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Stella Maris
Cover of Stella Maris
Stella Maris
The best-selling, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Road returns with the second volume of The Passenger series: Stella Maris is an intimate portrait of grief and longing, as a young woman in a psychiatric facility seeks to understand her own existence.

1972, BLACK RIVER FALLS, WISCONSIN: Alicia Western, twenty years old, with forty thousand dollars in a plastic bag, admits herself to the hospital. A doctoral candidate in mathematics at the University of Chicago, Alicia has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and she does not want to talk about her brother, Bobby. Instead, she contemplates the nature of madness, the human insistence on one common experience of the world; she recalls a childhood where, by the age of seven, her own grandmother feared for her; she surveys the intersection of physics and philosophy; and she introduces her cohorts, her chimeras, the hallucinations that only she can see. All the while, she grieves for Bobby, not quite dead, not quite hers. Told entirely through the transcripts of Alicia’s psychiatric sessions, Stella Maris is a searching, rigorous, intellectually challenging coda to The Passenger, a philosophical inquiry that questions our notions of God, truth, and existence.
The best-selling, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Road returns with the second volume of The Passenger series: Stella Maris is an intimate portrait of grief and longing, as a young woman in a psychiatric facility seeks to understand her own existence.

1972, BLACK RIVER FALLS, WISCONSIN: Alicia Western, twenty years old, with forty thousand dollars in a plastic bag, admits herself to the hospital. A doctoral candidate in mathematics at the University of Chicago, Alicia has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and she does not want to talk about her brother, Bobby. Instead, she contemplates the nature of madness, the human insistence on one common experience of the world; she recalls a childhood where, by the age of seven, her own grandmother feared for her; she surveys the intersection of physics and philosophy; and she introduces her cohorts, her chimeras, the hallucinations that only she can see. All the while, she grieves for Bobby, not quite dead, not quite hers. Told entirely through the transcripts of Alicia’s psychiatric sessions, Stella Maris is a searching, rigorous, intellectually challenging coda to The Passenger, a philosophical inquiry that questions our notions of God, truth, and existence.
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About the Author-
  • The novels of the American writer, Cormac McCarthy, have received a number of literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His works adapted to film include All the Pretty Horses, The Road, and No Country for Old Men—the latter film receiving four Academy Awards, including the award for Best Picture.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    May 1, 2022

    National treasure McCarthy returns with a two-volume work being released over two months. In The Passenger, opening in 1980 Mississippi, a salvage diver now fears the water's depths and a conspiracy he doesn't understand, wishing he were dead yet not at peace with God. In Stella Maris, Alicia Western, a 20-year-old doctoral candidate in mathematics at the University of Chicago, checks into a hospital in 1972 Wisconsin after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and wonders at our insistence on shared experience, shot through with the beauties of physics and philosophy, while fearing for a brother beyond her reach.

    Copyright 2022 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 11, 2022
    McCarthy’s underwhelming companion piece to The Passenger, set eight years earlier, in 1972, begins with a one-paragraph case file for 20-year-old PhD candidate Alicia Western. Alicia, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, has been dropped off at Stella Maris, a psychiatric hospital in rural Wisconsin, with over $40,000 in cash. What follows is a series of conversations between Alicia and her psychiatrist, Dr. Cohen, written like a play but with no exposition, stage directions, or dialogue tags. The subjects include mathematics, quantum mechanics, music theory, and obscure philosophy. Before Alicia arrived at Stella Maris, her Formula 1 driver brother, Bobby Western, had a crash during a race that put him into a coma. She’s in love with Bobby, but refuses to talk about him with Cohen until the third act. There are scraps of humor (“Mathematics is ultimately a faith-based initiative. And faith is an uncertain business,” Alicia tells Cohen), though not much tension, as the reader already knows how things will end (Alicia’s body is discovered on the first page of The Passenger). McCarthy has swum in these waters before, and with more impressive strokes. Strangely, The Passenger offers a more successful ending to the story of Alicia and Bobby. Though this volume feels extraneous, McCarthy diehards will still flock to it.

  • Kirkus

    August 15, 2022
    A companion to McCarthy's The Passenger that both supplements and subverts it. Alice Western--now known as Alicia, her birth certificate changed via her brother's counterfeiter pal, John Sheddan--is a brilliant mathematician, at work on a doctorate even as a teenager. Her mind has melted, though. In this series of dialogues with a psychiatrist, she reveals herself to be thoroughly self-aware: "Mental illness is an illness. What else to call it? But it's an illness associated with an organ that might as well belong to Martians for all our understanding of it." Still, the seemingly very real friend she calls the Thalidomide Kid turns out to be one of many hallucinations that show up to keep Alicia company--an interesting turn, since it seems the Kid also visited her brother, Bobby, in the predecessor novel. Is Bobby's life also a hallucination, a dream? Perhaps, for Alicia suggests that Bobby may still be lying in a coma following an auto-racing accident in Italy. For Alicia, just 20 years old, mathematics is both a defense and a curse, something she's given up--not easily, for, as she tells Dr. Cohen, "I think maybe it's harder to lose just one thing than to lose everything." One thing that does seem to be uncomfortably real is her incestuous relationship with Bobby, which she reveals to Dr. Cohen in small, enigmatic bits seeded with defiant assertions that her conscience is untroubled: "I knew that I would love him forever. In spite of the laws of Heaven." Some of her defenses melt a little toward the end, when, having revealed some of the cracks in her psyche, she asks Dr. Cohen to hold her hand--because, McCarthy writes in a characteristically gnomic phrase, "that's what people do when they're waiting for the end of something." A grand puzzle, and grandly written at that, about shattered psyches and illicit dreams.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    October 15, 2022
    Schizophrenic genius and math prodigy Alicia Western, introduced in McCarthy's novel The Passenger (2022), in which she existed mainly on the periphery, here gets the starring role. Alicia has voluntarily admitted herself into Stella Maris, a facility for the care of psychiatric patients. Capable of understanding, even elucidating the most complex mathematical models, Alicia's brilliance remains undiminished, though her hallucinations have become more pronounced (the lead-in to each chapter in The Passenger describes a different hallucination of Alicia's). The format of Stella Maris is as bold as it is simple, consisting entirely of the conversations Alicia has with her doctor at the facility. Few authors would attempt to present the dialogue of a math genius, yet McCarthy clearly knows his way around Fermat's Theorem. McCarthy demonstrates a unique ability to discuss complex mathematical and philosophical content in literary prose that somehow braids the two cultures. Alicia is a complex and compelling character, who reminds us that the word prodigy comes from the Latin word for monster while she also plumbs her own subconscious. Pair with The Passenger for an optimal reading experience.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With the earlier release of McCarthy's The Passenger, readers will be primed for this related tale.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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