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What Is Left the Daughter Paperback – Bargain Price, May 3, 2011
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Howard Norman, widely regarded as one of this country's finest novelists, returns to the mesmerizing fictional terrain of his major books--The Bird Artist, The Museum Guard, and The Haunting of L--in this erotically charged and morally complex story.
Seventeen-year-old Wyatt Hillyer is suddenly orphaned when his parents, within hours of each other, jump off two different bridges--the result of their separate involvements with the same compelling neighbor, a Halifax switchboard operator and aspiring actress. The suicides cause Wyatt to move to small-town Middle Economy to live with his uncle, aunt, and ravishing cousin Tilda.
Setting in motion the novel's chain of life-altering passions and the wartime perfidy at its core is the arrival of the German student Hans Mohring, carrying only a satchel. Actual historical incidents--including a German U-boat's sinking of the Nova Scotia-Newfoundland ferry Caribou, on which Aunt Constance Hillyer might or might not be traveling--lend intense narrative power to Norman's uncannily layered story.Wyatt's account of the astonishing--not least to him--events leading up to his fathering of a beloved daughter spills out twenty-one years later. It's a confession that speaks profoundly of the mysteries of human character in wartime and is directed, with both despair and hope, to an audience of one.
An utterly stirring novel. This is Howard Norman at his celebrated best.
Amazon Exclusive: Howard Frank Mosher Reviews What Is Left the Daughter
Howard Frank Mosher is the author of 10 novels, his most recent book is Walking to Gatlinburg. Mosher's novel A Stranger in the Kingdom won the New England Book Award for Fiction and was made into a movie, as were his novels Disappearances and Where the Rivers Flow North. Read his guest review of What Is Left the Daughter:
As my sainted grandmother used to say, with a hard look right straight at 12-year-old, misbehaving me, let's not mince words here. Okay, let's not: Howard Norman's new novel, What Is Left the Daughter, is the best story of love in the time of war I've ever read. And yes, that includes Cold Mountain and A Farewell To Arms.
It's the early 1940s in Halifax, Nova Scotia. World War II, in all its fury, has come to Canada, as the dreaded German U-boats are sinking ferries and passenger ships just off the coast. In the meantime, 17-year-old Wyatt Hillyer's parents, caught up in a love triangle in which they've both fallen for a local switchboard operator and aspiring actress, have without warning leapt to their deaths "from separate bridges in Halifax on the same evening." Bereft and adrift, Wyatt soon moves to the tiny Bay of Fundy outport of Middle Economy, to work in his uncle's sled and toboggan shop.
It will come as no surprise to Norman's readers to learn that, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez's jungle-village of Macondo, Middle Economy is a universe unto itself. What's more, its residents are every bit as strange and wondrous. For starters, there's kindly, plain-spoken Cornelia Tell, a one-woman Greek chorus of information and assessments. The town's aspiring stenographer, Lenore Teachout, takes down every conversation she overhears, and even transcribes the most awful war news over the radio. The casualty reports so distress Wyatt's eccentric uncle that he's papered the side of his toboggan shop with newspaper accounts of ships sunk by U-boats. Wyatt's beautiful, adopted cousin, Tilda, is obsessed by obituaries. Her dream in life is to become a "professional mourner" at the funerals of people who die without family or friends.
When Hans Mohring, a likable young refugee from Hitler's Germany, visits Middle Economy and falls in love with Tilda, all hell breaks loose in the village, including the bloodiest and most shocking murder in recent fiction, the strangest (and, in places, funniest) courtroom sequence I've ever read, and the unspeakably sorrowful, total dissolution of the Hillyer family.
Or does Wyatt's beloved family come totally unraveled in the onslaught of the war and its madness? Suffice it to say that What Is Left the Daughter, which is structured as a long letter from Wyatt, written in 1967 to his 21-year-old daughter, just may hold out the prospect of a transcendent love so powerful and enduring that it affirms the value and meaning of our lives even in the worst of times and despite all of our tragic flaws.
What Is Left the Daughter affirms what many of Howard Norman's readers have known since he published his magical first novel, The Northern Lights. Norman is most certainly one of America's three or four best novelists, with a uniquely wise and tolerant vision of his characters and all human beings everywhere. So let's not mince words. What Is Left the Daughter is a literary masterpiece that will, I guarantee it, live on in your heart, and mine, forever.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The new book has many elements in common with the only other Norman novel that I have read, THE MUSEUM GUARD. Foremost, a beautifully evocative portrayal of life in Nova Scotia; Halifax in both books, but here also a small fishing community on the Bay of Fundy. Beyond that, the unstoppable encroachment of WW2, an important uncle/nephew relationship, an enigmatic love-object who goes her own way, the magnetic pull of distant Europe, and a curious fascination with menial jobs and long-stay city hotels. Both books also combine a fine-grained reality of detail with a certain fantasy of plot that some people will call poetic but merely perplexes me. If at times THE MUSEUM GUARD read almost as a fable, I accepted this as a fresh approach to writing about the Holocaust. Here, with less potent forces in play, the fabulous element is less strong, but I still felt torn between surrender to its pervasive melancholy and resistance against its implausibilities.
