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The Worst Thing I've Done: A Novel Kindle Edition

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Length: 273 pages
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The troubles specific to triangular relationships are explored with depth and substance in Hegi's complex and affecting latest. Annie, Jake and Mason—friends practically from the womb—have developed a fraught dynamic sharply affected by competitiveness, attraction and jealousy. The book's opening trauma—Mason's suicide—serves as a springboard for Hegi to delve into the friends' tangled past: Mason and Annie get married the same night Annie's father and very pregnant mother die in a car wreck. The baby, Opal, survives, and the three friends raise her. But festering attractions—Mason to Jake; Jake to Annie—lead Mason to cross a line, Annie to want out of the marriage and Jake to fail to act at a pivotal moment. Woven into the mix is the post-WWII story of Annie's immigrant mother, Lotte, and her friend Mechthild, who came to America from Germany to work as au pairs and pretended to be Dutch to avoid persecution. Though a bumper crop of tragedy weighs heavily on this controlled and articulate novel, Hegi (Sacred Time) is an accomplished storyteller; she inhabits different characters and blends the past with the present to tell a rich story of love, death, loyalty and survival. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

Annie is addicted to talk radio, especially the dueling doctors who dispense psychological advice to the desperate. It makes her feel better about her own depressing circumstances, as she seeks to understand just how the special childhood friendship between herself, charismatic Mason, and steadfast Jake went so tragically wrong. When Annie's parents died on the day she married Mason, the three friends agreed to raise Annie's infant sister. But all their youthful optimism slowly begins to pall when the dynamics of their triangular relationship shift in disturbing directions. Emotionally needy Mason becomes increasingly agitated over the time Annie spends on her art and eventually becomes jealous of Annie and Jake's relationship. Engaging in a vicious form of emotional blackmail, Mason ultimately goads the two into acting on their mutual attraction, thus destroying the very thing he's trying so desperately to hang onto and leaving Annie and Jake to deal with the aftermath. But in doing so, Annie comes to realize that, as difficult as it is, facing "the worst thing I've ever done" brings much-needed emotional clarity. Hegi, author of the Oprah Book Club selection Stones from the River (1994), immediately hooks readers with the dramatic emotional arc of her story. Told from five points of view, and puncuated by Mason's running commentary, this ambitious novel fearlessly explores both the highs and lows of pushing emotional boundaries. Wilkinson, Joanne

Product Details

  • File Size: 389 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1416543759
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (October 2, 2007)
  • Publication Date: October 2, 2007
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000W939DE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #538,491 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on December 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Annie drives at night, eating junk food and listening to talk radio psychologists. It's no wonder, as her husband Mason has recently hung himself in her studio. Nor is this the first wrenching disaster Annie has had to deal with. On her wedding day eight years ago, her father and her pregnant mother both died in a car crash, leaving her and Mason to raise Annie's baby sister Opal. But the young couple, who have known each other all their lives, rises valiantly and successfully to the occasion. Mason in particular is able to enter into a child's world and jolly the fiery Opal out of her impetuous tantrums. But now Mason is gone, and Annie is left with Opal and her guilt over Mason's death.

The third party to the adult triangle is Jake, who was always there --- the steady one, Mason's best friend since childhood, hopelessly in love with Annie. Add a dose of compulsive jealousy on Mason's part and a late night in a sauna, and you have the ingredients for the causal tragedy --- the worst thing they've done? --- that sets the scene for the novel.

Since we know so much so early, the only tension the novel provides is how Annie and Opal will muddle through the pain (and in Annie's case, the guilt) of losing Mason. Ursula Hegi teases the reader with snippets of Mason's long suicide note (presented in a different typeset) in between the chapters of the other characters' points of view. And we hear from them all --- Annie, Opal, Aunt Stormy, a friend of Annie's mother with whom they are staying, and eventually Jake. Annie is a collage artist, and the book itself is put together like a collage, with layers of each character for materials. The descriptions of Long Island and Aunt Stormy's modest old house are lyrical and beautifully done.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By James A. Bowen Jr. on October 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I read about Ursula Hegi's newest novel in the San Francisco Chronicle, where they gave a great review. I found The Worst Thing I've Done to be remarkable. Her novel is very much like a collage - each character, their actions, the descriptions of the surroundings, filters through like the pieces of bright paper in Annie's collages to reveal a poignant, unforgettable story. The multiple points of view add dimension and kept my interest longer than the same story told chronologically from one point of view would have. Mason's voice pulsing in and out made him seem more accessible and gave me greater insight into his last moments before he committed suicide.

This story is nothing like Stones from the River or Floating in my Mother's Palms, but it shows Hegi's maturity as a writer to write beautifully and deeply about different time periods, to be able to create different frameworks for each story, and her dedication to the uncomfortable situations that most of us would turn away from. I urge anyone who might read this to go buy a copy!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By CydW on May 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
...That sums up, in a way, what this book felt like to me. A lot of treasure, a lot of debris.

I've heard Ursula Hegi's name for years, but this is the first book of hers I've ever picked up. I can understand why she's considered a wonderful author. She writes beautifully; it's hard to believe that English isn't her first language. Her descriptions of nature and people and moments are often breathtaking. And I was involved to the very end.

At the same time, I was disappointed. There were too many fraught coincidences (wedding/birth/death) and too much that seemed belabored and repetitious. The political aspect of the book didn't seem organic at all--but clumsily grafted onto the main plot. Worst, it was hard to empathize with any of the main characters--and the secondary characters (Aunt Stormy, Pete, Opal) never seemed to come completely to life. I agree with others who've commented that Opal is unlike any small child--regardless of precocity--that I've ever known.

Criticisms notwithstanding, I was intrigued enough to want to read more of Hegi's work.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sylvia on October 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Having enjoyed reading Stones from the River as well as most of her other novels, I have always recommended Ursula Hegi to others. When I read the book flap on The Worst Thing I've Done, I was surprised by the plot summary, which seemed far fetched at best. However, I thought that if anyone could bring the story to life in a sensitive,realitic manner, it would be Hegi. Unfortunately, I found this novel almost impossible to read to its conclusion. It seems Hegi had 3 separate stories to tell, each big enough to be a novel of its own: Annie and Opal; Mason, Jake, and Annie; Lotte, Stormy, Annie, Opal. With shifting points of view from chapter to chapter, the stories intermixed without much of a timeline or connection, and almost no character development it was very difficult to make myself keep reading. Hegi also intersperses heavy-handed political commentary randomly within these stories, which just added to the disjointed flow of the novel. Indeed, I do wonder if this novel started as a much longer piece and was edited down to a length that would make it sell well. This piece is just not worthy of Ursula Hegi. I would still recommend her other novels, but this one will be almost painful to read for anyone who has read her previous works.
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