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The Limits

A novel by

The most thrilling work yet from the best-selling, prize-winning author of The Newlyweds and Lost and Wanted, a stunning new novel set in French Polynesia and New York City about three characters who undergo massive transformations over the course of a single year

“A big-hearted, tightly-plotted novel that bravely takes on our times by looking at the timeless stuff of human intimacy.
The Limits is an immersive and powerful book.”–Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind

From Mo’orea, a tiny volcanic island off the coast of Tahiti, a French biologist obsessed with saving Polynesia’s imperiled coral reefs sends her teenage daughter to live with her ex-husband in New York. By the time fifteen-year-old Pia arrives at her father Stephen’s luxury apartment in Manhattan and meets his new, younger wife, Kate, she has been shuttled between her parents’ disparate lives—her father’s consuming work as a surgeon at an overwhelmed New York hospital, her mother’s relentless drive against a ticking ecological clock—for most of her life. Fluent in French, intellectually precocious, moving between cultures with seeming ease, Pia arrives in New York poised for a rebellion, just as COVID sends her and her stepmother together into near total isolation. 

A New York City schoolteacher, Kate struggles to connect with a teenager whose capacity for destruction seems exceeded only by her privilege. Even as Kate fails to parent Pia—and questions her own ability to become a mother—one of her sixteen-year-old students is already caring for a toddler full time. Athyna’s love for her nephew, Marcus, is a burden that becomes heavier as she struggles to finish her senior year online. Juggling her manifold responsibilities, Athyna finds herself more and more anxious every time she leaves the house. Just as her fear of what is waiting for her outside her Staten Island community feels insupportable, an incident at home makes her desperate to leave.

When their lives collide, Pia and Athyna spiral toward parallel but inescapably different tragedies. Moving from a South Pacific “paradise,” where rage still simmers against the colonial government and its devastating nuclear tests, to the extreme inequalities of twenty-first century New York City,
The Limits is an unforgettably moving novel about nation, race, class, and family. Heart-wrenching and humane, a profound work from one of America’s most prodigiously gifted novelists.

Genre: Historical

Praise for this book

"A big-hearted, tightly-plotted novel that bravely takes on our times--from Covid-19 to climate change--by looking at the timeless stuff of human intimacy. Nell Freudenberger writes beautifully about the bonds between people: parents and children, lovers and exes, even strangers. The Limits is an immersive and powerful book." - Rumaan Alam

"Freudenberger's exceptional skills as a novelist, her seamless prose and formidable intelligence, are on full display in The Limits. A novel about privilege and precarity, isolation and trauma, it is also a story of tenderness, love, and ultimately, hope." - Katie Kitamura

"Nell Freudenberger proves yet again a masterful novelist, deftly painting her characters' interwoven lives against the backdrop of our tumultuous times. Rich, nuanced and compelling, The Limits is a deeply satisfying novel." - Claire Messud

"The Limits brilliantly renders the era of the pandemic, capturing how two families, in all their imperfections, try so valiantly to hold on to their loved ones in a difficult time. When you combine Freudenberger's meticulous research with her ability to portray our most complicated selves, the result is a novel that enlightens us in all the ways that truly matter. You will be transformed by this story." - Dolen Perkins-Valdez

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