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Asta in the Wings (Tin House New Voice) Paperback – February 1, 2009
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Aryn Kyle, author of The God of Animals
In Asta in The Wings Jan Elizabeth Watson has created one of the most appealing fictional heroines I've encountered in a long time. Asta is brave, resourceful, intelligent, and loyal. She also happens to be seven years old, which means she's at the mercy of the unreliable adults who rule her world. The result is a vivid and suspenseful narrative where, over and over again, Asta shows us the world from her own very particular angle. A highly original debut.”
Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street
With this, her excellent debut novel, Watson makes quick work of a setup that could prove challenging for even seasoned authors. Seven-year-old Asta grows up in rural Maine in the late 1970s, where she and her sickly nine-year-old brother, Orion, are kept locked in their house by their crazy mother, who fills their heads with tales of the plague-ravaged wasteland waiting outside their door. Equipped with little beyond what their mother provides, the children are wildly creative, surprisingly intelligent and share a deep bond with each other. But when their mother disappears and the two venture outside, they face the real world and real people for the first time. As Asta processes what’s going on and is separated from her brother, she’s reluctant to recognize what was wrong with her previous life. Asta’s narration is full of the wonderment and matter-of-factness of youth, and her eye-opening trip into reality is flawlessly executed by Watson.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review
"In this extraordinary debut novel, seven-year-old Asta and her malnourished nine-year-old brother, Orion, who live in a small town in Maine, have long been isolated from the outside world. Told by their mother that a plague has devastated the world, they have not set foot outside the house in years, although the two have formed a deep bond based on their richly imaginative play. Then their mother fails to come home from work, and the siblings set out to look for her. Watson vividly renders their first contact with others, including a surly store clerk, a pack of mean-spirited schoolchildren, and a kindly bus driver, from Asta’s awestruck perspective as she slowly comes to grips with the fact that everything her mother told her was a lie. She is unwilling to acknowledge, at first, that there was anything amiss in her family life, although she is quick to perceive that people do not treat her with nearly the same careful attentiveness as her brother does. Sensitive and intelligent, Asta struggles to reconcile her familial loyalty with her new reality. A cleverly constructed, beautifully written first novel from a gifted new writer."Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist, Starred Review
"Jan Elizabeth Watson's debut, Asta in the Wings, follows two mavens of make-believeseven-year-old Asta and her nine-year-old brother, Orionas they reckon with the brutal realities of the adult world in the wilds of rural Maine."BookForum
"The mysteries and ambiguities that Watson creates, raising questions and not trying to answer themis what powers the novel."Nina MacLaughlin, The Portland Phoenix
"Watson hasn't set herself an easy task for her debut. The success of the novel rests entirely on her main character's sparrow-sized shoulders. Fortunately, Asta has reserves of intelligence and resourcefulness to spare and her voice is unforgettable."Yvonne Zipp, The Christian Science Monitor
"...a heartbreaking examination of otherness and normality...an expressive, authentic rendering of childhood through a child's eyes..." Sheila Ashdown, Powell's Review-a-Day
"This debut is a story of what happens when the outside world discovers that a widowed mother in Maine has removed her two children, seven-year-old Asta and her nine-year-old brother, Orion, from any contact with the outside world. Unaware that their mother is delusional, the two children do not feel deprived under her care, appreciating her for what she is able to provide. When their isolated living situation is discovered, the children find themselves at the mercy of kind yet sometimes misguided adults. Asta emerges as the stronger, more communicative child. Bright and sometimes wily, she remains steadfastly devoted to her gifted yet now mute brother. This she somehow manages while attempting to adjust to both home and school by herself, as the two children now live apart. The narrative is told from Asta's perspective, and initially the tone is eerie and unsettling. As the story unfolds, the situation feels less threatening and even incorporates elements of humor. An unusual novel; recommended for larger public libraries."
