A boundary-leaping debut that traces a twelve-year-old genius mapmaker’s attempts to understand the ways of the world
When twelve-year-old genius cartographer T.S. Spivet receives an unexpected phone call from the Smithsonian, life as normal—if you consider mapping dinner table conversation normal—is interrupted and a wild cross-country adventure begins, taking T.S. from his family ranch just north of Divide, Montana, to the museum’s hallowed halls.
T.S. sets out alone, leaving before dawn with a plan to hop a freight train and hobo to the East Coast. Once he’s aboard, his adventures step into high gear and he meticulously maps, charts, and illustrates his exploits, documenting mythical wormholes in the Midwest, the urban phenomenon of “rims”, and the pleasures of McDonald’s, among other things. We come to see the world through T.S.’s eyes, and in his thorough investigation of the outside world, he also reveals himself.
As he travels away from the ranch and his family, we learn how the journey also brings him closer to home. A secret family history found within his luggage tells the story of T.S.’s ancestors and their long-ago passage west, offering profound insight into the family T.S. left behind and his role within it. As T.S. reads, he discovers the sometimes shadowy boundary between fact and fiction and realizes that for all his analytical rigor, the world around him is a mystery.
All that he has learned is tested when he arrives at the capital to claim his prize and is welcomed into science’s inner circle. For all its shine, fame seems more highly valued than ideas in this new world and friends are hard to find.
T.S.’s trip begins at the Coppertop Ranch and the last known place he stands is Washington, D.C., but his journey’s movement is far harder to track: How do you map the delicate lessons learned about family and self? How do you depict how it feels to first venture out on your own? Is there a definitive way to communicate the ebbs and tides of heartbreak, loss, loneliness, love? These are the questions that strike at the core of this very special debut.
Shortlisted for the 2010 Indies Choice Book Award (Adult Debut), American Booksellers Association
Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award
Shortlisted for the Boeke Prize
“Two predictions about The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet: readers are going to love it as much as I did, and few if any will have experienced anything like it. I’m flabbergasted by Reif Larsen’s talent, and I was warmed by his generosity. Here is a book that does the impossible: it combines Mark Twain, Thomas Pynchon, and Little Miss Sunshine. Good novels entertain; great ones come as a gift to the readers who are lucky enough to find them. This book is a treasure.” —Stephen King
“[The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet] is like nothing you’ve ever picked up ... illustrated with witty marginalia (supposedly produced by its protagonist), it is also steeped in poignancy, humor, and wisdom.” —Vanity Fair
“The novel is a cabinet of wonders, an odyssey of self-discovery, a family romance, a symphony of topography, geology and American history. The book hardly seems able to stay between its covers, bulging as it is with so many astonishments, so many crossings of fictional lines. Miraculous...” —Bookpage
“Larsen is undeniably talented ... Fans of Wes Anderson will find much to love in the offbeat characters and small (and sometimes not so small) touches of magic thrown into the mix during the cross-country, train-hopping adventure of a 12-year-old mapmaking prodigy, T.S. Spivet.” —Publishers Weekly
“Debut novelist Larsen’s writing is as detailed and absorbing as a map ... a delightful and poignant adventure.” —Library Journal
Length: 320 pp
English (Canada) rights, Hamish Hamilton/Penguin Group (Canada)
English (UK) rights, Harvill Secker
English (US) rights, Penguin Press
For all other rights contact The Denise Shannon Literary Agency.
Photo credit: Elliott Holt
Reif Larsen studied at Brown University, and has taught at Columbia University, where he is finishing his MFA in
fiction. He is also a filmmaker and has made documentaries in the United States, the U.K., and sub-Saharan Africa. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Reif Larsen’s website can be found at www.tsspivet.com.