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The Flame Alphabet

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


In The Flame Alphabet, the most maniacally gifted writer of our generation delivers a novel about how far we will go in order to protect our loved ones.
The sound of children's speech has become lethal. In the park, adults wither beneath the powerful screams of their offspring. For young parents Sam and Claire, it seems their only means of survival is to flee from their daughter, Esther. But they find it isn't so easy to leave someone you love, even as they waste away from her malevolent speech. On the eve of their departure, Claire mysteriously disappears, and Sam, determined to find a cure for this new toxic language, presses on alone into a foreign world to try to save his family.

From Publishers Weekly

Sep 26, 2011 – Language kills in Marcus s audacious new work of fiction, a richly allusive look at a world transformed by a new form of illness. Outside Rochester, N.Y., Sam and Claire are a normal Jewish couple with a sullen teenage daughter, Esther. But Esther and other Jewish children begin to speak a toxic form of language, potentially deadly to adults: with the Esther toxicity... in high flower, Sam watches in horror as the disease spreads to children of other religions, quarantine zones are imposed, and Claire sickens to the point of death. Heeding the advice of enigmatic prophet LeBov, Sam manufactures his own homemade defenses against his daughter s speech. But he and Claire are soon forced to abandon Esther in order to save themselves. The novel s first part plays like The Twilight Zone as a normal community becomes exposed to this mysterious infection. The second part reads like a Kafkaesque nightmare as Sam, separated from Claire, winds up in an isolated research facility, where he is put to work creating a new language that will be immune from the virus. The third part finds Sam living in the woods near his home, where he becomes a haunted creature out of a Yiddish folk tale. Marcus (Notable American Women) proves equally inspired in sketching Sam s underground religion of forest Jews who pray in individual huts and receive sermons via a special gelpack called a listener. Although characterization plays second fiddle to vision here, in LeBov, a silver-tongued, authoritarian, flimflam man, Marcus has retooled a classic American archetype. Biblical in its Old Testament sense of wrath, Marcus s novel twists America s quotidian existence into something recognizable yet wholly alien to our experience.

Customer Reviews

The Flame Alphabet

This was possibly the most disturbing book I have read.
Each of us has his own nightmares, usually kept to ourselves, however it is apparent that Ben Marcus has no compunction against divulging his personal demons.
The premise of the novel, the destruction of language as it has become toxic is an oxymoron, contradicting the storyline. It is only through employing language that Mr. Marcus disseminates his story.
I was disturbed by the allusion to Jews being sought, put into camps, experimented upon, and being blamed for the virus which was spreading through the land. The much used and misused idea that Jews posses some higher and esoteric knowledge was equally disturbing.
The novel begins with a nuclear family in which their child, the love for their child and their need to be lived by their child has become extreme.
We have all experienced the loss of a loved one. The physical death or emotional separation from ones children is universal. In this story, however, the general population seems driven to any extreme for the mere possibility of once again experiencing
contact with their children, who by the way are toxic both incidentally as well as overtly damaging to all adults and especially to their own parents.
Most troubling was the reference to Jews who were believed to possess some occult knowledge which might be useful to the survival of non-Jews. The description of the torture and experimentation they were willing to endure for the possibility of catching a glimpse of their child was too painful to even read.
This was horror of the worse kind to me. It reawakened the images of the Holocaust and especially the willingness of people to allow themselves to be mistreated for the distant possibility of a reward.
The destructive power of language, the toxicity of speech was secondary to the social commentary on scapegoating.

This was a dark and disturbing book that I wish I had not read.

Unlike Anything Else

This novel is truly unlike any other I have read. It kept me up late at night and had me waking up early just to fit reading time in my busy schedule.

Not rhe book I expected...

Thought it would focus more on the power of language. Not my kind of book.

The Flame Alphabet
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary
  • Published: Jan 17, 2012
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings