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Lay It on My Heart Paperback – July 1, 2014


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Biting yet optimistic, this first novel will knock you sideways with its Southern charm and quiet humanity." --O, The Oprah Magazine

"Charmaine Peake is struggling: with her mentally ill father, her difficult mother, the boy on the bus, her homemade purse and her relationship with God. Pneuman captures the voice of adolescence and the uncertainty of faith in this endearing novel."
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[A] marvelous dark and comic debut novel...Pneuman is a master of dark comedy, and the grimmer the material, the funnier it becomes in her twisted but capable hands. Like her literary ancestor, Flannery O'Connor, she shows how myopic allegedly religious people can be, but she doesn't take cheap shots at religion either.” –San Francisco Chronicle

"An affecting coming-of-age story...Pneuman's sharp, insightful writing reveals the myriad challenges life can throw in a young girl's path." --Marin Independent Journal

"Pneuman rarely allows slack in this taut storyline...Pneuman’s treatment of the ‘reality,’ or lack thereof, of divine communication is lovely and not in the least bit condescending. Readers are left to make their own judgments." --Kansas City Star

"Pneuman’s evocation of Charmaine and her surroundings is absolute and gripping, and her novel will please any lover of good fiction, especially those with a religious background and a sense of humor."  -- Amber Peckham, Booklist

"Both a compassionate and uncompromising coming-of-age tale."  -- Kirkus Reviews


"Pneuman uses potent prose in her intimate and intense debut novel." --Publishers Weekly

"I loved Lay It on My Heart. Angela Pneuman has written a funny and moving coming-of-age novel that explores the mysteries of faith and family with uncommon grace and wry wisdom." -- Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers

"You will stay up all night reading this brilliant and devastating novel the way you might have with a new best friend in junior high—one whose revelations thrilled and terrified you, and whose raw, hard-earned wisdom remade the way you saw the world. It evokes the genius of Angela Pneuman's canonical progenitors:  Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, Walker Percy.  Lay It on My Heart is a gorgeous, riveting, and unforgettable book." -- Julie Orringer, author of The Invisible Bridge and How to Breathe Underwater

"At the center of this stunning first novel is a family in crisis, a story that in Angela Pneuman's incredibly capable hands is both utterly original and nearly mythic in its powerful universality. A girl on the brink of adolescence, the only child of evangelists living in a small Kentucky town, watches the unraveling of her father's faith and her parents' marriage and discovers, in her necessary efforts to escape the attentions of her troubled mother, the dangers and promises of the secular world."—Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, Songs Without Words, and Swim Back to Me

“At stake in this must-read novel is the sanity of a modern-day prophet, the state of his God-ordained marriage, and, most of all, the painful coming-of-age of his daughter—our wise, perceptive narrator—in the evangelical territory of the rural South. Angela Pneuman brings searing psychological insight to the conflicts that draw people to extreme faith, keep them there, or force them to emerge—dazed, blinking and giving thanks. A profoundly moving, deeply compassionate, wickedly funny book.”—Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master’s Son

"Lay It On My Heart is a lovely book fully steeped in the quirks and growing pains of the changing South. With the biting humor of Flannery O'Connor and the empathic ear of Ellen Gilchrist, Pneuman creates characters who come alive off the page to fully pull you into their lives. A subtle, absorbing, funny portrait of the faith it takes to come of age and to love with grace from a masterful young writer." —Katie Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of Girls in Trucks and Abroad

“I know the voices of southern girls, and when they sing true, my heart expands.  Angela Pneuman is a flute.  She’s let the Big Breath blow through her to create a force of nature named Charmaine Peake, who then lets the spirit blow through her to tell a story about mothers and daughters and fathers, and how we all get lost, and how we might get found--or found-out, and how, ultimately, it's the courage to bear one another’s vulnerability that can save us.  When I finished this book, I wanted to fold the narrator and the novelist into my arms, and tell them: what stellar gifts you are!" --Rebecca Wells, author, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood; Ya-Yas in Bloom; Little Altars Everywhere and  The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder

"Angela Pneuman has the voice I have been waiting for: sure and graceful, earthy and edgy, heartbreaking and hopeful. It is this wholly unique voice, bolstered by wicked humor and a keen sense of character, that drives so deep into Flannery O’Connor’s Christ-haunted South. I feel nothing short of evangelical about this powerful debut; you’ll want LAY IT ON MY HEART on your 'keep forever' shelf." -- Joshilyn Jackson, bestselling author of Gods in Alabama, Someone Else’s Love Story, and others


About the Author


ANGELA PNEUMAN was raised in Kentucky and is a former Stegner Fellow. She currently teaches fiction writing at Stanford University and works as a writer in the California wine industry. Her first book, the story collection Home Remedies, was hailed as "call[ing] to mind Alice Munro" (San Francisco Chronicle), and her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories (2012, 2004), Ploughshares, New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Los Angeles Review and many other literary journals. In 2012, she received the inaugural Alice Hoffman prize for the short story from Ploughshares. Angela splits her time between Northern California and Chicago.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (July 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015101258X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151012589
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Angela Pneuman is the author of a book of short stories, Home Remedies, and a novel, Lay It on My Heart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Her work has also appeared in Best American Short Stories (2012 & 2004), Ploughshares, the Los Angeles Review, Iowa Review, Glimmertrain and many other literary magazines. She currently teaches fiction writing at Stanford University and works as a copywriter in the California wine industry. Angela has received the Stegner Fellowship from Stanford, the Presidential Fellowship from SUNY Albany, and the first inaugural Alice Hoffman Prize for short fiction from Ploughshares.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By H. A Truett VINE VOICE on June 3, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an exquisite novel. I wish i could quote from it, because I highlighted some truly beautiful lines. I was born in Kentucky and am often drawn to stories set there. Charmaine's experiences with youth ministry tickled me. My husband is a youth minister and we sometimes label things as "80s youth ministry." I wasn't in a youth group in the 80s, so I don't have those experiences. It was fun to see them on the page.

