book cover of The Last Language

The Last Language

A novel by

From Jennifer duBois, “one of a handful of living American novelists who can comprehend both the long arc of history and the minute details that animate it” (Karan Mahajan) and “a writer of thrilling psychological precision” (Justin Torres), comes a spellbinding new novel.

A few months after the death of her husband, Angela is ejected from her doctoral program in linguistics at Harvard University. Spinning and raw, and with few other options, the young widow and her four-year-old daughter move into her mother’s house in Medford, Massachusetts.

Trained with an understanding of spoken language as the essential foundation of thought, Angela finds underpaid work at the Center, a fledgling organization that is developing an experimental therapy aimed at helping nonverbal patients with motor impairments. Through the Center, Angela begins to work closely with Sam, a twenty-seven-year-old patient who has been confined to his bedroom for the majority of his life. Following some faltering steps, Sam takes to the technology, proving to be not just literate but literary, and charming. Angela is initially stunned, then drawn intensely to Sam, and they develop an intimate relationship.

When their secret is discovered, Sam’s family intervenes and brings charges. As Angela tells her story in the form of an unrepentant plea addressed from prison to her beloved, we are plunged into a Nabokovian hall of mirrors in which it is hard to know whom or what to believe. Is this a haunting story of doomed love, a manipulative account of pitiful self-delusion, or, as the state has charged, a criminal assault of a victim who doesn’t have the agency or intelligence required of a willing participant in a love affair?

Provocative and profound in its exploration of what makes us human, this is an extraordinary novel from one of our most acclaimed contemporary writers.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"The Last Language is an absorbing, propulsive, compelling read, a breathless confession full of nuanced complexities surrounding morality and communication and power and love. I was drawn immediately into this book and raced through it, completely absorbed in Angela and Sam's story, right to the finish line. I mourned it when it was over. Another stunner from Jennifer duBois." - Lydia Conklin

"In her brilliant novel The Last Language, Jennifer duBois deftly examines the very foundation of consciousness while rendering an exquisitely multilayered love story. Equal parts grace and wit, compassion and erudition, this marvel of a book frequently astonishes with its piercing insight. A provocative, devastating masterpiece." - James Han Mattson

"A novel of razor-sharp intelligence and devastating emotional power, The Last Language asks how and whether we can ever truly understand each other. DuBois's fierce and witty writing illuminates every page as her characters explore the possibilities and limits of human communication, empathy, and love." - Anna North

"The Last Language explores how language can both create our reality and utterly fail to capture it. As we fall deeply into the mind of the narrator, with her brilliance, humor, and humanity, duBois masterfully allows us to live in the ambiguities that the characters fiercely reject. A hauntingly beautiful, darkly comic, and unforgettable novel." - Stacey Swann

"A writer of thrilling psychological precision." - Justin Torres

"The Last Language is, depending on how you read it, a tragic romance, a manic chronicle of self-deception, or a knife fight with Nabokov - in any case it's a masterpiece. No one writes with more care and less pity than Jennifer duBois, whose depth of knowledge and insight into other people's minds is boundless." - Tony Tulathimutte

"The Last Language left me heartbroken and shaken - adjectives that I reserve for some of my favorite novels. In an emotionally fraught narrative with a solid nod to Humbert Humbert, Angela, our imprisoned narrator, tells the tale of her facilitated communication work with twenty-eight-year-old Sam, with detours and asides that bring forth the book's many complex ethical, philosophical, and linguistic questions. I will be thinking about this book for a long, long time." - Esmé Weijun Wang

Visitors also looked at these books

Used availability for Jennifer duBois's The Last Language

About Fantastic Fiction       Information for Authors