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Child of My Heartby Alice McDermott
"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." Mona Simpson, Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)
Synopses & Reviews
In 1998, Alice McDermott's fourth novel, Charming Billy, surprised the literary world by capturing the National Book Award. Few doubted that McDermott deserved the prize and the readership it would deliver — she'd also been nominated for two Pulitzers and another NBA — but A Man in Full, Tom Wolfe's 727-page tome, was generally presumed to be a shoo-in for the prize. In some respects, beating out Wolfe offered an incisive clue about her success. Book after book, McDermott does more with less. In her novels it's often what isn't on the page that tells you what you need to know about the characters and their stories. Since her debut, A Bigamist's Daughter, reviewers have been calling McDermott's fiction "prismatic." And it's true: the force of her writing rarely hits you directly, but rather through the accumulation of precise, stunning details delivered in immaculately crafted phrasings. Then she gave us Child of My Heart, a deceptively simple story about one fifteen-year-old girl's summer on the east end of Long Island. "McDermott is something of a specialist in the literature of wry sorrow — she's Irish, after all," Ron Charles noted in the Christian Science Monitor. "Her previous novel, Charming Billy, described a lovable alcoholic who could never marry the woman he loved. She's not far from that theme in Child of My Heart, but this time she's wound sorrow tightly around a spine of resilience to produce a story that's more profound and unsettling." Dave, Powells.com
A young girl's astonishing, poignant first look into the turbulent heart of things
"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.... "
Alice McDermott's haunting and enchanting new work of fiction--her first since the bestselling Charming Billy, winner of the 1998 National Book Award--is narrated by a woman who was born beautiful. Her parents decided that her best chance in life was to marry a wealthy man, so she was raised on the east end of Long Island, among the country houses of the rich. On the cusp of fifteen, she is the town's most sought-after babysitter--cheerful, beloved, a wonder with children and animals, but also a solitary soul with an already complex understanding of human nature--when her favorite cousin, Daisy, comes to spend the summer.
The narrator's witty, piquant, deeply etched evocation of all that was really transpiring under the surface during that seemingly idyllic season gives her wry tale--infused with suppressed passion, disappointment, and enduring hope--its remarkable vividness and impact. Once again, Alice McDermott explores the mysterious depths of what seems like everyday life with unforgettable insight and resonant emotional power.
"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." Publishers Weekly
"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." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"McDermott's prose is even and elegant, and the complex character of Theresa offers subtle emotion imbued with haunting prescience." Library Journal
"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." Kirkus Reviews
"McDermott's presentation of a child's growing awareness of the adult world has something classic about it....In reading this almost immaculate novel, I couldn't help seeing McDermott as if she herself were Theresa, watching some boys play king of the hill. And smiling to herself, knowing that the art of restraint is more difficult to practice, and its results more likely to last." Michael Gorra, New York Times Book Review
"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." John Freeman, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"This may well be McDermott's finest achievement?Child of My Heart is a book of astonishing craft and enormous heart. Line by line evokes and pricks. Truth after truth gets spoken." Beth Kephart, Book magazine
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.
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.
About the Author
Alice McDermott is the author of four previous novels: Charming Billy, winner of the National Book Award in 1998; At Weddings and Wakes; That Night; and A Bigamists
Daughter. She lives with her family outside Washington, D.C.
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