A piercing and lyrically compelling debut novel about marriage, loss, and finding the path home again.
In the shadows of a predawn run, Murray tries to escape what he can’t control: His failed marriage. Grief. Even his own weakness. Murray is a college running coach insistent on his relentless training regimen and obsessed with his star athlete, until he finds her crumpled and unresponsive during a routine practice one morning.
Unable to avoid or outrun reality, Murray is forced to face the consequences of his own increasingly tenuous grip on life—exacerbated by the dangers of his perfectionistic, singular focus as a former athlete and survivor of an unspeakable loss from his past.
In her debut novel, author Jaclyn Gilbert weaves together the strands of two lives that form a union as finely nuanced and delicate as a spider's web. Following the relationship of Murray and his wife, Nancy, in alternating narratives, we experience their early moments of hope and desire as well as their fears and failings. With poignancy and grace, Late Air traces the collapse of a marriage, exhausted by time and trauma, and one couple’s journey to regain their footing.
"An elegiac first novel [that] traces the aftershocks of a tragedy decades in the past on a marriage that has since dissolved.....Gilbert keeps her eye on subtle mental states rather than shocking events. Murray's breakdown is all the more riveting because it is so gradual. Gilbert has a clear grasp of the New Haven setting, and a subplot concerning the effects of Murray's rigid approach to discipline on his runners adds a layer of complexity to the narrative. A carefully plotted and cautiously hopeful novel about ties that outlast marriage."
“Debuting author Gilbert’s heart-wrenching character study of the aftermath of two life-altering events shows the different ways adults cope with grief. Emotional but never melodramatic, Gilbert’s novel is difficult to put down, despite the heartbreaking subject matter, and readers will be drawn into Murray and Nancy’s story.”
“As the novel unfolds, we see how the single-minded discipline so often associated with long-distance runners can both be a means of avoiding and ultimately confronting pain. Gilbert herself ran NCAA Division I cross country and the novel is the most accurate to the sport we’ve read, yet is so much more emotionally complex.”
TIN HOUSE, “Core Being”
Lit Hub: “EIGHT SHORT STORIES FOR LONG DISTANCE RUNNERS”
WOMENS RUNNING MAGAZINE: “Runner Reads Pick”
FICTION WRITERS REVIEW: “Letting Go: An Interview with Jaclyn Gilbert”
“It’s the ultimate act of forgiveness, I think, this deciding to let go of how our lives might have turned out differently." Jaclyn Gilbert and Shayne Terry talk writing, running, and Jaclyn's debut novel, Late Air.
THE RUMPUS MINI-INTERVIEW PROJECT #154: JACLYN GILBERT
PEN TEN : INTERVIEW WITH DEBUT AUTHOR JACLYN GILBERT
FULL STOP: Jaclyn Gilbert
CRAFT Literary: INTERVIEw - JACLYN GILBERT
CANADIAN RUNNING MAGAZINE
Late Air is a story of the world of elite female athletic performance like no other novel I can think of. In her debut, Gilbert is alternately a miner, a sculptor, a guiding ghost, but always a virtuoso—showing us the athlete’s body as a perfectible object, a vessel for obsessions, a target —and a site for the recuperation of the athlete’s humanity.”
Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh, Queen of the Night, and How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
In this mesmerizing debut, Jaclyn Gilbert has given us a deep and nuanced study of the ways that loss can ravage a marriage, how passion becomes obsession, and the body as a site of devastation and healing. Gilbert's prose is luminous and hypnotic, so finely wrought it cuts.This book riveted me, broke my heart, and revived me."
Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me
Gilbert’s shatteringly gorgeous debut is part Megan Abbott in its can’t-take-your-eyes-off-the-page depiction of the competitive world of girls’ running, and part Elizabeth Strout in the way she so deftly explores and understands her characters, all of them desperate to love even in the face of ruin. A deeply original look at how tragedy shape-shifts a marriage, and so rich and alive, it’s impossible to believe this is a first novel.
Caroline Leavitt, author of Cruel Beautiful World and the New York Times Bestsellers Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow
Jaclyn Gilbert's Late Air is an exquisite meditation on marriage, loss, and the redemptive power of distance running. Gilbert's gloriously complex characters circle each other at arms length, swallowing words when they should speak up, turning away instead of reaching out, even as they crumple beneath the weight of their desire for connection. In exploring the many faces of grief—and of resilience—Gilbert has delivered a wise, nuanced, and utterly unforgettable story.
Kirstin Chen, author of Bury What We Cannot Take and Soy Sauce for Beginners
"To read Late Air is to be deeply immersed in the inner worlds of beautifully complex characters torn apart by time, memory, and trauma. Gilbert gracefully resurrects wisdom from the smallest details, each moment as finely wrought as the last, showing us who we are and how we love. A truly impressive debut from this gifted writer.”
—Marian Thurm, author of Today is Not Your Day and The Good Life
Late Air breathes some welcome oxygen into the modern novel. The characters, both major and minor, are created with great care, and the story is moving and extremely readable. Jaclyn Gilbert is up and running!
Richard Cohen, author of Chasing the Sun, By the Sword, and How to Write Like Tolstoy