Parts of a World

Trade Cloth – $24.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-2766-1
Publication Date
June 2011
Page Count
204 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Parts of a World

A Novel

Two decades into his career, Tom Limbeck, a New York City social worker, is leading an orderly, utterly prosaic life. He is, by self-description, “a poor man’s psychiatrist,” dedicated to helping his clients see things rationally, the better to confront the real world. He works in an office beset by budgetary difficulties and driven to solutions suited only to the bureaucracy. 

Tom’s life changes when he takes on the case of Michael, who is known as “Saint Francis of the Dumpster” for his peaceful disposition and practice of eating from garbage cans. Tom is at first haunted by, then obsessed with, this uncommunicative young man who holds a precious secret which causes him to risk his survival by living on the street. Tom is determined to discover and expose Michael’s secret (“his faith/his delusion”) as a necessary first step before any treatment can begin. Tom cannot reason his way out of his own obsession when he finds himself bending the rules, abandoning therapeutic norms and, before long, stalking his client. Parts of a World is a book about doubt—doubt, faith, and delusion. 

About the Author

A. G. Mojtabai is the author of nine previous books, including the novels Mundome, A Stopping Place, Autumn, Ordinary Time, and All That Road Going (Northwestern, 2008), the story collection Soon: Tales from Hospice, and the non-fiction study Blessed Assurance: At Home with the Bomb in Amarillo, Texas. Twice honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters—with the Rosenthal Award and the Academy Award for Literature—her books have won numerous awards, including the Lillian Smith Award for the best book about the American South.


“Like Herman Melville’s ‘Bartleby, the Scrivener,’ Parts of a World concerns a decent, if dull, man’s obsession with those who ‘would prefer not to.’ And like A. G. Mojtabai’s other books, it provides an eerie, intriguing look at civilization and its discontents, creating a fascinating hero out of a homeless phantom who insists on renouncing the customs and obligations of contemporary society. It’s a mesmerizing novel.”—Ron Hansen, author of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Exiles

“The power of A. G. Mojtabai’s newest novel accumulates in a subtle—almost stealthy—and ultimately devastating fashion. The story of a social worker attempting to break the grip of delusion on a homeless man, Parts of a World is concerned with profound dilemmas––isolation, suffering, betrayal, loss of faith and loss of reason—but also with the possibility of love in the most unlikely guises. It is compelling, deeply moving, and quite beautiful in the economy of its design and execution.”—Valerie Sayers, author of Brain Fever and Due East