Summer Reading Sale
 
 

Recently Viewed clear list


Original Essays | July 22, 2014

Nick Harkaway: IMG The Florist-Assassins



The three men lit up in my mind's eye, with footnotes. They were converging on me — and on the object I was carrying — in a way that had... Continue »
  1. $18.87 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    Tigerman

    Nick Harkaway 9780385352413

spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$4.95
List price: $14.00
Used Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
4 Burnside Literature- A to Z

This title in other editions

Child of My Heart

by

Child of My Heart Cover

 

 

Excerpt

I had in my care that summer four dogs, three cats, the Moran kids, Daisy, my eight-year-old cousin, and Flora, the toddler child of a local artist. There was also, for a while, a litter of wild rabbits, three of them, that had been left under our back steps. They were wet and blind, curled up like grubs and wrapped in a kind of gray caul — so small it was difficult to know if their bodies moved with the beating of their hearts or the rise of their breaths. Not meant to live, as my parents had told me, being wild things, although I tried for nearly a week to feed them a watery mixture of milk and torn clover. But that was late August.

Late in June, Daisy arrived, the middle child of my father's only sister. She came out by herself on the Long Island Railroad, her name and address written on a piece of torn brown paper and attached to her dress with a safety pin. In my bedroom, which she was to share, I opened her suitcase, and a dozen slick packages slid out — tennis sets and pedal-pusher sets, Bermuda shorts and baby doll pajamas and underwear, all brand-new and still wrapped in cellophane. There was a brand-new pair of sneakers as well, the cheap, pulled-from-a-bin kind, bound together with the same plastic thread that held their price tag, and another, even cheaper pair of brittle pale pink slip-ons studded with blue and turquoise jewels. Princess shoes. Daisy was vain about them, I could tell. She asked me immediately — she was the shy child of strict parents so most of what she said involved asking for permission — if she could take off the worn saddle shoes she had traveled in and put them on. "I won't wear them outside till Sunday," she promised. She had the pale blue, nearly translucent skin of true redheads, a plain wisp of a child under the thick hair and the large head. It made no difference to me what kind of shoes she wore, and I told her so. I was pretty sure they were meant to be bedroom slippers anyway. "Why wait for Sunday?" I said.

Kneeling among the packages that made up her wardrobe, I asked, "Didn't you bring any old clothes, Daisy Mae?" She said her mother had told her that whatever else she needed to wear she could borrow from me. I was fifteen that summer and already as tall as my father, but my entire life's wardrobe was stored in the attic, so I knew what she meant. Daisy herself had six brothers and a sister, and even at fifteen I knew that my aunt and uncle resented what they saw as the lavish time and money my parents spent on me, an only child. I knew, in the way fifteen-year-old girls know things — intuitively, in some sense; in some sense based purely on the precise and indifferent observation of a creature very much in the world but not yet of it — that Daisy's parents resented any number of things, not the least of which, of course, was Daisy. She was only one of what must have been to them a long series of unexpected children. Eight over the course of ten years, when apparently what they had been aiming for was something more like two or three.

Just the winter before I had spent a weekend with them in their tidy house in Queens Village. I had come up from East Hampton precisely to take poor Daisy (to us, she was always "poor Daisy") into Manhattan to see the Christmas show at Radio City. My Aunt Peg, my father's sister, picked me up at the Jamaica station and immediately dropped the hint that it was impolite and unfair of me not to have invited Bernadette, her twelve-year-old, to come along, too. Aunt Peg was a thin and wiry woman, only, it seemed, a good night's sleep away from being pretty. Under her freckles, her dry skin was pale, and her thick, brittle hair was a weary, sun-faded shade of auburn. Even as she drove, she had a way of constantly leaning forward, as if into a wind, which of course added to her air of determined efficiency. (I could well imagine her pushing a shopping cart through the Great Eastern Mills in Elmont, pulling shorts sets and tennis sets from the crowded bins — one, two, three, four, underwear, pajamas, shoes — dumping all of them directly from shopping bag to suitcase, toss in a hairbrush and a toothbrush, slam the case, done.) "Bernadette will have to find her own fun tomorrow" was the way she put it to me, leaning into the steering wheel as if we were all headed downhill.

Their house was at the bottom of a dead-end street: narrow, painted brick, with a long driveway and a shingled garage and a square little back yard big enough for only an umbrella clothesline and a long-disused sandbox. Upstairs there were three bedrooms, and then up another flight of stairs, hidden behind a door, a finished attic that served as a kind of dormitory for the three older boys. There was the odor of children about the place — endemic to any house I have ever visited with more than three kids living in it — a distillation of the domestic scents of milk and wet socks combined with the paper and paste and industrial-strength disinfectant of elementary-school hallways. Despite the number of people living in the small house, there was a remarkable sense of order about the rooms, most especially in my aunt and uncle's bedroom, which was at the head of the stairs. It was a small, square room with one large window that looked out into the street. It held a high four-poster bed, a tall dresser (his) and a low bureau (hers) with a mirror, two night tables, and a straight-backed chair with a tapestry seat. The curtains that crisscrossed the window were white lace. There was a crucifix above the bed, a large oil painting of the Sacred Heart on the far wall — the first thing you saw when you looked into the room from the hallway — a mostly blood-red Oriental carpet on the floor. There was only one photograph in the room: my aunt and uncle's wedding picture. No sign, in other words, of the eight children that had been conceived on the double mattress, under the eternally smooth bedspread. Explanation enough, it seemed to me, for the apparent forgetfulness on their part that had yielded all those unexpected pregnancies. With the bedroom door pulled closed, they couldn't have found it difficult to make themselves believe that they were perfectly free to begin again.

