Synopses & Reviews
A sweeping and enchanting new novel from the widely beloved, award-winning author Elizabeth McCracken about three generations of an unconventional New England family who own and operate a candlepin bowling alley
From the day she is discovered unconscious in a New England cemetery at the turn of the twentieth century — nothing but a bowling ball, a candlepin, and fifteen pounds of gold on her person — Bertha Truitt is an enigma to everyone in Salford, Massachusetts. She has no past to speak of, or at least none she is willing to reveal, and her mysterious origin scandalizes and intrigues the townspeople, as does her choice to marry and start a family with Leviticus Sprague, the doctor who revived her. But Bertha is plucky, tenacious, and entrepreneurial, and the bowling alley she opens quickly becomes Salford's most defining landmark — with Bertha its most notable resident.
When Bertha dies in a freak accident, her past resurfaces in the form of a heretofore-unheard-of son, who arrives in Salford claiming he is heir apparent to Truitt Alleys. Soon it becomes clear that, even in her death, Bertha's defining spirit and the implications of her obfuscations live on, infecting and affecting future generations through inheritance battles, murky paternities, and hidden wills.
In a voice laced with insight and her signature sharp humor, Elizabeth McCracken has written an epic family saga set against the backdrop of twentieth-century America. Bowlaway is both a stunning feat of language and a brilliant unraveling of a family's myths and secrets, its passions and betrayals, and the ties that bind and the rifts that divide.
"Wildly entertaining.... Bowlaway celebrates the oddest of oddballs and the freakiest of freak accidents with wit and heart. To read McCracken's inimitably clever sentences and follow her quirky narrative twists is to be constantly delighted." NPR
"Elizabeth McCracken's Bowlaway is so deliciously weird and wise and alive. It's a page-turner set in a bowling alley, a grief-haunted and hope-raddled book, and a gloriously fresh paean to the 'perversity of love.' I loved it — what a generous pour of humor and sorrow and wonder." Karen Russell
"McCracken has one of the more distinctive literary sensibilities readers will likely encounter; playful, inventive, and fearless, she's drawn to oddball characters and the eccentric fringes of American family life.... A playful, powerful meditation on the proposition that life itself is strange." Library Journal (Starred Review)
About the Author
Elizabeth McCracken is the author of five books, Here's Your Hat What's Your Hurry (stories), The Giant's House (a National Book Award finalist), Niagara Falls All Over Again, the memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, and Thunderstruck & Other Stories (winner of the 2014 Story Prize, long-listed for the National Book Award), three of which were New York Times Notable Books. She has received grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has served on the faculty at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and currently holds the James Michener Chair for Fiction at the University of Texas at Austin.