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Summary

Sofia, Bulgaria, a landlocked city in southern Europe, stirs with hope and impending upheaval. Soviet buildings crumble, wind scatters sand from the far south and political protesters flood the streets with song.

In this atmosphere of disquiet, an American teacher navigates a life transformed by the discovery and loss of love. As he prepares to leave the place he’s come to call home, he grapples with the intimate encounters that have marked his years abroad, each bearing uncanny reminders of his past. A queer student’s confession recalls his own first love, a stranger’s seduction devolves into paternal sadism and a romance with a younger man opens and heals old wounds. Each echo reveals startling insights about what it means to seek connection: with those we love, with the places we inhabit and with our own fugitive selves.

Cleanness revisits and expands the world of Garth Greenwell’s beloved debut, What Belongs to You, declared ‘an instant classic’ by the New York Times Book Review. In exacting, elegant prose, Greenwell transcribes the strange dialects of desire, cementing his stature as one of our most vital living writers.

©2020 Macmillan Audio (US) (P)2020 Macmillan Digital Audio

Critic reviews

"Cleanness is stunning, provocatively revelatory and atmospherically profound. Here is love and sex as art, as pulse, as truth." (Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women

"This is an exceptional work of fiction, which places Greenwell among the very best contemporary novelists." (Independent)

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    4 out of 5 stars

Shouldn't Have Read His Own Stories

He can write but he really, really can't read. He sounds bored, unwell, half dead. It's impossible to listen to his voice for more than two minutes without passing out and joining him in his coma. I think the descriptions of Sofia (is it Sofia even?) and the struggles with sexuality might be quite interesting, but it's hard to get it to that past the reading. A bit too much American abroad self-satisfaction about being somewhere he thinks nobody's heard of (absurd), but I think this is probably really good. Just not an audiobook. Or not one read by Greenwell.

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written from experience

being young and gay today, you're so lucky. a beautiful told tale, enough to turn any man's head. he could turn me any time

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  • Gali
  • 07-12-20

Exquisite, surgically accurate writing

Exposing human vulnerabilities, relationships, government, cultures, hatred and small mindedness, expat experience, love and sensuality, this is a beautifully crafted novel that spares no punches. The author narrates his own work, usually a mistake, but in this case the best choice. He has a lovely soothing voice and his own style and cadence that was perfect for the content. I was sorry when it was over.