Synopses & Reviews
Hours away from pushing the button on a self-publishing deal, lawyer-turned-novelist Philip Beard was won over by the combined efforts of a bookseller, a sales rep, a publisher, and an agent, and brought the book to Viking. With its extraordinary backstory already covered in Publishers Weekly's
"Hot Deals" column, Dear Zoe
has got built-in buzz that's just going to keep growing. Beard's stunning debut is an epistolary novel written from fifteen-year-old Tess DeNunzio to her little sister Zoe.
After Zoe's accidental death on September 11, 2001 a day so many others died Tess's family is numbed by their personal tragedy. Already acutely aware of her odd place in a home where her mother and stepfather now have children of their own, Tess begins her letter as a means of figuring out her own life from her two-hour-a-day hair and make-up ritual to her complicity in Zoe's death. Only after she moves in with her real father, a well-intentioned deadbeat, and stumbles into a halting romance with the sweet but aimless boy next door, does Tess begin to open her heart once more.
Not since The Lovely Bones has there been a study of grief, adolescence, and healing that rings as true as Dear Zoe. In Tess, a girl on the verge of womanhood, Beard has crafted a pitch-perfect narrator and a debut novel of rare power and grace that will remain with readers long after the book is put down.
"A 15-year-old girl struggles to cope with private grief in an age of public catastrophe in this awkwardly conceived but sweet, sure-voiced debut. When her little sister, Zoe, dies after being struck by a car on September 11, 2001, savvy, self-aware Tess DeNunzio works through her grief by writing letters to Zoe. Tess's candid observations about her feelings of guilt (she witnessed the accident) and her mourning process give warmth and clarity to her descriptions of daily life in the aftermath. Not sure how to deal with her bereaved mother and uncommunicative stepfather, Tess moves across Pittsburgh to live with her real dad, an underemployed weight lifter with a good heart. Tess's wise-beyond-her-years sensibility can seem contrived ('That's one of the strangest parts of being a stepchild. You actually get to watch your parents fall in love'), and a morality lesson about the virtues of virginity feels tacked on. Most problematically, however, September 11 feels like a giant peg on which a small (but lovely) coat has been hung. Maybe that's the point, but much more moving are Tess's attempts to cope with the conventional aspects of the loss of her sister. (On sale Mar. 28) Forecast: Dear Zoe was about to be self-published when Viking snatched it up. Proper promotion could net the novel some cross-over YA sales. Six-city author tour." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[P]iercing....Beard captures the raw emotion of a 15-year-old girl with impressive dexterity, following Tess through the many stages of grief. Everything about this moving, powerful debut rings true." Booklist
"Earnest and sensitive to a fault." Kirkus Reviews
Beard's stunning debut is an epistolary novel written from 15-year-old Tess DeNunzio to her little sister Zoe. After Zoe's accidental death on September 11, 2001 a day so many others died Tess's family is numbed by their personal tragedy. Not since The Lovely Bones has there been a study of grief, adolescence, and healing that rings as true as Dear Zoe.
Philip Beards stunning debut novel is fifteen-year-old Tess DeNunzios letter to her sister, Zoe, lost to a hit-and-run driver on a day when it seemed that nothing mattered but the tragedies playing out in New York and Washington. Dear Zoe is a remarkable study of grief, adolescence, and healing with a pitch-perfect narrator who is at once sharp and naïve, world- worried and self-centered, funny and heartbreakingly honest. Tess begins her letter to Zoe as a means of figuring out her own life, her place in the world, but the result is a novel of rare power and grace that tells us much about ours.
Like The Lovely Bones
, [Dear Zoe
] is a piercing look at how family recovers from a devastating loss. Everything about this moving, powerful debut rings true.”
Booklist (starred review)
Beard peels away the layers of his protagonists anguish simply and sensitively. . . and creates real, multidimensional and affecting characters.”
The Washington Post
The whole novel . . . rings with truth.”
The Buffalo News
About the Author
Philip Beard is a writer, teacher, and attorney. This is his first novel.