Uncle Jack was a transit cop. He had a pitted, handsome face, dark eyes, thin lips, and a thousand and one inscrutable but insurmountable rules regarding his home and his children. No one, for instance, was to walk on the front lawn. Or sit on the bumper of his car when it was parked in the driveway. No one was to call out from an upstairs window when someone was at the front door. No one was to play handball against the garage, or stoop ball against the stoop. There was no going barefoot around the house. No getting up from the dinner table without a precise answer to the precise question "May I please be excused?" No sitting on the curb or standing under the streetlight. No dishes left in the dish drainer. No phone calls from friends after 6 p.m. No playing down in the basement after eight. No sleeping on the couch — day or night, in sickness or in health — which put me in the smallest of the three bedrooms with Daisy and Bernadette, Daisy on the rickety army cot because I was the guest and because Bernadette was not going to have the wonderful day in the city that Daisy was getting the next morning, so she might as well, said Aunt Peg, at least have a good night's sleep.

I didn't much care for Bernadette — she was plain and chubby, but, more to the point, she was also extremely smart, which made her mean. It was as if she had already weighed the value of her intelligence against the value the world would assign it and knew instinctively that she would be gypped. Although I always attempted to feel sorry for her, I was more successful at feeling a smug satisfaction as I placed my overnight bag on Daisy's bed and realized that all of Bernadette's Honor Roll certificates plastering the walls could not earn her my affection, or my company.

Copyright © 2002 Alice McDermott

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Deborah Fochler, February 17, 2008 (view all comments by Deborah Fochler)
A very very good book. It is heartwarming, charming, witty, funny and even sad. Not one you will soon forget. I have read it twice and fall in love each time.
A real "sleeper" - sometimes the best books are the ones you hear very little about - such as this one. A true delight. It is the reason I love to read - you never know what character you are going to meet or where you are headed for.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(6 of 13 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312422912
Author:
McDermott, Alice
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
November 2003
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
8.26 x 5.58 x 0.67 in

Other books you might like

  1. The Dive from Clausen's Pier... Used Hardcover $4.95
  2. Middlesex
    Used Trade Paper $2.95
  3. A Winter Marriage Used Hardcover $9.95
  4. The Lovely Bones
    Used Trade Paper $0.95
  5. Three Junes
    Used Trade Paper $1.50
  6. Shipping News Used Trade Paper $1.00

Related Subjects


Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Sale Books
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Child of My Heart Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$4.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Picador USA - English 9780312422912 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Book after book, Alice McDermott does more with less. "I'm very conscious of trying to make something epic out of something small and ordinary," says the National Book Award winner. Now she gives us Child of My Heart, a deceptively simple story about one fifteen-year-old girl's summer on the east end of Long Island. Like a lot of poetry, McDermott's fifth novel can defined as well by what it omits as by what it presents. Again, McDermott's subtle mechanics transform a traditional story into a fresh new vision of the world.

"Review A Day" by , "This specific, full world, along with McDermott's stringent modesty and moral rigor, allows her to ponder deep contemporary and eternal questions (in her hands they seem to be the same ones) without fuss or bombast....McDermott displays a vibrant romantic hope exactly matched by a realist's awareness of daily devastation." (read the entire Atlantic review)
"Review" by , "There is...something Jamesian about McDermott's style: this novel's craftsmanship and its moral intelligence are as one."
"Review" by , "Though hobbled by a tendency toward sentimentality and self-consciousness, McDermott sculpts her small story with a meticulous eye for the telling detail and transcendent metaphor. We know what's coming, but so do the characters — that's part of this tale's bittersweet power."
"Review" by , "This is another charmer from McDermott; it's evocative, gently funny and resonant with a sense of impending loss, as all stories of youthful summers must be. There's a whisper of maudlin sentimentality throughout, but Theresa is so likable, and her observations so acute, that one easily forgives it."
"Review" by , "Just as the calm and sparkling sea can conceal a tricky undertow, McDermott's gorgeous novel is laced with sly literary allusions and provocative insights into the enigma of sexual desire, the mutability of art, death's haunting presence, our need for fantasies, and the endless struggle to keep love pure."
"Review" by , "McDermott is a subtle writer, and so while some novelists might fabricate this welter of teenage emotion out of a consummated affair, McDermott does the opposite....We fear for Theresa, and for girls like her — a fear that doesn?t fully dissipate at the conclusion of McDermott's wise, brilliantly observed novel."
"Review" by , "McDermott's prose is even and elegant, and the complex character of Theresa offers subtle emotion imbued with haunting prescience."
"Synopsis" by , McDermott's haunting new work — her first since the bestselling Charming Billy, winner of the 1998 National Book Award — is narrated by a woman who was born beautiful. On the cusp of 15, her witty, deeply etched evocation of all that was really transpiring under the surface during a seemingly idyllic season gives her wry tale its remarkable vividness and impact.
"Synopsis" by ,
In Alice McDermott's first work of fiction since her best-selling, National Book Award-winning Charming Billy, a woman recalls her fifteenth summer with the wry and bittersweet wisdom of hindsight.

The beautiful child of older parents, raised on the eastern end of Long Island, Theresa is her town's most sought-after babysitter--cheerful, poised, an effortless storyteller, a wonder with children and animals. Among her charges this fateful summer is Daisy, her younger cousin, who has come to spend a few quiet weeks in this bucolic place. While Theresa copes with the challenge presented by the neighborhood's waiflike children, the tumultuous households of her employers, the attentions of an aging painter, and Daisy's fragility of body and spirit, her precocious, tongue-in-check sense of order is tested as she makes the perilous crossing into adulthood. In her deeply etched rendering of all that happened that seemingly idyllic season, McDermott once again peers into the depths of everyday life with inimitable insight and grace.

spacer
spacer
  • back to top
Follow us on...




Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.