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First You Try Everything: A Novel Hardcover – January 17, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (January 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066210623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066210629
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,438,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“[An] evocative read. . . . A gimlet-eyed story of divorce and love, which bristles with pain and beauty. . . . Set amid the gritty splendor of Pittsburgh, the novel masterfully conveys both the youthful love that Ben and Evvie once shared and why it has fizzled.” (Marie Claire)

“With the plainspoken beauty of her prose and the convincing way the novel inhabits each protagonist’s consciousness…McCafferty has given us a story of shattered illusions, essential as long as humans have dreams from which they need to wake up.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“McCafferty maintains complete control, alternating points of view between the two parties with empathy and aplomb. Glowing with natural humor . . . as the story develops in McCafferty’s warm, steady voice, you stay enchanted to the bitter end.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

“[A] life-stopping novel by Jane McCafferty (a crackerjack of a writer) . . . about heartbreak--as it happens to all of us. McCafferty’s gift is character, and she creates such singular, riveting personalities that you’re laughing and puzzling out whole new understandings of the world.” (O, the Oprah Magazine blog)

“McCafferty’s second novel coins its own brand of heart-searing suspense. . . . Fans of Anne Tyler, Jacquelyn Mitchard, and other top-drawer domestic fiction writers will enjoy this unpredictable, offbeat novel.” (Library Journal)

“[A] deeply moving portrait of the dissolution of a marriage . . . [with] heartrending scenes illuminating the pain of separation, both for the one leaving and the one left.” (Booklist)

“[A] sensitive, offbeat second novel. . . . [that] offers some nicely observed insights into guilt and despair . . . until heartbreak and delusion lead to an act of lunacy that will redefine the landscape. Everyday tragedy takes a surreal spin in this . . . soulful, idiosyncratic tale.” (Kirkus)

“Jane McCafferty knows how marriage can go stale, how it can turn and curdle despite a couple’s best intentions and efforts. Wise, wry and surprising, First You Try Everything is about the mad things we do to hang on to lost love.” (Stewart O'Nan, author of Emily, Alone and The Odds)

“The tools in Jane McCafferty’s anatomy lab: big heart, big brain, jars of funny bones, twine of poetic prose. Under the microscope one finds expanding constellations, other times the minute dna of words combining beautifully with other words. Either way the reader sits back in charged happiness at the discoveries.” (Nancy Zafris, author of Lucky Strike and The Metal Shredders)

“Told in direct, plain-spoken language, Jane McCafferty’s first novel gathers genuine emotional depth and complexity as it follows the lives of two middle-aged sisters, Ivy and Gladys, and the 17-year-old girl, Raelene, who befriends them. When the book o (New York Times Book Review)

“[This] first novel focuses on the life-altering effects of love, loss and abandonment... McCafferty gives readers a...view of the nature of personal transformation.” (Publishers Weekly)

About the Author

Jane McCafferty is the author of the novel One Heart and two collections of stories, Thank You for the Music and Director of the World and Other Stories, which won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. She is the recipient of an NEA award, the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award, and two Pushcart Prizes. She lives and works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


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Customer Reviews

I didn't really like the characters in the story.
Diane
I wanted to like Ben, but I couldn't keep from thinking how big a sap and total idiot he was to put up with all the crap Evvie was coming up with to see him.
L. Leon
The ending is heartbreaking and I can't explain how as it would spoil the whole dang book, but it really got to me.
Dustin Farahnak

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First You Try Everything reminds me of opening a Wal-Mart package and finding a Tiffany bracelet inside. It's unexpected and it shines.

I expected something else: a quirky book about a woman who is driven over the edge by a cheating husband and an impending divorce. Instead, this book is about two good people who are no longer good together and it authentically mines the emotions that ensue from that decision

Evvie is an emotionally fragile woman, the victim of a wounded childhood, who marries a man named Ben, who is similarly mining his childhood issues. Together, they form a life that is based on passionate idealism. But eventually, Ben grows up; he takes a "real job" and begins to stake out a different kind of destiny. He is convinced he has to "go it alone."

