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The Deep End of the Ocean Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Oprah Book Club® Selection, September 1996: The horror of losing a child is somehow made worse when the case goes unsolved for nearly a decade, reports Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Jacquelyn Mitchard in this searing first novel. In it, 3-year-old Ben Cappadora is kidnapped from a hotel lobby where his mother is checking into her 15th high school reunion. His disappearance tears the family apart and invokes separate experiences of anguish, denial, and self-blame. Marital problems and delinquency in Ben's older brother (in charge of him the day of his kidnapping) ensue. Mitchard depicts the family's friction and torment--along with many gritty realities of family life--with the candor of a journalist and compassion of someone who has seemingly been there. International publishing and movie rights sold fast on this one: It's a blockbuster. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

One of the most remarkable things about this rich, moving and altogether stunning first novel is Mitchard's assured command of narrative structure and stylistic resources. Her story about a child's kidnapping and its enduring effects upon his parents, siblings and extended family is a blockbuster read. When three-year-old Ben Cappadora is abducted from a crowded Chicago hotel lobby where his mother, Beth, has taken him and his two siblings for her 15th high-school reunion, Beth's slow-motion nightmare is just the beginning of nine years of anguish about his fate. Beth retreats into an emotionless, fugue-like state, in which she neglects her surviving two children-oldest child Vincent and a baby daughter, Kerry-and seals herself off from her husband, Pat, the manager of a family restaurant near their home in Madison, Wisc. Yet jolting surprises continue to rock the narrative, as clues to Ben's fate emerge and the tension in the Cappadoras' marriage accelerates. That tension is partly responsible for and partly reflects the now teenaged Vincent's increasingly aggressive behavior, his desperate effort to forget that he had been in charge of his younger brother when Ben disappeared. Meanwhile, the large, voluble Cappadora clan remains faithful to the hope of Ben's return, disapproving of Beth's cold, angry denial that she will ever see her boy again. When she does, after nine years have passed, a series of bitter ironies drives the family off balance once more. Mitchard imbues her suspenseful plot with disturbingly candid psychological truths about motherhood and family relationships. Displaying an infallible ear for family conversation and a keen eye for domestic detail, she writes dialogue that vibrates with natural and unforced humor and acerbic repartee. She charts the subtle and minute gradations of maternal love with candor and captures the essence of teenage experiences and lingo. The novel becomes a universal tale of traumatic loss and its effects on individuals and families, an astute inquiry into the wellsprings of identity and a parable of redemption through suffering and love. Readers who explore the uncharted reaches of "the deep end of the ocean" with the Cappadoras will find this compelling and heartbreaking story-sure to be compared to The Good Mother-impossible to put down. Mitchard, who previously wrote the nonfiction Mother Less Child, has a wise and compassionate heart and talent to spare. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; movie rights to Peter Guber's Mandalay Entertainment, in conjunction with Michelle Pfeiffer's production company; rights sold in England, Italy, France, Germany and Holland; author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Signet (February 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451197747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451197740
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (403 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,617,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jacquelyn Mitchard was born in Chicago. Her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was published in 1996, becoming the first selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club and a number one New York Times bestseller. Eight other novels, four children's books and six young adult novels followed, including The Midnight Twins, Still Summer, All We Know of Heaven, and The Breakdown Lane. A former daily newspaper reporter, Mitchard now is a contributing editor for Parade Magazine, and frequently writes for such publications as More magazine and Real Simple. Her essays and short stories have been widely anthologized. An adjunct professor in the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Fairfield University, she lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their nine children

