September 6, 2018
Listening to NPR one day in the summer of 2005, author Margot Singer heard a report about a mute pianist who had washed up on the northern coast of England. That was also the summer of the London rush hour bombings that paralyzed the city and killed and maimed hundreds. Those news reports marinated over the years and finally led Margot to write her first novel, Underground Fugue (Melville House, 2017). The novel intertwines the lives of four people, each one of whom is grappling in some way with loss, fear, and betrayal. Esther, the main character, is in London to care for her dying mother and to escape from the breakdown of her marriage. Esther’s mother, Lonia, tosses in bed remembering her escape from Nazi Germany, and her beloved brother’s failure to make it out alive. Esther’s neighbor, Javad, is the Persian doctor who is consulted about a mute piano player who washed up on the beach in the north of England. He is also the long-divorced father of nineteen-year-old Amir, who comes and goes at odd hours, and seems to be involved in something secretive. The story weaves the lives and thoughts of these four characters before and after the shocking 7/7 terror attack in London’s underground. Underground Fugue won the 2017 Edward Lewis Wallant Award for American Jewish fiction. Singer’s 2007 story collection, The Pale of Settlement, won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction, the Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, and an Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Margot Singer’s work has been featured on NPR and in many publications such as theKenyon Review, the Gettysburg Review, Agni, and Conjunctions. She is a professor of English at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.