Longlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel. A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice.
"A wonderful, immersive debut novel . . . in [Thomas] Grattan’s hands, life’s joys are magnetic." --Patrick Nathan, The New York Times Book Review
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.