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Davis on August 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Even if you have seen the movie (by the same name), READ THIS BOOK. Mitchard weaves such a hauntingly beautiful tale about every family's nightmare and the aftermath. While checking into a hotel for a class reunion, Beth Cappadora turns around to realize that her 3-year-old son is gone. The first part of the book describes so many emotions that the family goes through: the shock, the horror, the frantic search, then the realization that life must go on. But how do you? In a split second, everything has changed, her relationship with her husband, the other children, as well as friends and neighbors. A bond develops with one of the officers who refuses to give up on this case. The ending is not what anyone expects and truly shows the strength and absolute beauty of a mother's love. Wonderfully paced, this is one of those rare stories which I will never forget.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By E. Villarreal on March 8, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book has over 400 pages of every parents WORST nightmare, and it goes into it in a way that is really diturbing... why?... because it could happen... and, it HAS happened.
I really don't think any of us has the slightest clue of how we would react to something as tragic and terrifying as that, and in my opinion, Jacquelyn Mitchard did an excellent job in describing what ONE MOTHER did, how she felt, and how all her world changed in 10 minutes.
I agree with some of the other reviewers... she's is not a highly likable character, but, under the circumstances, who would be?... She's not your picture perfect mother... but then again, no one is... still...the author makes you feel what she's feeling, even if you don't understand her... and her family.
The reason why I put 4 stars was that I felt the book was a bit incomplete, because we never find out so many things that in my opinion should have been explained... also... in the end, we really don't know what happened to the family, and after NINE years of KNOWING every single detail, it was a bit hard to let them go.
Over all, a good, entertaining, but extremelly frightening book. However, I would love to ask the author a few questions that remained unsolved...
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By K. Paynter on April 12, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Although the author obviously has talent, she has wasted little of it on this book about characters with whom audiences do not wish to identify.
The mother in this book is a basket case, completely uncaring about her family, and the reader finds himself unable to sympathize with her over the loss of her son. Most readers will sympathize with her husband instead; he has born the brunt of her problems for years and continues to do so after she loses her son at a class reunion.
I really had problems getting into this book. Admittedly, at the end, it did leave me thinking about it somewhat, but it is slow and unrealistic. I don't consider this book to be any sort of "future classic." If I don't consider reading a book for a 2nd time, then something's wrong (my friends have always teased me about reading books over and over); this book was borrowed from a friend and returned promptly when I finished it.
Not horrible, but there are thousands of other books more worth your time.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gwyneth Calvetti VINE VOICE on December 30, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
..I just could not get myself to feel much sympathy or identification with Beth, the main character in this story. We all have our moments when we look away from our children because we are preoccupied. I don't think many of us have them when our kids, who are all small, are in a busy lobby of a hotel in Chicago. I felt the main character was narcissitic and shallow, and while there are certainly people like this in the world, to really connect with her in this particular story, it would have helped me to LIKE her, which I didn't.
While the book is well written and the storyline keeps the reader going, what I found to be the most intersting aspect of this book was the way the older brother was portrayed. I found the guilt and his response to it to be what kept me reading this book. I wanted to know that he would be okay. While I found myself not really caring about the mother, I DID care about the son. His feelings, as a confused child missing his favored younger brother, and as an older child, angry with the adults in his family, were captured well and he was a character I could care about.
I wouldn't say don't read this book at all, because I will read almost everything, but I wouldn't put this one at the top of my list. Sorry Oprah!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Carpe diem!!! on December 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
I'm a retired middle school English teacher, now working part-time in a public library. I had heard some positive opinion about this book, and the summary written on the dustcover sounded intriguing. The fact that it was an Oprah book gave me considerable pause to question it's worth, but my ever-optimistic better side countered with the thought that I have, on rare occasion, found some of her choices to be good reads. So I subjected it to my 10% test. If a book engages me by the time I've read 10% of it, I'll finish it. If it doesn't, I don't waste further time on it.

It took quite a withdrawal from my mental bank of patience to make it through the first 10%. Some of my former students had a better ear for dialogue than this author; unfortunately, the story is told mainly by means of dialogue and the use of the main character's inner voice. "Show, don't tell" is a worthwhile writing technique in the hands of a skilled writer. It can make a reader feel as if he or she is part of the story, thus capturing and maintaining a high level of reader interest. It didn't work in this story. The potential for having a child kidnapped is an unspeakable horror that haunts any conscientious parent at some level and becomes a mental booster shot for our protective vigilance.

I've seen enough traumatized kids in over thirty years of teaching to feel great empathy for the kidnapped boy. I didn't give a damn about his mother. She is a narcissist, and the fawning attention she gets from having a child kidnapped is truly nauseating. A basic tenet of character creation is to make the character either likeable or worthy of at least grudging respect. Beth is neither. The other characters are as clumsily fleshed out.

I found nothing in this book that engaged my empathy or interest, so I did not waste further time on it. Life is too short to waste it on a book like this when there are so many thousands of better ones available.
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