From Publishers Weekly
"When someone killed himself, it was a waste. No one ever said so, but we knew. My father will kill himself. It will be a waste," says Kate Schiller, recalling her gloomy early years from the vantage point of adulthood. In this moving, occasionally maudlin, debut novel by the author of the memoir Wasted
, the Schiller family of smalltown Motley, Minn., is plagued by death: the suicide of six-year-old Kate's Aunt Rose, who hangs herself from the chandelier, is town gossip, and Kate's father, Arnold, is heading toward a similar end. He's unemployed, a charming drunk, obsessed with the descent of Kate's older brother, 12-year-old Esau, into mental illness. When Esau must be taken away to the state hospital at Christmas, Arnold shoots himself in the head. Hornbacher's novel, narrated in the alternating voices of Kate, Esau and their mother, Claire, is the story of the family's response to Arnold's death: how sweet, tormented Esau copes with the news; whether stubborn Kate could have said something to stop her father; how Claire deals with the guilt of having wanted to leave her husband. Hornbacher is a gifted writer, skilled at capturing the intense sensations of childhood and possessed of a particular talent for dialogue, but the indiscriminate ratcheting up of emotion and large doses of wise-child winsomeness give the novel a precious edge. Agent, Sydelle Kramer at the Frances Goldin Literary Agency. 8-city author tour. (Feb. 1)
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*Starred Review* In northern Minnesota the winters seem to go on forever: bleak, gray, and everlasting. Dismal enough to drive a man to drink or despair, or both. So when, in the midst of this gloom, Arthur Schiller takes a gun to his head, he puts an end to his sorrow over his unhappy marriage, his mentally ill son, and failures real or imagined. His wife, Claire, had just told Arnold that she was going to leave him, and naturally blames herself for his death. His 12-year-old son, Esau, recently committed to the state mental hospital, blames himself, too. Even six-year-old Kate somehow feels responsible. In this eloquently evocative portrait of how one family copes with tragedy, Hornbacher limns their mourning with exquisite sensitivity and gentle humor. With precocious Kate as the heart of the novel, fragile Esau as its conscience, Hornbacher has created characters who are genuine, engaging, and unforgettable. Following her brutally honest memoir, the acclaimed Wasted
(1998), with this stunning debut novel, Hornbacher, who inevitably will be compared to Alice Sebold, proves herself to be a master storyteller. Carol HaggasCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved