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Asta in the Wingsby Jan Elizabeth Watson
In Watson's captivating debut novel, the Hewitt family lives an isolated life in rural Maine. But when circumstances force them into society, they must reconcile their home life with the outside world, learning that isolation has many forms. A heartbreaking novel of otherness and normality.
"'I feared a day when mother might forget to lock us in properly,' says seven-year-old Asta, narrator of Jan Elizabeth Watson's compact and captivating novel Asta in the Wings. It's the morning of "the last day, the day before everything changed," and her mother, Loretta, has just left for work, locking her children — Asta and nine-year-old Orion — into the house to protect them 'from the inscrutable outside world.'" Sheila Ashdown, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
Asta in the Wings is the moving and often darkly funny story of Asta Hewitt, a resourceful seven-year-old and intrepid narrator growing up in an isolated house in Bond Brook, Maine. Shut off from the outside world and restricted to the company of a delusional mother and a bookish older brother, Asta is content to be part of a "society of three" constructing dramatic and fanciful worlds of their own. When circumstances push her into a strange outside world — with all of its discontents — Asta must find a way to assimilate while remaining true to herself and her fractured family. Jan Elizabeth Watson's debut novel puts her among the most promising new writers in the realm of imaginative literary fiction.
"With this, her excellent debut novel, Watson makes quick work of a setup that could prove challenging for even seasoned authors. Seven-year-old Asta grows up in rural Maine in the late 1970s, where she and her sickly nine-year-old brother, Orion, are kept locked in their house by their crazy mother, who fills their heads with tales of the plague-ravaged wasteland waiting outside their door. Equipped with little beyond what their mother provides, the children are wildly creative, surprisingly intelligent and share a deep bond with each other. But when their mother disappears and the two venture outside, they face the real world and real people for the first time. As Asta processes what's going on and is separated from her brother, she's reluctant to recognize what was wrong with her previous life. Asta's narration is full of the wonderment and matter-of-factness of youth, and her eye-opening trip into reality is flawlessly executed by Watson." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Like Alice after tumbling down the rabbit hole, Asta takes us on a journey through a confounding world filled with remarkable characters. A compassionate tale mixed with hope and sorrow, Asta In the Wings evokes both the tenderness and the danger of one child's struggle to find a place for herself in a world she is only beginning to understand. It's a gem of a book." Aryn Kyle, author of The God of Animals
"In Asta in The Wings Jan Elizabeth Watson has created one of the most appealing fictional heroines I've encountered in a long time. Asta is brave, resourceful, intelligent, and loyal. She also happens to be seven years old, which means she's at the mercy of the unreliable adults who rule her world. The result is a vivid and suspenseful narrative where, over and over again, Asta shows us the world from her own very particular angle. A highly original debut." Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street
"Jan Elizabeth Watson's debut, Asta in the Wings, follows two mavens of make-believe — seven-year-old Asta and her nine-year-old brother, Orion — as they reckon with the brutal realities of the adult world in the wilds of rural Maine." BookForum
"The mysteries and ambiguities that Watson creates, raising questions and not trying to answer them, is what powers the novel." Nina MacLaughlin, The Portland Phoenix
A poignant and often darkly funny story narrated by seven-year-old Asta Hewitt. In their isolated house in rural Maine, Asta, her bookish older brother, and their delusional mother construct fanciful, theatrical worlds of their own.
About the Author
Jan Elizabeth Watson was born in Washington, D.C. and spent nearly a decade in New York City, where she received her MFA from Columbia University. She has worked extensively as an editor, copywriter, and adjunct professor of creative writing. She lives in Maine and has one child, a daughter. This is her first novel.
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