The narrator, Wyatt Hillyer, is orphaned at 19 by the simultaneous but separate suicides of his father and mother, both of whom were in love with the same woman. Very little is made of this sensational start, but it results in Wyatt moving down the coast as an apprentice to his uncle, a craftsman who builds toboggans.Read more ›
Mr. Norman has a way with his stories of telling them in a calm and sure voice that reassures the reader while at the same time advancing the plot effortlessly. This plot involves a protagonist whose parents both commit suicide on the same day, by jumping from different bridges. He's then taken in by an Aunt and Uncle who have a daughter about his age. The uncle has a sled and toboggan making business, and our young man joins him in this.
It is 1941 and, in Nova Scotia, the threat of ship sinking by German subs is never very far from everyone's thoughts.In fact, the uncle has become obsessed with it, and papers the wall of his workshop with newspaper clippins and pictures about subs and sinkings.
The plot really takes off when the daughter brings home a young German student whose family fled to Denmark to escape the Nazis. Despite this, he is looked upon as a potential enemy by almost everyone in the small town where the action takes place. His arrival sets off a chain of events that is both tragic and heartfelt. To say more would be to ruin the book for potential readers.
All that I can say is that, if you enjoy a small story with believeable characters that is told in an excellent way, you will definitely find this book to your liking. It is highly recommended!
Wyatt is seventeen years old when both of his parents commit suicide on the same evening because they were in love with the same woman. Wyatt goes to live with his aunt and uncle and cousin by adoption, Tilda. Wyatt immediately falls for Tilda, but complications arise when the dashing Hans Lohring enters the picture.
The novel is a straight character drama, filled with love, tragedy, loss and hope. Norman takes the novel to a level above most with the setting and characters. The novel is set in Canada , just as World War II is beginning and German U-boats are terrorizing the innocent. Hans is a German student studying in Canada , so he is faced with much hatred. Wyatt's aunt and uncle have there own problems in dealing with the war.
Even though I rarely read books like this, I really enjoyed this novel, which is an letter from Wyatt to his daughter explaining the twists and turns that his life took over the years in hope that he can be close to her once again.
I have to admit that at first I had a difficult time with what seemed to me to be short clipped sentences in the dialogue. I have never heard anyone speak like that for an extended period. Once I was able to get past that, I was drawn deeply into this story of a star crossed family in Nova Scotia during WWII.
We immediately learn that Wyatt Hillyer is suddenly orphaned when both of his parents leap from different bridges on the same day. Thus begins the story of Wyatt's life.
The story is in the form of a letter being written from Wyatt to Marlais that is both the history of his life, and perhaps a plea for understanding and forgiveness.
The characters are all so compelling,quirky and frankly unusual that I could not help but be drawn in.
Things take an understandably tense turn when Wyatt's cousin Tilda becomes involved with a German. Hans Mohring is a student, his family does not support Hitler, and in fact moved to Denmark to escape his reign of terror. Hans is not embraced by Tilda's family, nor accepted by most in the small town where they live.
The pace of this book is somewhat slow, but it seems to fit Wyatt's quiet and painfully honest narrative .
Bottom line is this is a book worth reading, a story worth hearing and in fact, I suspect that you will be unwilling to put it down once you begin. I know I was.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I gather from the reviews of others that this is a book you either strongly like or dislike. Its an unusual story. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Carmen
Would recommend. I read "The Bird Artist and loved it and wanted to read more by the author. Great writing.Published 6 months ago by Rose Marie Reed
He's such an excellent and interesting writer. Also, rather witty.Published 8 months ago by Maggie Blue
I thought The Bird Artist was incredibly engaging and moving. And then came Northern Lights. I could not put it down. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Jack W
This is my first novel by Howard Norman. I am certain it will not be my last. I love his sense of humor. I felt like I knew the main characters. Read morePublished 18 months ago by J. Hughes
I thought it a little gem, hidden (in my edition at least ) behind a dreary cover. I never heard of this author; but loved the book. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Ingid K. Lutz
oddly incomplete and yet I loved the demeanor of these characters and the hopes that drove them through an ocean of regret.Published 21 months ago by leb
I enjoyed the voices and story-telling - the author captured the time and place wonderfully. I loved the ending - it was perfect and true.Published on June 7, 2014 by L. A. Lucas