Synopses & Reviews
"A frank, plain-spoken, passionate novel that got its grips on me. It is, in one sense, a page turner, and in another a true and good story of human frailty and imperfection survived." - Richard Ford
On an ordinary summer night, Tucker Jones picks up the phone, expecting to hear from his fourteen-year-old daughter Kat. Instead it's another parent, who reports that Kat is not, as promised, at the movies, but at a party--and makes a shocking allegation about her activities there. Furious, Tucker races to the party. Kat has departed, but a full-boil interrogation ends with one of the teenage boys sent crashing into a glass tabletop. Rage turns instantly to remorse, and Tucker is arrested. He could easily lose his home and his business. But, most importantly, will he lose his daughter?
Breaking Her Fall charts the passage of a family through an all-too-imaginable crisis with extraordinary realism and transcendant grace.
"Somehow--and dramatizing this "somehow" is Goodwin's strength--a family, nearly destroyed in a single instant on a single night, manages to become whole again. What ultimately matters in this novel is finding a way to "break" a daughter's fall and heal a father's heart."--The Washington Post Book World
Stephen Goodwin is a professor of creative writing at George Mason University and the author of three previous books. A former director of the literature program at the National Endowment for the Arts, he has served two terms as president of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. He lives in Washington, D.C.
"A corker--vivid, brilliantly marbled with harmonies and textures and people vibrant with life."
"A corker--vivid, brilliantly marbled with harmonies and textures and people vibrant with life."
"Goodwin gets so many things right here. Reminiscent of Robert Boswell, this is a layered, compassionate, extraordinarily graceful novel."
"The tension in this novel begins in the first paragraph and does not cease until the last few pages."
"Smart, serious, and contemplative."
"Psychologically acute.... A memorable exploration of familial love and penance, with a likeably bewildered - and articulate - protagonist."
PRAISE FOR BREAKING HER FALL
“A frank, plain-spoken, passionate novel that got its grips on me. It is,
in one sense, a page-turner, and in another a true and good story of
human frailty and imperfection survived.”—RICHARD FORD
“This summers exquisitely rendered migraine is Stephen Goodwins
novel Breaking Her Fall. Its an intelligent story full of vivid characters.”
—MAUREEN CORRIGAN, on NPR'S FRESH AIR
"A fast-paced tale of family life."
-- Real Simple
"What a treat to read Miller's whip-smart first novel. Brand New Human Being gripped me with its wry humor and wonderfully real characters, and kept me captivated until the last page. This is a fast-paced, first-rate book by an immensely talented new writer."
“Miller's debut novel tackles the meaning of parenthood in the modern world. Introspective and honest, it focuses on the small dramas inside Everyman's living room: the way all parents strive to be better than they are, the way a marriage can start to fray even with the best intentions, and the way love, however elusive, is always worth fighting for. Millers novel is sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but always a worthy, exciting read.”
--Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men are Gone "The strength of BRAND NEW HUMAN BEING is its realistic portrayal of trauma and its aftermath. Death, birth, disease and survival all have their messy consequences in these pages. Miller...is especially good at showing the sloppy nature of relationships in the wake of upheaval."
"Touching...Miller explores Logans resentments and insecurities with sensitivity and nuance."
"Miller is at her best in scenes with Logan and Owen together—dads brutal honesty with his son about death in general (and Owens near-death experience in particular) exposes the depths of his emotional frustration...the first-person-present narration gives the novel a breezy energy. A solid debut..."
"This respectable debut follows the mostly self-inflicted trials of Logan Pyle as he navigates the suddenly confusing waters of fatherhood, marriage, and complex family history...this coming-of-age novel for adults peels back [Pyle's] emotional layers as he tries to find firm ground in the shifting continents of his life."
"Breaking Her Fall is a corker-- vivid, brilliantly marbled with harmonies and textures and people vibrant with life." -- Richard Bausch
Just before eleven on an ordinary summer night in Washington, D.C., Tucker Jones picks up the phone, expecting to hear that his teenage daughter, Kat, is back from the movies. But the caller is another parent, a man who tells Tucker that Kat was actually at a party-- and makes a shocking allegation about what happened to her there. From that moment Breaking Her Fall sweeps irresistibly forward to it s wrenching, and redemptive, conclusion.
In a blind rage, Tucker races to the party to find Kat already departed, but his full-boil interrogation of the boys still present spills over into a confrontation-- and ends with one of the boys crashing into a glass tabletop. In a second, his rage turns to remorse, and he soon finds himself under arrest. Tucker could easily lose his home and his business, but he is most concerned about losing his daughter.
Stephen Goodwin writes with insight and rare power about the way that passion rearranges lives. As Tucker and Kat and everyone around them seek to repair the damages of that night, Breaking Her Fall charts their uncommonly difficult passage from despair to reconciliation and hope with extraordinary grace.
