About The Book

**A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice**

From the acclaimed, Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author of All That Man Is, a stunning, virtuosic novel about twelve people, mostly strangers, and the surprising ripple effect each one has on the life of the next as they cross paths while in transit around the world.

A woman strikes up a conversation with the man sitting next to her on a plane after some turbulence. He returns home to tragic news that has also impacted another stranger, a shaken pilot on his way to another continent who seeks comfort from a journalist he meets that night. Her life shifts subtly as well, before she heads to the airport on an assignment that will shift more lives in turn.

In this wondrous, profoundly moving novel, Szalay’s diverse protagonists circumnavigate the planet in twelve flights, from London to Madrid, from Dakar to Sao Paulo, to Toronto, to Delhi, to Doha, en route to see lovers or estranged siblings, aging parents, baby grandchildren, or nobody at all. Along the way, they experience the full range of human emotions from loneliness to love and, knowingly or otherwise, change each other in one brief, electrifying interaction after the next.

Written with magic and economy and beautifully exploring the delicate, crisscrossed nature of relationships today, Turbulence is a dazzling portrait of the interconnectedness of the modern world.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Turbulence includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

In this wondrous, profoundly moving novel, Szalay’s diverse protagonists circumnavigate the planet in twelve flights, from London to Madrid, from Dakar to Sao Paulo, to Toronto, to Delhi, to Doha, en route to see lovers or estranged siblings, aging parents, baby grandchildren, or nobody at all. Along the way, they experience the full range of human emotions from loneliness to love and, knowingly or otherwise, change each other in one brief, electrifying interaction after the next.

Written with magic and economy and beautifully exploring the delicate, crisscrossed nature of relationships today, Turbulence is a dazzling portrait of the interconnectedness of the modern world.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Consider the following quote along with the title of the book: “What she hated about even mild turbulence was the way it ended the illusion of security, the way that it made it impossible to pretend that she was somewhere safe” (page 8). Other than the literal and physical connection to travel, what is Szalay suggesting metaphorically or thematically about the novel?

2. Despite the slimness of the novel, Turbulence features a large cast of characters, all on the precipice of life-altering moments. Discuss with your group how Szalay is able to establish a character in a complex emotional situation in just a few pages.

3. Consider the two quotes below and how they might be in conversation with one another: “the tightly packed fabric of the world seemed to loosen” (page 8) and “‘People have no sense of geography,’ the pilot said. ‘How the world fits together, you know’” (page 46).

4. Discuss with your group the importance of traveling. Have you ever had any memorable interactions with strangers while in transit?

5. The novel’s point of view is a close third person using the past tense. Discuss with your group how the novel might have been different if told in first person or in the present tense.

6. Szalay manages to seamlessly transition between different characters’ points of view. How is this achieved structurally? What is the impact emotionally?

7. Did you find yourself compelled by one character or story in particular or were you interested in all of them equally? Why or why not?

8. Consider this quote: “It was one of those events, she thought, that make us what we are, for ourselves and for other people. They just seem to happen, and then they’re there forever, and slowly we understand that we’re stuck with them, that nothing will ever be the same again” (page 57). How does this character’s philosophy and rumination fit into the novel as a whole?

9. Turbulence encourages the reader to consider the fragility of life and the inevitability of death. Discuss with your group what you think the novel was suggesting about these topics.

10. The twelve pieces that make up Turbulence were originally written to be read aloud on BBC Radio. Did you view these pieces as vignettes, short stories, or a novel? Discuss how one might identify or define each of these forms. How does our definition of what a book is or is not impact how we view or read a book?

11. Turbulence’s final chapter circles back to the beginning of the novel. Discuss why Szalay might have chosen this structure. What does this suggest thematically?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Turbulence utilizes airport codes to transition between pieces and physical locations. At what point did you understand this feature? Discuss with your group how many of the codes you knew or how many of the airports you have passed through.

2. Szalay is also the author of All That Man Is. Discuss his other work and how it fits in with Turbulence with your group.

3. In the final story, the main character notices a framed quote from John F. Kennedy’s 1963 “peace speech”: “For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal” (page 138). Listen to or read Kennedy’s full speech with your group and discuss this quote in relation to the book.

About The Author

Julia Papp

David Szalay is the author of Turbulence, SpringThe InnocentLondon and the South-East, and All That Man Is. He’s been awarded the Gordon Burn Prize and The Paris Review Plimpton Prize for Fiction and has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Born in Canada, he grew up in London, and now lives in Budapest.

About The Reader

Gabra Zackman knows romance. Her clever and “thrilling romantic caper” (Library Journal) Bod Squad series was inspired by the more than one hundred romance and women’s fiction titles she has narrated for audio. She divides her time between her native New York City and Denver, Colorado.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (July 16, 2019)
  • Runtime: 2 hours and 29 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781508287087

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Raves and Reviews

"If an audiobook clocks more miles per hour than David Szalay’s Turbulence, a novel whose brief running time belies its broad ambitions, I can’t think of what it might be. . . . [Narrator Gabra Zackman] reads with empathy and dexterity, shifting nationalities and gender countless times, often multiple times on the same page."

– James Tate Hill, Literary Hub

"While only a small portion of this audiobook takes place on an airplane, each chapter is named for a 'departing' or 'arriving' airport code. This device--and even the choice of a single narrator for each essentially stand-alone story--reinforces the sense of a world simultaneously linked yet impersonally segmented. The novel is structured around the perspectives of a series of characters, each one of whom somehow touches upon the life of a previous character. Narrator Gabra Zackman performs like a seamless one-woman relay team. She hands off each transition--usually in both nationality and gender--to herself so cleanly that listeners will simultaneously experience both the continuity AND the shifting cadence of the story as it passes from one set of lives to another."

– AudioFile Magazine

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