Library Journal, Feb. 15, 2009, Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ
"Told from the point-of-view of an adult Asta, the book captures a childlike sense of wonder at the everyday, informed by an adult’s understanding, and Watson’s intricate language deftly balances the two."Meeting House Magazine
"Asta in the Wings is a remarkable...The first published novel by Jan Elizabeth Watson, Asta in the Wings takes on a complicated world of isolation and separation from Asta’s young point of view."MinnesotaReads.com
"Through Asta's unique voice and perspective we are reminded of the resilience of children. Through her ordeal of finding her way in a new life, we are reminded of the goodness of people, and through her constant search for Mother, we are reminded of the powerful mother-child bond of love. An early review called Asta in the Wings 'a gem of a book' and I would agree."BookBrowse.com
"Asta is precocious, innocent, curious, vulnerable, loyal, remarkably evenhanded and self-assured. She is the type of character that keeps you reading...Asta in the Wings succeeds because of Watson’s skill in creating a character like Asta and in giving her a voice that somehow captures and illuminates childhood." Kevin Holtsberry, CollectedMiscellany.com
"Asta Hewitt is a 7-year-old growing up in an isolated house in Maine. Her mother reads Shakespeare aloud from the bathtub, conjures up imaginary illnesses, burns toys for no good reason. She is fanciful, vindictive and deeply loved. When she doesn't come home one night, Asta and her older brother, Orion, decide they must head out into the wider world. "We took turns tugging on the door latch; our hands overlapped at one point, and we pulled with all our might until the heavy old door opened wide and the snow flew straight into my eyes and open mouth. It was time to begin our search for Mother." "Asta in the Wings," Jan Elizabeth Watson's debut novel, is published by Portland's Tin House Books."The Oregonian
"Superbly imagined... a book that is ultimately about the power of memory and imagination to restore the broken past." The Somerville Journal
"...remarkably imaginative and heartbreaking...Seeing the world through Asta's eyes is delight enough in itself."Jasper Lepak, Rain Taxi
"Jan Elizabeth Watson’s debut novel, Asta in the Wings (Tin House, 2009), captures the peculiar insightfulness of childhood through her fearless seven-year-old narrator, Asta. To say that the book is pitch perfect doesn’t begin to capture the gorgeous ways Watson reveals the predicament of Asta and her nine-year-old brother, Orion: their magical, theatrical mother, Loretta, has serious problems that endanger her children...Watson makes it difficult to part with Asta, and impossible to forget her."FictionWritersReview.com
"Watson's story sends her young heroine from an extraordinary existence into the incredible, ordinary world, and her novel reaches unexpected heights in the process." Molly Templeton, Eugene Weekly
"Watson's novel beguiles because of Asta's compelling voice and Watson's tight writing."Debra Spark, Down East
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Top Customer Reviews
Watson's debut novel was impossible to put down. I read it in two days and found myself sad, when I had to set is aside for stuff like work and sleeping! The story is told from the point of view of seven year old Asta. Initially the book starts out sort of like M. Night Shyamalan's, "The Village." Asta and her brother, Orion, are told by their mother that a deadly plague exists outside of their house. They are terrified to so much as look outside of their windows, which are totally boarded up. They are also kept malnourished, in what they are told is the only way to stay healthy.
One day, their mother leaves the house and fails to return. Asta and Orion must face their fears of the outside, in order to try to find their mother. The story takes a bunch of twists and turns that are not only compelling, but emotional. Watson really nails it with the way she tells the story from a seven year olds perspective. I loved this story and cannot wait to read future novels by Watson.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Once I started reading this I was hooked. 4 instead of 5 stars because I was hoping for more of an ending. Overall, intriguing story and very well written.Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
This has been my favorite book for years, and one of the few I return to again and again. Each time feels like the first time reading it, as I notice more details and experience... Read morePublished 18 months ago by stephanie
A marvelously unusual story! As one other reviewer said, once I started, I could hardly put it down. But I don't fully agree that the narrator is a seven-year old one. Read morePublished on July 31, 2010 by Millie Samuelson
The novel has some interesting elements of psychology. Asta's view on the world, including her mother, brother and everything else she encounters makes for a wonderful read. Read morePublished on July 13, 2010 by E. Salls
This was a fantastic read. The story is written perfectly from the child's perspective, sharing observations and thoughts which are not simple to put into words. Read morePublished on October 30, 2009 by Brendan Kehoe