, but Savage’s Edna inverts that: She writes loneliness and tedium, the bits and pieces that are hard to look at, or that typically wind up on the cutting room floor.” Los Angeles Times

“A dazzling, graceful novel. . . . Glass gives us both a life story told well and tantalizingly in unspooled snippets, and a thoughtful rumination on the nature of late-life reflection itself. . . . Note is usually made of Savage’s age upon the publication of his first novel in 2006: He was 65. But the layers of wisdom, the rapier honesty and the sheer intellectual rigor he displays in novels like Glass argue that seasoning may well trump youthful audacity in writing, perhaps the most cerebral of the arts.” Star Tribune

“Readers who don’t know that author Sam Savage (Firmin, The Cry of the Sloth) holds a PhD in philosophy from Yale until after they’ve read Glass will be unsurprised. The book, while a skilled piece of storytelling, reads like a philosophical exploration as much as anything else. . . . Glass is a fantastic experiment in perspective and an oddly memorable book.” January Magazine, Best of 2011

“Sam Savage creates some of the most original, unforgettable characters in contemporary fiction. . . . Now there’s Edna, the elderly widow in Glass whose ongoing, typewritten argument with her late husband, Clarence, a novelist, covers in painstaking detail the mundane particulars of a life while ultimately uncovering the transcendent power of art. . . . Readers are left with a voice so strong that Savage is able to derive significance from these events by sheer literary force.” Poets & Writers

“Introspection is at the heart of this new novel from Savage, which effectively defines that jewel of a word, velleity (the lowest level of compulsion to act, a slight impulse to do something). . . . Reading like an intersection between Samuel R. Delany’s The Motion of Light in Water and Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall in its take on the overriding truth of memory and the heroic task of solitude, this is an original and compelling book. Highly recommended.” Library Journal, starred review

“Savage is not interested in the linear unfolding of the events in Edna’s life but rather in the meanings that have accreted to them as she introspectively mulls them over and tries to make sense of things. . . . An engaging study of both the quirks and the depths of personality.” Kirkus

“Readers of Savage’s Firmin (2006) and Cry of the Sloth (2009) will come to this one with large expectations, and they won’t be disappointed. . . .  Savage’s decision to use the point of view of an unreliable narrator will capture the attention of readers of literary fiction. The wry, bizarre humor will keep it.” Booklist

“There is a ruddy and ribald wisdom at work [in Glass]. . . . If you’ve let Sam Savage take you on previous journeys, if you’ve enjoyed those journeys, I wholeheartedly recommend you let him take you on his latest flight of fancy.” Bookmunch

“Edna is hilarious, poetic, and heartbreaking, all without really trying to be. . . . The glimpses of her past life are so perfectly sculpted and are teeming with gorgeous language, and her humor that cuts them short is so precise and well-played.” Hazel & Wren

“Sam Savage’s exhilarating, often lilting use of language and his faultless characterization of the eccentric, unraveling of his main character, Edna, is evocative, poetic, and compelling.” New York Journal of Books

“On a craft level, Glass leaves several strong impressions, at least some of which other fiction writers and students of fiction writing may find instructive. . . . Savage’s skill in sustaining the reader’s attention through 200 pages of apparent stream-of-consciousness may be exemplary. . . . In a novel that essentially lacks a plot, he nonetheless creates one of the most intriguing stories—and one of the most vivid characters—that this reader has encountered this year.” The Writer

Glass transforms through Edna’s pathology (and Savage’s relentless vision) into a deeply felt exploration of memory, of what it means to outlive the sources of one’s suffering. . . . Here is where the novel shines: through a Beckettian obsession with precision of language, the tension between solipsism and longing becomes primal, and through Edna, Savage creates a world so small that his reader is forced to confront the very stitching that binds together its existence, frail as that is. . . . [Glass] is profound, and readers are ultimately rewarded with a nearly voyeuristic pleasure, watching as this human life unfolds, reluctantly, in all its tragic splendor.” BookPage

“The sharply drawn characters in Savage’s two previous works, Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife, which novel’s namesake is a rat, and The Cry of the Sloth received critical acclaim. He’s done it again with the at once appealing and irritating Edna, whose tragedy bites with cartoon fangs.” Denver Examiner

“Savage devotes much of Edna’s typing . . . to careful examinations of phrases, astute observations and literary references. . . . [Glass is] Sam Savage’s examination of the truth of memory, the effects of self-imposed solitude, and the churning verbal mechanics of writer’s mind.” Shelf Awareness

“One of the many accomplishments in this fine novel . . . is to make a reader come close to understanding the deadening sadness of [Edna’s] life, and potential fate, and, finally, feel sympathy for a character whose ways can be off-putting and obscure.” Requited Journal