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Twenty Questions: A Novel Hardcover – July 11, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atria; First Edition edition (July 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743272668
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743272667
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,284,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This might have been a fairly typical murder mystery were it not for the compelling protagonist at its center: June Duvall, a smalltown woman who works at an elementary school cafeteria. Her life changes when Ronald Pruett is arrested for strangling Vernay Hanks, a local waitress; June had declined a ride from Pruett a day earlier, thus changing her fate (or so she believes). Perhaps out of survivor's guilt, June decides to befriend Vernay's daughter, Cindy, and gruff, laconic brother Harlan, who has reluctantly become Cindy's caretaker. As June slowly becomes more involved in Harlan's and Cindy's lives, the state of her decade-long marriage becomes questionable; when she unravels the true circumstances around Vernay's murder, her life is turned upside-down. Clement's subtle prose renders June's existential pondering and anxious thoughts convincingly, and the novel's intriguing plot elements click. Clement, an elementary school librarian in western Oregon, makes a fine debut. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–A novel about the twists and turns of deceits, small and large. June, a cafeteria worker in an elementary school, learns that a man from whom she refused a ride has been arrested for the murder of the mother of a student in her school. As she begins to obsess about the fate she seemingly escaped, she visits the dead womans daughter, Cindy Hanks, pretending to be an old family friend. There is a rumor of incest in the family and June, who is childless, considers adopting the girl. Soon she has been given some of the dead womans clothes, but she also discovers a secret that jeopardizes her almost-perfect marriage. Clement is a master of plot surprises as the relationships among June, Cindy, and even Cindys uncle grow more convoluted. When the lies begin to unravel, June becomes aware of the danger in telling even well-intentioned untruths and learns the limits of responsibility. Her moral dilemma will appeal to readers as she attempts to balance her good intentions against the half-truths that she feels she needs to tell. Teens will appreciate the quandaries of an adult world that will soon be theirs.–Pat Bangs, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Alison Clement's first book, Pretty is As Pretty Does (MacAdam Cage, 2001), was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and a Book Sense choice. Her second, Twenty Questions (Washington Square Press, 2006), won the Oregon Book Award for Best Novel. Her work has appeared in The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Sun Magazine, and High Country News. Raised in South Carolina and Georgia, she now lives with her family in western Oregon.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jean F. Harmon on December 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
On Sunday, December 2, at the Oregon Book Awards ceremony at the Porland Art Museum, Alison Clement won this year's Ken Kesey Award for the Novel. I was pleased and gratified because "Twenty Questions" is one of the best novels I have read in a long time. I found myself helplessly turning pages, thanks to Clement's skillful development of plot, characterizations, and theme. Clement has a gift for revealing just the right amount of information a little at a time--keeping me reading to find out the answers. Her intriguing characters and their complex relationships made me sorry to finish the book, no longer able to enjoy the company of these folks who had become like good friends. And her adept treatment of "personal and political violence and the connection between the two" imbues the story with an important universal message that carries over into life. Alison Clement's magnificient novel has proved the solution my gift-giving for this year.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Huston on June 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
I loved this book and devoured it. The characters are so well defined, and get under your skin. It's a change of pace to read a story about blue collar people, and those who are living in the trenches.
The plot is dynamite. There are some great twists that I didn't see coming.
My only caveat--in the end the story stays with you, and it was depressing. Maybe that is testament to what a good book this is.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Green on March 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It is difficult to review this book without giving away too much but... June believes she escaped the clutches of a murderer and is led to learn more about the woman she thinks was murdered in her stead. She finds out more than she wants to know and learns her marriage isn't all its cracked up to be. In the process, she befriends, through a lie, the murdered woman's daughter and brother. When she learns her association with the child is more than the simple fact that Cindy (the dead woman's daughter) attends the elementary school she works at, she begins to unwravel the mystery.

I enjoyed the book, although I didn't appreciate the anti-war sentiments being tossed in for good measure. I didn't think they had anything to do with the story at all and were simply a means of the author making her opinions known.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Book Addict on August 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This has to be one of the best books I've ever read. The book description only scratches the surface of what it's about. It's an incredible story about a woman, June Duvall, and her relationships with other people and how she thinks and how she reacts to things that happen in her life, both directly and indirectly. Alison Clement is an immensely talented writer who has done an amazing job of developing the characters that make them seem so real, like you're getting to know them rather than just reading about them. Her use of dialog between June and the people in her life, combined with both subtle and vivid descriptions of June's thoughts and reactions, make this a book that's hard to put down. I also highly recommend the author's previous book, Pretty Is As Pretty Does. It's a completely different story, but just as enjoyable and well written.
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