My Life as a Silent Movie: A Novel

My Life as a Silent Movie: A Novel

My Life as a Silent Movie: A Novel

My Life as a Silent Movie: A Novel


After losing her husband and daughter in an auto accident, 42-year-old Emma flies to Paris, discovers she has a twin brother whose existence she had not known about, and learns that her birth parents weren't the Americans who raised her, but a White Russian film star of the 1920s and a French Stalinist. A story about identity and the shaping function of art, My Life as a Silent Movie presents a vividly rendered world and poses provocative questions on the relationship of art to life.


I am on a plane looking down at the clouds. It could be any country below me, any ocean. Or at least the clouds let me pretend that’s true. I remember the first time I looked down from an airplane. I was a little girl, and I was crying because I was leaving France for America. I didn’t want to go. I also remember flying back to Paris with my husband and daughter, although that time my daughter was the one who sat by the window and discovered the clouds. and she was laughing. the trip was a family vacation and nothing more. I am trying to pretend I am still on that flight.

It isn’t working. But I am going someplace, something I thought I might not do again. I am on my way, I hope, to find family. Family I did not know I had. Living family.

But this story does not really begin on a plane. I don’t want to deceive you. It started three weeks ago. With two deaths.

Three weeks ago at six o’clock, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner. It was February, which meant it was already dark. the doorbell rang and sent me running down the stairs two at a time to answer. I thought it was the ups guy at the door trying to get me to take some electronic gadget that my neighbors—lawyers who were never home—had ordered as a treat for themselves in compensation for their busy lives.

But it was the neighbor. When I opened the door, she grabbed my arm above my elbow, like we were about to have an argument and she was afraid I might punch her in the face. “There’s been an accident, Emma,” she said. “I saw your car in the intersection—just now, on my way home. I talked to the police.”

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