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The Outside of August (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – April 27, 2004


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The Outside of August (Ballantine Reader's Circle) + Swimming (Ballantine Reader's Circle) + The German Bride: A Novel
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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (April 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345441834
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345441836
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,855,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wanderlust strikes hard in this fitfully engaging second novel by Hershon (Swimming), in which loyalty and commitment vie with the irrepressible desire to escape. Growing up in a cavernous Long Island house, Alice Green seems always to be waiting for her mother, Charlotte, to return. A capricious woman who travels to exotic countries at a moment's notice for weeks at a time, Charlotte and her absences put a palpable strain on the Green family. Alice's father, a professor of neurobiology, glosses over her foibles, and Alice turns for comfort to her older brother, August, a self-contained boy who becomes a rebellious adolescent, spending more and more time with his rich, orphaned girlfriend, Cady. When Alice is 16 and August 18, their mother is killed in a fire, and August leaves home, gradually drifting farther and farther away. Like their mother, he travels all over the world and balks at coming home even when his father dies. Alice-a nervous, peace-making child, then a defiant teenager willing to kiss anyone, and finally the only member of the family determined to hold things together-travels to Baja, Mexico, to find August, in a final attempt to understand him. While she is there, he reveals a secret that gives her a new perspective on their past. Hershon creates a few complex, well-rounded characters-Alice and Cady are particularly satisfying-but August and Charlotte never become much more than ciphers, their wanderings only cursorily explained. Hershon aims for lyricism but sometimes misses the mark ("The sky drained slowly as she anticipated the sight of her father's car coming home from the lab") in what is, overall, a choppy sophomore effort.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“Brilliant. . . Hershon’s writing is intimate and arresting, and her characters are vivid. Her triumph is the breathing, shimmering world she creates around the Green family.”
The Washington Post

“TAUT AND SUSPENSEFUL . . . Hershon succeeds in creating idiosyncratic characters and a story that won’t let go of your attention.”
The New York Times Book Review

“REMARKABLE . . . As tightly wound and as tender as its main character, Alice Green. . . . Hershon is a gifted writer. The precision of her prose is a delight. . . . [This] poignant, utterly convincing depiction of family unhappiness will strike a familiar chord with many readers.”
The Boston Globe

“Hershon’s epic novel is full of dense psychological portraits . . . [She] propels this story about the shifting and dangerous tides of love and need into something close to majesty.”
—The Washington Post

“Hershon immerses readers completely in this deeply moving novel.”
Romantic Times

“Recommended . . . Breezy dialog and rich descriptions of people and locales keep the reader engaged.”
Library Journal



From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

I plodded along, trying to get interested, but quit half way through.
POV
The many characters in this book are full and varied and their complex family story reminds me of the intricate and lasting effects people truly have on one another.
"billburgreader"
Written in a very descriptive style, she successfully creates a mood and atmosphere throughout the book that matches the story line.
Bookreporter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Family secrets, generational lies, and sibling relationships are the major themes in the accomplished, beautifully written, but uneven story from Johanna Hershon. Hershon is a subtle, delicate writer and she weaves together a clever story that spans the early 70's up until 2001. The novel is slow to start, with the later sections of the story working better than the first sections. Alice Green is the central protagonist and principle narrator of this "quite" little tale of family dysfunction and miscommunication. Her mother, Charlotte is world wise, selfish, and unable to settle down. She spends months away in foreign countries trying to "reinvent herself" and dreads coming back to her children, and her suffocating monogamous marriage to her husband.
Alice's unraveling of her one of Mother's hidden secrets and her relationship with her disaffected and dissolute bother August makes up the core of the novel. And her journey of understanding takes her to Mexico where she finally comes to terms with her mother's estrangement and August's betrayals. Hershon's strengths as a writer is her ability to paint, in minute detail, a specific scene: there are, for example, some wonderful descriptions of the Baja Peninsula when Alice goes in her "road trip" to find August; the dusty dryness, the poverty, the dirt, the local food, and the seedy hotels are all bought vividly to life.
Hershon adept at creating fully realized and compassionate characters. Alice is headstrong, reclusive but with a strong sense of purpose, and she possesses the will to do what is right. August is irresponsive and disaffected, and admits that he can't handle family life while his mother Charlotte "is the way she is." And then there's Charlotte locked into a marriage, and aching to disappear just like an escape artist.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on August 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
THE OUTSIDE OF AUGUST by Joanna Hershon is the story of one woman's search for the truth about her mother, a woman who was unavailable emotionally and physically, yet had great influence on a family that was being torn apart from within. The book is divided into two sections and centers on Alice Green, the daughter. Told from her point of view, the story line through the first half of the book gives the reader a somewhat skewed picture of what was happening with her family during her childhood years. The reader will find that this was intentional on the author's part, as things come to light in the second half of the novel when Alice goes in search of answers.
The first part is comprised of several key events that take place in Alice's youth, snapshots of what her life was like growing up. In one scene, Alice describes a party she attended, where at one point her mother and father seem to be subconsciously competing against each other for the attentions of a man. Two people couldn't be more different. Alice's mother is a free spirit who disappears for weeks on end doing who knows what, coming home with interesting souvenirs and claiming she was working or doing research for some project, while her father is a scientist, buried in his work. Alice never does accept that her mother Charlotte is taking these trips for any legitimate reason, except to enjoy traveling and living the life she can't experience at home with her family. There's a sense that Charlotte needs to escape, and on each successive trip she comes home looking older and more haggard. Sometimes she is found in bed all day, unable to function, deep in a depression that Alice does not understand.
On the other hand, Alice's father Alan is an enigma, often withdrawn and not taking part emotionally with the family.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "billburgreader" on July 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Outside of August is so incredibly engaging I truly found it difficult to put down. Joanna Hershon creates such a vivid sense of place that I often forget I haven't been to the houses and towns she describes--I've only read them. The many characters in this book are full and varied and their complex family story reminds me of the intricate and lasting effects people truly have on one another. A great read!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By sirrah231 on August 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed the first half of the story, but once things moved to Mexico, I had to plod along. The characters didn't develop well enough as adults for them to be at all interesting. The story meandered somewhat predictably to a dull ending.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By katie78 on June 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this read a lot (after a slow start) but I was slightly disappointed to see Hershon revisit the same exact territory she dealt with in Swimming. Superficial details have changed, but she follows the same formula: a main character's life is defined by a family trauma from years ago, she searches for an estranged brother- who she has an intense, near obsessive love for- in order to find out "what really happened", and once she finds closure, she is finally able to become emotionally available and present in her own life. It worked, but for anyone who read her first book, it will no doubt feel familliar.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Green on November 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book was not nearly as good as her first novel, Swimming. While I was captivated by the first part of the novel, the second half fell flat as the characters did not develop any further. I felt that the explanations were unsatisfactory and did not feel a level of completeness or understanding that I was looking for.
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More About the Author

Joanna Hershon is the author of four novels: Swimming, The Outside of August, The German Bride, and A Dual Inheritance. Her writing has appeared in (among other places) The New York Times, One Story, The Virginia Quarterly Review, the literary anthologies Brooklyn Was Mine, Freud's Blind Spot, and Berlin Stories-- a multimedia journal for NPR Worldwide. She's an adjunct assistant professor in the Creative Writing department at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the painter Derek Buckner, and their twin sons.
Interested in learning more? Go to www.joannahershon.com

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