Since Ben was Evvie's "everything", she is unable to cope with his decision. As one of Evvie's friends says, "It affects everyone. I mean, how are you supposed to have a community?" In a particularly poignant passage, Evvie reflects, "Ben had been her skin. Ben had understood that the house of childhood cast a spell, gave her a form of multiple personality disorder, rendered her all the ages she had ever been inside of its wall. Without him, how was she to navigate the collision of selves?"

The insights that Jane McCafferty renders are stunning in their authenticity. Evvie and Ben are flawed but sympathetic people, who must cope with the fall-out of leaving someone who has salvaged them from childhood dysfunction and who holds the key to their past and present lives. Ben wonders, "This girl in her twenties, the person she'd been - did she survive inside of the woman who'd broken into his place and said his heart was black ice?
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kayla Trammell on January 25, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This book was not at all what I expected. I didn't want to read it at first, but was on a long trip and a friend whose opinion I respect handed it to me to pass time. I was engrossed in no time at all in this painful yet beautiful story.

Evvie and Ben are in love, but Evvie is idealistic, needy and a bit insane--she talks to herself in public and lacks true purpose despite her radical idealism and commitment to animal rights. She clings to her soulmate, Ben, to the point of smothering him. The years pass and as Ben gets older and changes, he can no longer bear the traits that once drew him to Evvie and he leaves her. Heartbroken and distressed, Evvie's behavior gets more and more crazy, especially when Ben moves on with another woman. As he tries to completely cut her off, she grows more and more deranged and hatches an insane plan to get him back.

As Evvie's scheme plays out, it's clear how far off the deep end she has gone--and it slowly becomes clear to Evvie herself. It's hard to watch Ben ignore her repeated cries for help, especially when they were once so in love. What I love about the book is the way it shows us how clearly this couple can never again be together, yet a part of each other will always be intertwined.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lauri Crumley Coates VINE VOICE on March 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ben and Evvie met in college, fell in love and for many years lived a beautiful and trouble free marriage. On the surface, that is. Evvie is a needy, possessive woman, something I am not sure Ben or even Evvie realizes until their marriage unravels. I have to admit, I am not usually moved by what I would consider to be a routine chic lit type read. However, like all good books, this one is not what it appears on the surface.

Ben grows up and loses his idealism, joining the "real world", but Evvie is unwilling to do so, and they grow apart, but Evvie refuses to notice until Ben has had enough, and is ready to leave the marriage. Evvie decides she will go whatever it takes to get him back, without thinking through the ramifications of "whatever it takes".

Strange and sometimes humorous, sometimes painful but always seeming true to the characters emotions and feelings, this book will keep you reading. I see some reviewers didn't agree, but perhaps they were unable to see Evvie past the neediness and into the woman beneath the surface. The lengths Evvie ends up going to will shock you, but the story will engross you right to the end. An ending that doesn't answer every question, but seems right regardless.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Live2Cruise VINE VOICE on February 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At first, reading this novel was like seeing a bad accident: intensely disturbing, but impossible to look away. The novel details the unraveling of Ben and Evvie's marriage. Once deeply in love (and probably a tad bit codependent) the couple has drifted apart, and Ben has decided to end the marriage. Evvie, who still loves him and wants to hang on to the marriage, is sent on a downward spiral that threatens her sanity.

Initially the characters were a bit one-dimensional (clingy, neurotic wife and distant husband), but the writing was terrific enough to overshadow this. As the novel progressed, different layers of the characters were revealed such that the reader, presented with alternating narratives from Ben and Evvie's viewpoints, gets a sense of what it is to be them.

At the end of the day, no one walks away from the end of a marriage unscathed, no matter whose choice it is; there are no clean breaks, and no clear sinners or saints. Jane McCafferty fluently articulates the psychological messiness of the end of a relationship, and makes it impossible to turn away.
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