The struggle to find what pieces of a person are THAT PERSON and what pieces are part of their disorder is a very real problem. I have seen it from the inside, and it was interesting to view it from the outside, through Charmaine.

Without giving away the ending, I will say that I thought it was well-handled. Not overly sweet and gift-wrapped, but not disappointing either. Just… real.

I will certainly read more from this author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By delicateflower152 TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 2, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
“Lay It on My Heart” is a beautifully crafted novel. Angela Pneuman has captured the doubts and fears about faith and salvation; the conflict between mother and daughter; and the impact of mental illness on a family on the pages of this novel.

As thirteen-year old Charmaine Peake navigates the emotional and physical aspects of adolescence, she must also deal with her father’s mental illness; her fundamental Christian heritage and her own beliefs; her beloved grandmother’s health; and having another family living in her home. Of her mother, Charmaine says “… My mother and I get along better with a room or two between us… ”. Her mother Phoebe must deal with her own disillusionment about marriage and her life choices. “…it didn’t even cross my mind to pray for myself and see whether or not the Lord was calling me to get married … I was Phoebe Savage. And I gave it up like it was nothing…” Granddaughter of the famous evangelist, Custer Peake, Charmaine tries to follow her father’s advice and “pray without ceasing”. However, she sometimes doubts the strength of her faith and the value of prayer. Her comment is one that many have felt, but may not have expressed. “…even if … God’s silence is an opportunity to appreciate the power of faith, it’s …wretched … to ask for something you want so badly and to hear nothing.” Throughout “Lay It on My Heart”, Charmaine continues to mature and to grow in her understanding of others. Phoebe will rediscover her own identity and will accept the path her life has taken. In the final paragraphs, Charmaine says of her mother’s and father’s relationship “…it’s Phoebe … who takes him back. First, with hope, as a husband.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kindred VINE VOICE on June 4, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Imagine the special kind of pressure you would feel being the son of a semi-famous evangelist. How could a person live up to that? Bring more people to the Lord or turn away from religion altogether? Now add the extra burden of not being able to support your family and the feeling that you’re off balance and I can’t think of a better recipe for disaster. No wonder our main character Charmaine Peake’s father begins to hear the voice of God telling him to check out of reality and live on the fringe of sanity. When the voice of God becomes the voice of mental illness how will the family cope?

Charmaine is a typical thirteen year old, which is to say, a little crazy like all thirteen year olds are. The fact that her father is in the hospital after hurting himself in a delusional state and that her mother is coping by placing too much on Charmaine’s shoulders expecting her to grow up and handle it just adds to that sense of life spinning beyond understanding just out of reach. She just wants her mother to be quiet and she wants to be able to go home instead of having to live in their RV by the river to stretch their meager income stream from her mother’s substitute teaching job. The fact that one of her least likely friend, Seth and family just back from a missionary job in Africa is now living in her bedroom is almost more than she can bear.

Luckily Charmaine has her grandmother who believes her son is a man after God’s own heart to lean on when it becomes too much, even though her mother and grandmother don’t quite get along. And she’s trying her best to live up to expectations that she be a good servant to the Lord and try not to lose her temper with Seth.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Winn on July 16, 2014
Format: Paperback
My Kentucky sister-in-law gave this to me, and I really enjoyed it. It was entertaining and witty, but not fluff----it had layers and interesting, dark crevices. I thought the characters were complicated and flawed and well-drawn, and I LOVED the end. I want to remember this author's name and see what she does next.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Just My Op VINE VOICE on December 20, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I find books, both fiction and nonfiction, about the effect of religion on people's lives to be fascinating, and I've read several.

This one isn't about some crazy, snake-handling patriarch who takes "spare the rod" to an extreme, thank goodness. But it is about a crazy patriarch, or more importantly, his daughter. Charmaine is suffering the usual teenage growing pains, quite literally, but also is trying to follow her father's religious examples. But it is she and her mom, Phoebe, who have to deal with everyday life. And that is not always easy.

"My mother and I get along better with a room or two between us."

While this was a good story, it didn't really draw me in as I had hoped. I liked the characterization. I especially like that a physically challenged child named Cecil Goode was not especially likable, did not fit into that stereotype of the long-suffering but saintly handicapped child. He was, actually, rather creepy. At least, his behavior was.

There was another rather creepy and disturbing part, something about photos, that I could have lived without, although they were an integral part of the story.

Even though the book didn't grab me as I'd hoped, that last ten or so pages almost make up for that. The ending was lyrical and quite lovely.

Because I was given an advanced copy of this book for review, the quote, the first line of the book, may have changed in the published edition.
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