“Her characters’ thirst for discovery is contagious, and every story in Archangel is suffused with the most miraculous horizon light.” — Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Finalist for the Story Prize


During the summer of 1908, twelve-year-old Constantine Boyd is witness to an explosion of home-spun investigation—from experiments with cave-dwelling fish without eyes to scientifically bred crops to motorized bicycles and the flight of an early aeroplane. In 1920, a popular science writer and young widow tries, immediately after the bloodbath of the First World War, to explain the new theory of relativity to an audience (herself included) desperate to believe in an “ether of space” housing spirits of the dead. Half a century earlier, in 1873, a famous biologist struggles to maintain his sense of the hierarchies of nature as Darwin’s new theory of evolution threatens to make him ridiculous in the eyes of a precocious student. The twentieth-century realms of science and war collide in the last two stories, as developments in genetics and X-ray technology that had once held so much promise fail to protect humans—among them, a young American soldier, Constantine Boyd, sent to Archangel, Russia, in 1919—from the failures of governments and from the brutality of war.


“At last! It’s finally here: the astonishing new collection from that genius-enchantress, Andrea Barrett. Who but Barrett can take on the inscrutable elegance of the cosmos and the messy complexity of the human heart in a single story? In her joy-to-read prose, with scientific precision and warm insight, Barrett translates the unknown into our world of reference. Her characters’ thirst for discovery is contagious, and every story in Archangel is suffused with the most miraculous horizon light.” — Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove

“The award-winning author returns with another collection of stories distinguished by uncommon scope and depth…The characters are never secondary to (or mere mouthpieces for) the provocative ideas, as the stories explore relationships among mentors and students, scientific rivals, romantic attractions…Barrett’s stories rank with the best.” — Kirkus (starred review)

“This book’s universe is very full… “The Island” is a testament to cutting-edge scientific thought in the face of strong resistance. And Ms. Barrett has the backbone to stage such challenges credibly and compellingly.” — New York Times

“Andrea Barrett’s elegant new story collection, Archangel, feels like a dispatch from the moving front of scientific discovery.” — Boston Globe

“Does anyone write with a calmer authority than Andrea Barrett?… In casting understanding on both sides of an issue and by recognizing how precious open debate it, Barrett brings a sense of humanity to bear on her stories.” — Chicago Tribune

“When you read her elegant, thought-provoking work, you travel back to a time of possibility and wonder that you never want to leave.” — Miami Herald


    Family tree done during the writing of Archangel


    Family tree endpapers from The Air We Breathe, with Barrett’s additions during the writing of Archangel.

    Extra large version


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