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Halfway Houseby Katharine Noel
Synopses & Reviews
Met with overwhelming critical praise on its initial hardcover release — including raves from The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly — this remarkable debut novel by Katharine Noel illuminates the fault lines in one family's relationships, as well as the complexemotional ties that bind them together.
One day, Angie Voorster — diligent student, all-star swimmer and Ivy League-bound high school senior — dives to the bottom of a pool and stays there. In that moment, everything the Voorster family believes they know about each other changes.
Set in a small town in New Hampshire, Halfway House is the story of Angie's psychotic break and her family's subsequent turmoil. Angie is a charismatic young woman — brilliant, witty, and passionate — until she swings to manic highs and dangerous lows. Each of her family members responds differently to the ongoing crisis: Her father Pieter, a Dutch-born professional cellist, retreats further into his career. Her mother begins a destabilizing affair with a younger man. Her little brother, Luke, first distances himself as much as possible from his sister, then later drops out of college to be closer to her. And Luke's college girlfriend, Wendy, who comes from a farming town in Iowa, provides an outsider's perspective on the family's teeter toward collapse. The Voorsters manage for a time to maintain a semblance of the normalcy they had "before," when they were the ideal New England family; it is not until Angie is finally able to fend for herself that the family is able to truly fall apart and then regather itself in a new, fundamentally changed way.
With grace and precision rarely seen in a first novel, Noel guides the reader through a world where love is imperfect, and where longing for an imagined ideal can both destroy one family's happiness and offer it redemption. Halfway House introduces a powerful, eloquent new literary voice.
"Engaging...compelling and convincing...Noel successfully captures that in-between, unmoored state of debilitating psychosis, that place where life is half underwater." S. Kirk Walsh, The New York Times
"Noel's stunning debut novel moves us through painfully believable human relationships tested, repaired, and transformed by time and experience....This is suburban angst in the tradition of John Cheever and Rick Moody, told with a rare and honest sympathy that rings true by an author to watch." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"An emotionally intense, beautifully crafted debut." People
"Crisply on target the peak moments of the book have a perilous vigor to them....
"Noel's finely wrought world of loneliness and fear, the pleasures of connection and the ferocity and unpredictability of mental illness, has its own quiet power....Memorable first novel with a uniquely powerful grace." Laura Ciolkowski, The Boston Globe
"Thoughtful characterizations and graceful prose...Noel deserves immense credit for her precise and delicate description of the grinding years that follow [Angie's break]." Jennifer Reese, Entertainment Weekly
"This is a compassionate exploration of a nightmarish disease and the havoc it wreaks on ordinary lives." Sheerly Avni, San Francisco Magazine
"Stunningly written....A very intense and enjoyable debut from a young novelist with promise and talent." Sarah Rachel Egelman, BookReporter.com
"Compassionate and compelling....Noel's depiction of Angie's depression is frightening in its accuracy....She doesn't shy away from the facts but instead weaves them into a story that is enjoyable and triumphant." Ellison G. Weist, Portland Tribune
"Noel is adept at describing the complexities of the heart and mind." Pam Locker, Evansville Courier & Press
"Compulsively readable....The story will ring true to anyone who's survived the psychological ups and downs of family life. The opening chapter alone shines with metaphoric brilliance." Chris Watson, Santa Cruz Sentinel
"With these characters, Katharine Noel brings us a whole world, carved in sharp relief, as it moves in and out of madness. A brilliant novel. There is nothing like this; it feels just like life." Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli
"In Katharine Noel's stunning debut novel, family life is revealed — laid open — in all its love and warmth and, yes, its darkness, too. Mother and daughter, husband and wife, sister and brother, father and son: each character lives on the page, and together they teach us the best lessons of fiction: how we live, and how we live through crisis. I was enthralled." Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier
"Can this really be Katharine Noel's first book? Halfway House is written with such fearless grace, such originality of vision, it reads like the work of a master. Noel has an uncanny ability to render the complicated relationships between brothers and sisters, parents and children, husbands and wives. She slips into the darkest corners of human experience so adroitly that you're not aware how deep you've gone until you find yourself laughing or weeping over the page. The book becomes an obsession, its characters so real you can't bear to turn away. This is the kind of novel that creates ardent fans; without a doubt, it is the beginning of a brilliant literary career." Julie Orringer, author of How To Breathe Underwater
"In her rich ambitious novel, Halfway House, Katherine Noel gives us not just a handful of vignettes, not a few slices of time and glimpses of character, but a whole world: she explores years of upheaval and tenderness, layers of anguish, uncertainty, and deep communion with acute insight and agile pacing. Her depiction of the brother-sister relationship is flawless in its harrowingly accurate range of feeling and experience. With her portrait of Angie, Noel ventures far beneath the surface of mental illness and finds all the life and humor and humanity that is waiting below." Lily King, author of The Pleasing Hour and The English Teacher
Set in a small town in New Hampshire, this novel is the story of a girl's psychotic break and her family's subsequent turmoil. With grace and precision rarely seen in a first novel, Noel guides readers through a world where love is imperfect, and where longing for an imagined ideal can both destroy one family's happiness and offer redemption.
One day, Angie Voorster — diligent student, all-star swimmer and ivy-league bound high school senior — dives to the bottom of a pool and stays there. In that moment, everything the Voorster family believes they know about each other changes. Katharine Noel's extraordinary debut illuminates the fault lines in one family's relationships, as well as the complex emotional ties that bind them together.
With grace and precision rarely seen in a first novel, Noel guides her reader through a world where love is imperfect, and where longing for an imagined ideal can both destroy one family's happiness and offer them redemption. Halfway House introduces a powerful, eloquent new literary voice.
About the Author
Katharine Noel is a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, where she formerly held a Stegner Fellowship. Previously, Noel lived and worked for two years on a farm with a group of adults with mental illnesses. She currently lives in San Francisco, where she is at work on her second novel.
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