"A whip-smart first novel that gripped me with its wry humor and wonderfully real characters" (Curtis Sittenfeld, author of American Wife), and the story of a stay-at-home dad who's holding his life together by a thread
“A fast-paced, first-rate book by an immensely talented new writer.” —Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Prep
Stay-at-home dad Logan Pyle is holding his life together by a thread: his larger-than-life father, Gus, has just died, his wife is distant, and his kindergarten-age son has regressed to drinking from a baby bottle and sucking his thumb. Complicating matters further is Bennie, Gus’s beautiful young widow, with whom Logan has a troubled past. When the thread finally snaps, Logan’s actions threaten to tear the family he treasures apart. Carried by Logan’s wry, original voice, this moving debut follows one man’s journey from child to parent.
“Compelling . . . The strength of Brand New Human Being is its realistic portrayal of trauma and its aftermath.” —Washington Post
“Introspective and honest . . . Miller’s novel is sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but always a worthy, exciting read.” —Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone
“I devoured this novel. Miller’s debut is funny, fast-paced and poignant, and it depicts a father-son relationship unlike any I’ve read before.” —Jim Gavin, author of Middle Men
When your compass is taken away, how do you navigate? Stay-at-home dad Logan Pyle is holding his life together by a thread: his larger-than-life father, Gus, has just died, his wife is distant, and his kindergarten-age son has regressed to drinking from a baby bottle and sucking his thumb. Complicating matters further is Bennie, Guss beautiful young widow, with whom Logan has a troubled past. When the thread finally snaps, Logans actions threaten to tear the family he treasures apart. Carried by Logans wry, original voice, this moving debut follows one mans journey from child to parent.
About the Author
Stephen Goodwin comes from a large family whose roots are Irish Catholic, Russian Jew, Pennsylvania Dutch, and English. He was born in Pennsylvania, raised in Alabama, and went to high school in Rhode Island. He attended Harvard College and served a tour of duty in the army before receiving his M.A. at the University of Virginia, where he studied with Peter Taylor. His first novel, Kin, was published in 1975, followed by The Blood of Pardise in 1979. Goodwin is a co-founder of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and served as its first president, and he was Director of the Literature Program at the National Endowment for the Arts from 1987-1989. His articles and short stories have appeared in a number of magazines, including GQ and The Sewanee Review, and he has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merril Foundation, and the NEA. He now teaches in the Writing Program at George Mason University.
Reading Group Guide
Q> In what way does Washington, D.C., form a meaningful backdrop for the novel? How do class hierarchies affect the plot? What observations does Tucker make about suburban versus commercial aspects of his community? Q> Are money and sex equally powerful in Breaking Her Fall? In what way do finances influence Tucker's power struggle with Kat's mother? Q> In your opinion, what motivated Kat's actions at the party? Who appears to be ultimately responsible for what happened? How would you have responded to the late-night call from John Fogarty? Q> How does Kat's heartache compare to that of the adults in her world? Are her coping skills much different from theirs? Does Kat mirror or defy her parents' example? Q> How would you characterize Lily's marriage? Why is Tucker more attracted to her than to Christine? Q> Is Tucker's relationship with Kat typical of most fathers and daughters? Does Tucker use a different approach in raising his son? Does Lily's parenting style reflect gender distinctions in a child's upbringing, or are these distinctions shaped more by environment? Q> Discuss the concept of injury and harm as portrayed in this novel. What (or who) are the truly harmful forces in the characters' lives? Do you consider Kat to be a victim of rape? What is the best way to ensure the sense of security Tucker craves? Q> How do the novel's characters define justice and morality? What seems to drive their sense of ethics? Q> When Tucker went to Jed's house, was he trying to rescue his daughter or control her (or both)? Will he ever be comfortable with the notion of his daughter's sexuality? Q> Why might the author have chosen oral sex as the basis for Kat's upheaval rather than another form of sexual behavior? Do you define it as "real" sex? Q> What is the significance of Lily's father in Breaking Her Fall? Did he impart any of the same attitudes to Lily that Tucker tries to evoke in Kat? Does Tucker's relationship to his own parents, particularly his mother, offer any insight into the generation by which he and Lily were raised? Q> Do you perceive Jed as a villain or a victim? Do you predict any transformation in his father's personality after this incident? Would Jed and Abby have been successful parents? Q> How does that one night (along with its resolution) encapsulate Kat's life with Tucker? Q> How have attitudes toward dating and sex changed since you were Kat's age? Why is fourteen a particularly charged age for girls? Q> In what way does Kat break her father's fall?
Copyright © 2004 Harcourt, Inc.