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Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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The Why of Things: A Novel Hardcover – June 11, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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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

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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: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,524,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just completed the "Why of Things" and true to form it is another outstanding piece of psychological fiction by Ms. Winthrop. Exploring the archetypical question of "why" in life leads us down multiple pathways and usually resulting in new questions but seldom resolution. Ms. Winthrop brings the Jacobs family of Eve, Eloise, Anders and Joan along this path soon after the suicide of the oldest daughter in the family, Sophie. Each of these characters have both unique as well as parallel journeys grieving this loss. When they arrive at their summer residence in Gloucester on Cape Ann Massachusetts they discover a pick-up truck has driven into a quarry on their property. When a body is pulled from the truck the relaxation of vacation routine disappears.

Ander's fears, Joan's unacknowledged grief, Eve's unexpressed anger and Eloise's sadness of the innocent are woven neatly through every page of this novel. The summer is the setting, the place is the magnificence of Cape Ann and the characters will come to life as they live the question, "Why".
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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is June and the Jacobses return to their summer home in Cape Ann, ready to find solace from the pain of having endured the death of the oldest of the three daughters, a tragic death the previous October. And when they drive up the dirt road to their house at night, they are confronted with yet another tragic death, not a family member but a young man whose truck has plunged into the quarry next to the house.
Joan, the mother, is a published novelist. Her husband a college professor. Eve is fifteen and becomes immediately caught up in the what-ifs of this drowning. The other daughter, Eloise, is much younger.
The novel is brilliantly rendered with pitch-perfect points of view (POVs), allowing the reader to gain access to the inner lives of each family member, most especially the parents and Eve.
Joan has summered in this same town as a child--an only child we are told--staying with her grandmother. The house they own, however, is not the grandmother's. Joan had known Magnolia Street from years back, the street on which the young drowned man lived according to the local newspaper's account of the tragedy. (It is a little jarring to discover that Joan isn't an only child after all on page 67 where a sister is reference: "The pencils are a gift from Joan's sister...." And as I read I found myself editing where verbs tenses were wrong, where letters were left off. Not the novelist's issue. But where was the editor of this novel?!
There are a couple of other elements that I cannot account for. It seems that dead daughter has had a boyfriend for a few years, the same one. He shows up there at the summer place, so was he a summer-only romance, a boy who lives there? And then there are the episodes dealing with churches when the reader is led to believe that the Jacobses are Jews.
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