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The Center of Winter: A Novel Hardcover – February 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060192267
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060192266
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,179,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*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 Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Marya Hornbacher is an award-winning journalist and bestselling writer. Her books include the memoirs Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, which has been published in twelve languages, and the New York Times bestseller Madness: A Bipolar Life; the recovery books Sane: Mental Illness, Addiction, and the Twelve Steps, and Waiting: A Nonbeliever's Higher Power; and the novel The Center of Winter. She teaches in the graduate creative writing program at Northwestern University and lives in Chicago.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Great plot and very well written.
SweetPeachez
If you've not read it, I highly recommend more than about any book I've read in a good bit.
Joe The Nikon Guy
Once I picked this book up and started reading I couldnt put it down.
Lin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer M on February 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Schiller family is torn apart by mental illness. The autistic-like symptoms of their son, Esau, has brought Claire and Arnold's Schiller's marriage to the breaking point and Arnold kills himself with a single bullet to the head. In the aftermath, Claire, Esau, and the youngest Schiller child, Kate, must come to terms with Arnold's suicide and learn how to piece their lives back together. Claire's best friend, Donna, is also struggling with her husband's post-Vietnam, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and its resulting depression and alcoholism. Donna's son, Davey, helps Kate to cope with the death of her father while Donna provides Claire support. When Donna's husband also comes to a mental breaking point, the two families must learn to re-define what being a normal, small-town family is really all about.

Every once in awhile, I find a book that combines beautiful prose with a story I can't put down. The Center of Winter is one of them! This anatomy of a family torn apart by mental illness is so filled with the flavor of Northern Minnesota, I can almost taste it! The seasons of the region are cleverly used by the author as a metaphor for human emotion, the cycle of life and death, and the endless cycles of grief and acceptance. Hornbacher has captured the essence of the major turning points in life in which time both speeds up and slows down, when denial blends with the beginning of deeper awareness. The story is also the anatomy of a suicide and the author has made it impossible not to watch this unfold using a perfect mix of horror and compassion. The changes in narrative voice are a bit jarring, but Hornbacher couldn't have told this story any other way. The tale is more emotional for having avoided the exaggeration of the children's emotional responses. She avoided the risk of hypersentimentality by creating entirely believable characters who behave in entire believable ways. I cried reading this book and I almost never cry at novels.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jess on February 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have regarded Wasted as my personal bible for the past 4 years and have been waiting for Hornbacher's novel since the first time I closed her tantalizingly chilling memoir. I purchased The Center of Winter and immediately became absorbed by the depth of each narrator. Initially I was worried that I would be let down - for so long I've held Hornbacher on sort of a pedestal and was fearful of being let down. Fortunately, I could not have been more wrong; Ms. Hornbacher has done it again - this time mastering fiction. With beautiful, elaborate descriptions, she accurately pinpoints all of the right words to illustrate universal human emotion that have never quite been voiced with such excruciating detail. The Center of Winter will rock you to your very innermost core, send shivers up your spine, and nestle itself into the darker recesses of your mind.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By OCMD VINE VOICE on January 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
In a small town in Minnesota, a man commits suicide, leaving a guilt-ridden wife, a 6 yr. old daughter and a mentally ill son. The story is told alternately by the widow, Claire, and the 2 children.

This year, I suffered my own center of winter. I wondered if I should be reading this story at this time of my life.

But start it I did and I found I could not stop reading. I cared about the characters, I wanted to know how they found their way out of their circle of grief.

The back cover promises that "you will be ultimately inspired" - and I was.

I will be getting a copy of Marya Hornbacher's first book, "Wasted".
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R. EVANS on February 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
..and even more difficult to put down. Written with compassion for all of the characters, without trying to disguise their flaws, this story explores the secrets that exist in so many of our family stories. I found the change of first person narrator to be refreshing - rather like walking all of the way around a sculpture.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ella on March 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Like many others I read Hornbacher's memoir 'Wasted' and was impressed at her vast talents as a writer. I was therefore very keen to read her first work of fiction, if a little nervous that it wouldn't match up to it's predecessor's standard.

As it turns out, my nerves were completetly unneccesary. 'The Centre of Winter' is, in a single word, breathtaking. Telling the story of a family in 60/70s Minnesotta, who have to learn to pick up the pieces of their lives after the suicide of the father, Arthur. Told from three different perspectives, that of Claire the mother, Esau the oldest son and young Kate, the daughter, each narrative provides a glimpse in the effect of the tragedy. Hornbacher's great skill is her abilty to create a truly convincing 'voice' for each narrator, making the entire story seen totally genuine and realistic. Her characters are very complex and interesting as well, with no cliches and stereotypical devices being used.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a deeply touching, thought-provoking read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jenna S on April 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When I heard Marya Hornbacher read aloud from this book I realized how dark and scary it really was. Not just because suicide and mental illness are dark and scary, but because being trapped in your own mind when something terrible has happened can be even worse. I think her choice to tell the story in first-person narrative style is both a real strength and a frustating thing. It can lead to a kind of claustrophobic situation. The reason it works so imcredibly is because she is a gorgeous writer.

I also highly recommend THE EFFECTS OF LIGHT by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. I heard her read at the same time as Hornbacher and she's amazing. The book is tragic too, but more plot driven,with equally gorgeous writing, more hopeful than the other.

Both books show writers really how to write.
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