Turbulence

Turbulence

by David Szalay

Hardcover

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Overview

**A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice**

From the acclaimed, Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author of All That Man Is, a stunning, virtuosic novel about twelve people, mostly strangers, and the surprising ripple effect each one has on the life of the next as they cross paths while in transit around the world.

A woman strikes up a conversation with the man sitting next to her on a plane after some turbulence. He returns home to tragic news that has also impacted another stranger, a shaken pilot on his way to another continent who seeks comfort from a journalist he meets that night. Her life shifts subtly as well, before she heads to the airport on an assignment that will shift more lives in turn.

In this wondrous, profoundly moving novel, Szalay’s diverse protagonists circumnavigate the planet in twelve flights, from London to Madrid, from Dakar to Sao Paulo, to Toronto, to Delhi, to Doha, en route to see lovers or estranged siblings, aging parents, baby grandchildren, or nobody at all. Along the way, they experience the full range of human emotions from loneliness to love and, knowingly or otherwise, change each other in one brief, electrifying interaction after the next.

Written with magic and economy and beautifully exploring the delicate, crisscrossed nature of relationships today, Turbulence is a dazzling portrait of the interconnectedness of the modern world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781982122737
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 07/16/2019
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 70,623
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

David Szalay is the author of Turbulence, Spring, The Innocent, London and the South-East, and All That Man Is. He’s been awarded the Gordon Burn Prize and The Paris Review Plimpton Prize for Fiction and has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Born in Canada, he grew up in London, and now lives in Budapest.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Turbulence includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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Introduction

In this wondrous, profoundly moving novel, Szalay’s diverse protagonists circumnavigate the planet in twelve flights, from London to Madrid, from Dakar to Sao Paulo, to Toronto, to Delhi, to Doha, en route to see lovers or estranged siblings, aging parents, baby grandchildren, or nobody at all. Along the way, they experience the full range of human emotions from loneliness to love and, knowingly or otherwise, change each other in one brief, electrifying interaction after the next.

Written with magic and economy and beautifully exploring the delicate, crisscrossed nature of relationships today, Turbulence is a dazzling portrait of the interconnectedness of the modern world.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Consider the following quote along with the title of the book: “What she hated about even mild turbulence was the way it ended the illusion of security, the way that it made it impossible to pretend that she was somewhere safe” (page 8). Other than the literal and physical connection to travel, what is Szalay suggesting metaphorically or thematically about the novel?

2. Despite the slimness of the novel, Turbulence features a large cast of characters, all on the precipice of life-altering moments. Discuss with your group how Szalay is able to establish a character in a complex emotional situation in just a few pages.

3. Consider the two quotes below and how they might be in conversation with one another: “the tightly packed fabric of the world seemed to loosen” (page 8) and “‘People have no sense of geography,’ the pilot said. ‘How the world fits together, you know’” (page 46).

4. Discuss with your group the importance of traveling. Have you ever had any memorable interactions with strangers while in transit?

5. The novel’s point of view is a close third person using the past tense. Discuss with your group how the novel might have been different if told in first person or in the present tense.

6. Szalay manages to seamlessly transition between different characters’ points of view. How is this achieved structurally? What is the impact emotionally?

7. Did you find yourself compelled by one character or story in particular or were you interested in all of them equally? Why or why not?

8. Consider this quote: “It was one of those events, she thought, that make us what we are, for ourselves and for other people. They just seem to happen, and then they’re there forever, and slowly we understand that we’re stuck with them, that nothing will ever be the same again” (page 57). How does this character’s philosophy and rumination fit into the novel as a whole?

9. Turbulence encourages the reader to consider the fragility of life and the inevitability of death. Discuss with your group what you think the novel was suggesting about these topics.

10. The twelve pieces that make up Turbulence were originally written to be read aloud on BBC Radio. Did you view these pieces as vignettes, short stories, or a novel? Discuss how one might identify or define each of these forms. How does our definition of what a book is or is not impact how we view or read a book?

11. Turbulence’s final chapter circles back to the beginning of the novel. Discuss why Szalay might have chosen this structure. What does this suggest thematically?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Turbulence utilizes airport codes to transition between pieces and physical locations. At what point did you understand this feature? Discuss with your group how many of the codes you knew or how many of the airports you have passed through.

2. Szalay is also the author of All That Man Is. Discuss his other work and how it fits in with Turbulence with your group.

3. In the final story, the main character notices a framed quote from John F. Kennedy’s 1963 “peace speech”: “For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal” (page 138). Listen to or read Kennedy’s full speech with your group and discuss this quote in relation to the book.

Customer Reviews

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Turbulence 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
ReadABookNow 7 days ago
Turbulence is a group of situational vignettes, each story grabbing the hand of the preceding one through a common character, until at last the book circles round back to the first. The stories span the globe, as one person in each flies to another country to weather bits of the human turbulence we experience in our lives. I thought this was a lovely book, cleverly written, but not in a flippant way. I liked the chapter titles; they were simply arrival and destination airport codes, showing locations where the characters began and where they went. The book was short; I finished it easily in a couple of hours, and I want to re-read it to uncover the nuances that I may have missed, and also just to absorb the characters a little more fully. I was taken by how much of life the author, David Szalay, was able to put into such a spare novel. The first and final chapters were even more intricate than I realized as I now think more about them, with the child-parent-child relationships the author ties together. Yes, I definitely will re-read this! Many thanks to NetGalley and Scribner for an ARC of the book in exchange for my honest review. 5 stars
MaryND 25 days ago
I loved the structure of this book of interconnected stories, linked by chance meetings between passengers on flights who keeping moving the novel along with them as they travel around the world. A woman who had been visiting her son in London flies back to her home in Madrid in the chapter entitled LGW-MAD after the airport codes for the flight. In the next chapter, MAD-DSS (Madrid to Dakar), her seat mate from that first flight is being chauffeured home from the airport by a driver who can’t bring himself to report some horrible news. That horrible news becomes more clear in Chapter 3, which takes us from Dakar to São Paulo, as a pilot trying to get to the airport for his flight to Brazil witnesses his taxi get involved in a terrible accident. And so on around the world until the novel eventually ends up with a flight back to London Gatwick. Along the way, Szalay introduces the reader to characters from different cultures and economic backgrounds, telling their stories in clean, clear prose. I hadn’t read any of David Szalay’s books before now but based on “Turbulence” will definitely be reading his backlist. Recommended. Many thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.
Rachel Bennett 25 days ago
I loved the way that the 12 short stories, or vignettes, in Szalay's Turbulence, were all interconnected. This is a short, but powerful, look at human relationships - we never know the impact we can have on the people that we meet, or the ways that we could be peripherally connected. This novel really takes the idea of "6 degrees of separation" and runs with it. I wouldn't consider this anything life changing, but the concept was so intriguing to me, and the execution so well done, that I am inclined to rate it high and recommend it to fans of literary fiction or books about humanity and human relationships. Thank you to Scribner and Netgalley for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
DeediReads 28 days ago
Rating: 4.5/5 This book was creative, and gripping, and just plain great writing. It’s not long; I read it in one evening. I hadn’t planned to, and it kept me up about two hours past my bedtime to do it. But I couldn’t resist. I felt like I got pulled into something that would break if I stopped in the middle. Turbulence is made up of 12 chapters — you might even see them as individual short stories — about 12 different characters and their ordinary, emotional lives. We start with a woman on a plane who is afraid to fly. She speaks to a man who heads home to some bad news. That bad news implicated the next man, a troubled pilot. And so on and so forth. Until we come — unbelievably, and yet how could it be any different — full circle. All the way around the world (literally) in 12 stories. In 12 people. The effect is this: We are all enduring something. You are never as far as you think from another person in this world, whether in connections, or in space, or in experience. We are all doing our best to live a life we love, alone and together. This one needs to rumble around in my brain a little more, I think. But it is welcome to do so.
kasacKC 28 days ago
Turbulence is a masterful string of pearls, each story connected to the former until they come full circle. Identified by the airport designation code as the chain makes its way around the world. Near the center, there is a profound sentence that encapsulates the entire sense of each story: "It was one of those events ... that make us what we are, for ourselves and for other people. They just seem to happen, and then they're there forever, and slowly we understand that we're stuck with them, that nothing will ever be the same again."
Jennifer Jones 29 days ago
There are just books that sometimes resonate with you and this was one of them for me. The stories in the book tie in with the characters in amazing and beautiful ways. This was a quick read, however an extremely powerful one. Thanks for the ARC, Net Galley. I will definitely be seeking more works from this author.
LyndaZ 30 days ago
After discovering author, David Szalay a couple of years ago, I was very excited to read his latest book, Turbulence. Twelve chapters are cleverly titled with departure and arrival airport codes. The first chapter lays the ground work of relating a story as to why the character has traveled to their destination. Each proceeding chapter builds on the story preceding it. Usually, a character has traveled by plane to get to a destination for a specific reason but once at their destination they are faced with tragedy, deception, infidelity and sadness making the stories a bit depressing. We see through the well written stories that, on every continent, humans share the same struggle, We are not so different after all. I was hoping the story would bring the characters full circle but instead we return to the airport where the book began which, in a sense, infers there will be more stories with each go round. Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and author for allowing me to read this e-ARC.
MarilynW-Reviewer 3 months ago
I wasn't sure how I would like a book had us meeting people for only a short time, before sending us off with another person for a short time, over and over again. But I really liked this book despite not getting to know more about each person and what would happen in their life after our brief meeting. I became so used to the structure of the book that I didn't want it to be over and wondered how I would feel when we'd come to end of our journey. The author did a good job of circling us to a conclusion that I felt gave me closure, despite there not being a real ending to the story. It continues on, with some likeable characters and some unlikeable characters, giving us just a glimpse into the life of each traveler. I plan to read the author's earlier book, All That is Man because I enjoyed how he dealt with the characters in this book, so much. Thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for this ARC.