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The Why of Things: A Novel Hardcover – June 11, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Printing edition (June 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451695756
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451695755
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,380,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A pickup truck careens into a water-filled quarry, killing the young male driver, in the backyard of the Jacobs family's home on Cape Ann, Mass. The family is already reeling from the recent suicide of its eldest daughter, Sophie, when their second daughter, Eve, becomes obsessed with discovering whether the truck's driver was another suicide, a murder, or an accident. Eve's father, Anders, helps her follow clues while her mother, Joan, tries to connect with the dead man's mother. Winthrop (Fireworks) reveals little about Sophie's life or death, aside from that she parked her car on railroad tracks. Joan blames herself for the suicide, though it seems impossible that the home environment is at fault. Winthrop writes beautifully about family bonds made solid by respect, kindness, integrity, and commitment, and it feels petty to disrespect their dignity by wishing they would reveal even a little bit more about Sophie's life. However, she crafts the family too precisely and ties their narrative threads too tightly. Towards the end, Winthrop doses each of her characters with a palliative, but insists that they, and the reader, must accept that sometimes you have to live without answers. It's an understandable sentiment, but an unsatisfying conclusion. Amanda Urban, ICM. (June)

From Booklist

In this subtle examination of grief and its aftermath, the talented Winthrop delicately explores how the members of the Jacobs family cope with the suicide of the eldest daughter, 17-year-old Sophie. As the Jacobs arrive at their summer house on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, 14-year-old Evie discovers tracks leading directly into their quarry. Soon police divers discover the body of James Favazza, a young local man. Over the course of the summer, each family member reacts differently to a situation that so closely mirrors his or her own tragic circumstances. Joan meets James’ mother, hoping to see within her a coping mechanism she can appropriate as her own. Evie is convinced that James was murdered, since she cannot accept the fact that he may have committed suicide. Anders, inspired by a scuba-diving class, comes to feel that his dead daughter’s energy might still exist in the world and is something that cannot be destroyed. In small but significant ways, the family members start to heal and to move toward each other, finding comfort from their pain. An exquisitely written portrait of grief and healing. --Joanne Wilkinson

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 24 customer reviews
Characters and details are beautifully rendered.
Edward L Hutcheson
The Why of Things is filled with detail, beautiful detail that serves the purpose of developing the story and the characters.
Happy I kept reading because it all comes together in the end.
muffin lover

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"When our children die," wrote Henry Ward Beecher, "we drop them into the unknown, shuddering with fear. We know that they go out from us, and we stand, and pity and wonder." For the fictional Jacobs family, the fear, pity and wonder they are experiencing after the death of their eldest daughter is compounded when another death --- that of a stranger --- happens in their own backyard. Parents Anders and Joan, 15-year-old Eve and seven-year-old Eloise are still deep in mourning for 17-year-old Sophie when they are drawn into the heartbreak and mystery surrounding the death of a young man named James Farvazza in Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop's beautiful and poignant new novel, THE WHY OF THINGS.

Upon arriving at their summer house, Eve Jacobs notices tire tracks cutting across the yard and ending at the edge of the huge water-filled quarry on the property. She also observes bubbles rising to the surface. The police tow trucks, paramedics and divers soon arrive, but by the time 27-year-old James Farvazza is pulled from the quarry, still inside his pick-up truck, he is dead. How and why Farvazza ends up in the quarry becomes a bit of an obsession for Eve; she tries to understand the event, suspects foul play, collects evidence, and eventually begins to see that coming to terms with Farvazza's death is a way of coming to terms with the death of her sister.

Meanwhile, other members of the Jacobs family are confronting the loss in their own ways. Anders finds an unexpected peace in a diving class, Eloise falls in love with a dog and worries about ghosts, and Joan has a few heart-wrenching encounters with Farvazza's own grieving mother.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Karen M on July 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Why, we ask ourselves at the death of a parent, a child, a sibling or a stranger. Why that moment, that place, that person and so a story unfolds.

Death creates a distancing between people. It isolates. Each dealing with what has happened in their own way. Grief. The lose of a child, a sister.

And then there is the mystery of the second death of the stranger. Eve convinces herself it might have been murder just as her sister's death was not and begins to investigate. While Joan questions how she is able to endure the loss of a child and holds the guilt of having taken that child for granted for too long. Anders, her husband, worries about his roses and the distance growing between himself and Joan. Eloise, the youngest child, fears the quarry is contaminated forever by the death of the stranger. But most of all they are at a loss as to why Sophie, the oldest child, has died.

Summer distractions fill their time. Anders takes the diving lessons Joan has given him as a gift. Eve finds a job working at a local greenhouse. Eloise goes to day camp and Joan begins writing her next book. Oh, and then there is the dog who mysteriously turns up on their property. Each dealing with the lose of Sophie.

"a single energy that inhabits all living things, an energy that is both fleeting and eternal; we each are given it only for a time before it passes on to give life to something else."

The why? "For the living, for those left behind, there is no answer that is good enough."

Very moving book which I throughly enjoyed and highly recommend. This one really makes you think. There truly is no answer to why.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lydia on June 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Since the tragic lossof her seventeen-year-olddaughter less than a year ago, Joan Jacobs has been working hard to keep hertight-knit family from coming apart. But it seems as if she and Anders, herhusband, have lost their easy comfort with each other and are unable to snapback from their isolation into the familiarity and warmth they so desperatelyneed, both for themselves and for their surviving daughters, Eve and Eloise.The Jacobses flee to their summer home in search of peace and renewal, but momentsafter they arrive the family is confronted with an eerily similar tragedy: thatsame evening a pickup truck had driven into the quarry in their backyard.Within hours, the local police drag up the body of a young man, James Favazza.

As the Jacobs familylearns more about the inexplicable events that led up to that fateful Juneevening, each of them becomes increasingly tangled in the emotional threads ofJames life and death: fifteenyear- old Eve grows obsessed with proving thatJames death wasnt an accident, though the police refuse to consider this;Anders finds himself forced to face his own deepest fears; and seven-year-oldEloise unwittingly adopts James orphaned dog. Joan herself becomesincreasingly fixated on James mother, a stranger whose sudden loss so closelymirrors her own. With an urgent, beautiful intimacy that her fans have come toexpect from this bitingly intelligent writer (The New York Times),Elizabeth Hartley

Winthrop delivers apowerful, buoyant, and riveting new novel that explores the complexities offamily relationships and the small triumphs that can bring unexpected healing. TheWhy of Things is a wise, empathetic, and exquisitely heartfelt story aboutthe strength of family bonds. It is an unforgettable and searing tour de force
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