Synopses & Reviews
Jenny McPhee's critically acclaimed debut, The Center of Things,
was hailed by O, The Oprah Magazine
as "a smart novel of love, lust, and life's miraculous randomness." The New York Times Book Review
called it "an engaging novel about big ideas." In her delightful new novel, No Ordinary Matter,
McPhee turns her razor-sharp pen on the offbeat worlds of soap operas, mistaken identities, private detectives, and sibling rivalries as she deftly navigates the territory between coincidence and fate.
Veronica Moore writes for a daytime drama while secretly composing a musical and has fallen in love with Alex Drake, who plays a neurologist on her show. Lillian Moore is a neurologist who is pregnant from a one-night stand. Veronica and Lillian have hired Brian Byrd, P. I., to uncover the mystery surrounding their father's death. Before they know it, unexpected answers come crawling out of the woodwork. The sisters meet monthly at the Hungarian Pastry Shop, where they entangle their futures and unravel their pasts, setting the stage for a series of revelations that will change the course of everyone's lives. This fast-paced narrative is full of situations worthy of the steamiest of soaps, and yet McPhee renders this fantastical world delightfully ordinary.
No Ordinary Matter is as addictive as a soap opera, as high-kicking as a Broadway show, as insightful as an MRI, and as satisfying as a buttery croissant. With its sly charm and witty sophistication, McPhee's new novel is another sparkling gem from a rising literary star.
"McPhee (The Center of Things) throws more curveballs than a big league pitcher in this frenetic New York romantic comedy. As the novel begins, Veronica Moore, an up-and-coming soap opera and musical writer, is grappling with the news that her sister, Lillian, a tall, stunning blond neurologist, has engineered her own pregnancy. Alex Drake, the out-of-work actor Lillian seduced, has no idea that he's about to become a father. At the same time, Lillian and Veronica hire Bryan Byrd, a private investigator and jazz musician, in an attempt to uncover secrets that their own father may have been keeping before he died 25 years earlier. When Veronica discovers that the newest actor to grace the set of the show she writes for, Ordinary Matters, is none other than Alex Drake, she is determined to find out if he is the same man who unsuspectingly impregnated her sister. An ill-advised horse-drawn carriage ride turns into a full-blown romance and Veronica can't find the courage to tell Lillian. Meanwhile, the sisters are being tailed by two detectives, who indirectly uncover secrets in the Moore gene pool that make Ordinary Matters look like classic drama. 'Soap operas,' Veronica decides, are 'even more implausible than musicals,' though apparently everyday life can be the most preposterous of all. McPhee's latest is sure to serve as a guilty pleasure for many this summer. 5-city author tour. Agent, Kim Witherspoon. (June )" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Is this some sort of postmodern whodunit? Not exactly more like an old-fashioned farce. So absurdly improbable that it can be swallowed whole: a witty spoof, nicely put together and hard to put down." Kirkus Reviews
"Second novelist McPhee successfully pulls off this souped-up, big-hearted soap. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Jenny McPhee is a lot of fun and is brimming with talent. In her new novel No Ordinary Matter, her dialogue and narrative style are charged with volcanic radiation and she knows how to carry a story along through the intrigues and wonderful mysteries of the lives of two professional women. A daring and charming book." Muriel Spark, author of Aiding and Abetting
"Even though Lillian, the neurologist in Jenny McPhee's new novel, would say I don't really know why I laughed so much when I read it, I still think it's because No Ordinary Matter is very funny. It's also a profound description of how we're all made crazy and sad and occasionally even wise by that extravagant kind of brain trauma known as life." Matthew Sharpe, author of The Sleeping Father
"McPhee is astonishing her storytelling makes me want to write (the highest praise another writer can offer). This is a whimsical, magical book." Suzanne Finnamore, author of Otherwise Engaged
"For McPhee, it would seem, the world is a fascinating machine with intricate parts that somehow fit together: Broadway, television, brain chemistry, academia, motherhood, family, feminism, beauty, jealousy, love, sex and work and that's what she models her novel on. It's a heady mix, and an ambitious undertaking. She has wit and patience with her sometimes exasperating characters, and a demonstrated skill as ringmaster to her intricate plot circles and the ideas that make them swirl." Barbara O'Dair, Salon.com
(read the entire Salon.com review)
Heralded as "a smart novel of love, lust and life's miraculous randomness" (O, The Oprah Magazine), this lush new novel explores the complexities of familial relationships, as well as the nature of desire, love and motherhood.
About the Author
Jenny McPhee is the author of The Center of Things, a novel, and the coauthor of Girls: Ordinary Girls and Their Extraordinary Pursuits. She is the translator of Paolo Maurensig's Canone Inverso and of Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals, including Glimmer Train, Zoetrope, and Brooklyn Review, and her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and Bookforum, among others. She is on the board of the Bronx Academy of Letters.