One of O, the Oprah Magazine, Refinery29, and The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of 2021
"A sprawling, captivating story of identity, displacement, family, and belonging, Thomas Grattan's debut novel is at turns heart-breaking and life-affirming, a necessary reminder of the different ways we can find, or create, a home for ourselves." --Refinery29
An extraordinary family saga following a mother and two teens as they navigate a new life in East Germany
Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Beate Haas, who defected from East Germany as a child, is notified that her parents’ abandoned mansion is available for her to reclaim. Newly divorced and eager to escape her bleak life in upstate New York, where she moved as an adult, she arrives with her two teenagers to discover a city that has become an unrecognizable ghost town. The move fractures the siblings’ close relationship, as Michael, free to be gay, takes to looting empty houses and partying with wannabe anarchists, while Adela, fascinated with the horrors of the Holocaust, buries herself in books and finds companionship in a previously unknown cousin. Over time, the town itself changes—from dismantled city to refugee haven and neo-Nazi hotbed, and eventually to a desirable seaside resort town. In the midst of that change, two episodes of devastating, fateful violence come to define the family forever.
Moving seamlessly through decades and between the thoughts and lives of several unforgettable characters, Thomas Grattan’s spellbinding novel is a multigenerational epic that illuminates what it means to leave home, and what it means to return. Masterfully crafted with humor, gorgeous prose, and a powerful understanding of history and heritage, The Recent East is the profoundly affecting story of a family upended by displacement and loss, and the extraordinary debut of an empathetic and ambitious storyteller.
"A sprawling, captivating story of identity, displacement, family, and belonging, Thomas Grattan's debut novel is at turns heart-breaking and life-affirming, a necessary reminder of the different ways we can find, or create, a home for ourselves . . . The novel goes back and forth in time, offering a fascinating, clear-eyed view of the quickly changing landscape of Germany in the late 20th century, but what it does best of all is show the ways in which we are all of us, always, searching to better understand who we are, and how we fit into an ever-changing world." --Kristen Iversen, Refinery29
"[A] striking and surprising debut . . . At turns funny and frightening, this is a moving, memorable portrait of a family and town in turmoil." --Publishers Weekly
"Grattan is a graceful writer and keen observer of family dynamics; the domestic themes, realist style, and emphasis on German culture can’t help but recall Jonathan Franzen . . . An ambitious, artful, and winding tale of a family in search of its moorings." --Kirkus
"I fell in love with The Recent East, which is absolutely spellbinding. Thomas Grattan’s writing on family, displacement, and queerness is so well wrought, intimate, and mesmerizing. This is an exquisite and profound novel. I will be pushing it in the hands of everyone I know." --Etaf Rum, author of A Woman is No Man
"Between life and death, as The Recent East would have it, we move 'from place to memory.' This remarkably humane first novel manages the quantum feat of restoring Cold War-era Germany to both categories at once. Its powerful intelligence and crystalline observations revive a set of memories - the late '60s, the early '90s - touched with a bygone world's Ostalgie. Yet in his enormous sensitivity, his feel for character, and his wry humor, Thomas Grattan also pins down precisely our own contentious place in history - our own riven and intimate selves. All in all: Ein Wunder!" --Garth Risk Hallberg, author of City on Fire
"Thomas Grattan explores the complex forces at work within families, forces that can both impede and facilitate the formation of individual identity. In this multi-generational, multi-continent journey, the threads of a family fray and interweave against the backdrop of immigration and political change, yielding moments of profound isolation and profound intimacy. Grattan has an enthralling voice and a deep understanding of the subtleties of human relationships. The Recent East is a bold and tender debut." --Helen Phillips, author of The Need
"An epic that blossoms more than sprawls, The Recent East is capacious in its scope and generously, exquisitely controlled in its pacing and language. This is not a novel that falls through on its promises; every sentence renews the possibility of entering the world of this book, every page offers a new seduction." --Jordy Rosenberg, author of Confessions of the Fox