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The Wonder Garden by [Acampora, Lauren]
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The Wonder Garden Kindle Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 105 customer reviews

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Length: 368 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of May 2015: Lauren Acampora’s debut novel is a series of linked stories set in the affluent suburbs. The characters in one story might turn up in one farther along in the book, but each story stands on its own—taken as a complete novel, The Wonder Garden has an alchemical effect that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Working with precise language and metaphor, she peels back the suburban veneer, highlighting our wants and our weirdness, taking characters that might seem stock if you saw them in the local Whole Foods and drawing out their individual eccentricities. It is inevitable that some will generalize Acampora’s novel as dark or even weird, and some of the individual stories are; she is working in the same milieu as Cheever, examining how relationships are tested by the particular pace and expectations of suburbia, and exploring the unique individual’s relationship to a place that, on the surface, demands homogeneity. Her characters are far from normal, even if they exist in a world that seems that way. But maybe that is normal. This is a wonderful debut by a striking talent. --Chris Schluep


A Barnes and Noble Discover Pick

An Amazon Book of the Month


"Like Wharton, Acampora seems to understand fiction as a kind of elegant design. As characters reappear in one story after another, Acampora reveals herself as a careful architect...accomplishes great depth of characterization, in no small part because Acampora doesn’t shy from the unpalatable...There is a barbed honesty to the stories that brushes up against Acam­pora’s lovely prose to interesting effect. Often a single sentence twists sinuously, charged with positive and negative electricity."—Alix Ohlin, New York Times Book Review

“Acampora is a brilliant anthropologist of the suburbs ... [The Wonder Garden] is reminiscent of John Cheever in its anatomizing of suburban ennui and of Ann Beattie in its bemused dissection of a colorful cast of eccentrics. But Acampora’s is entirely her own book ... Acampora’s ability to lay bare the heartaches of complex individuals within an utterly unique imaginative world is worthy of high praise.”—Boston Globe

"In 13 sharply drawn linked stories, Acampora reveals the complexities beneath the polish and privilege of a prosperous Connecticut town."—People

“Acampora’s stories show that an Anna Karenina principle still applies: All happy families are the same; the unhappy ones are miserable in their own special way. Or to boil it down to modern terms: mo’ money, mo’ problems … Add well-drawn characters, interesting plots, cultural zingers and dead-on critiques of consumerism and Acampora delivers a page-turner.”—Dallas Morning News

"A smashing debut, with range, subtlety and bite. Reading Acampora, we’re in Cheever country, with hints of Flannery O’Connor."—Jane Ciabattari,

"Well-plotted, incisive and beautifully written fiction."—

“Acampora’s debut creates a portrait of a fictional upscale New York suburb, Old Cranbury, through a series of linked stories that are intelligent, unnerving, and very often strange…In each story, Acampora examines the tensions, longings, and mild lunacies underlying the “beady-eyed mommy culture” and sociopolitical “forgetfulness” marking Old Cranbury. At the same time, Acampora’s picture of the town—rendered in crisp prose and drawing on extensive architectural detail—is as irresistible as it is disturbing.”—Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)

“The stories in Acampora’s first collection are so vivid, tightly plotted, and expertly woven that they make you look forward to reading more by this accomplished author.”—Library Journal (starred review)

"Spooky and fabulous... A cleareyed lens into the strange, human wants of upper-class suburbia."—Kirkus (starred review)

"Acampora wields prose with the precision of a scalpel, insightfully dissecting people’s desperate emotions and most cherished hopes...Acampora not only meticulously conveys the allure of an outwardly paradisiacal suburban community, with its perfectly restored Victorian homes and well-tended lawns; she also clearly captures the inner turmoil of its residents, homing in on their darkest impulses and beliefs. Some of the stories’ starring characters make cameos in others, adding considerable complexity to the whole. Like Evan S. Connell in his iconic novels, Mrs. Bridge (1958) and Mr. Bridge (1969), Acampora brilliantly captures the heartaches and delusions of American suburbanites."—Booklist (starred review)

"A dark and brilliant collection of stories. Lauren Acampora is a terrific writer."—Joseph O’Neil, author of Netherland and The Dog

"The world depicted in Lauren Acampora’s stories seems reassuringly familiar, until it becomes unaccountably strange and unsettling. One moment we seem to be in Cheever’s Westchester, the next we plunge through the looking glass into realms that may remind some readers of George Saunders or Robert Coover or the David Lynch of Blue Velvet, though, inevitably, all resemblances prove to be superficial. Acampora is an original and The Wonder Garden is an outstanding debut."—Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City

"The Wonder Garden is a beautiful book: witty, intelligent, deeply compassionate and gorgeously crafted. Lauren Acampora is uncannily skilled at chronicling the emotional lives of her characters with the same razor-sharp precision as she does the suburban landscape that surrounds them. I can't stop thinking about these stories.” — Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans

"Like the famous opening scene in 'Blue Velvet,' Lauren Acampora's The Wonder Garden pulls us under the surface of that most carefully tended American garden, the prosperous suburb, to lay bare its dark underbelly. The Wonder Garden is wondrous, and its stories are addictive. I dreaded coming to the end."—Susan Choi, author of My Education

“Lauren Acampora's linked stories, about one Connecticut town, vividly explore dark interiors as well as polished facades. The Wonder Garden is an elegant construction and a chronicle of the surprising ways in which suburban lives intersect. Lauren Acampora is a writer of extraordinary dexterity.”—Elliott Holt, author of You Are One of Them

“I loved The Wonder Garden. Acampora's writing moves like a laser through her characters' souls, finding the deepest, darkest truths and delusions. Every story surprises. Every story is devastating. Like Mad Men set in the present day, but better.”—Heidi Pitlor, author of The Birthdays

Product details

  • File Size: 1174 KB
  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (May 5, 2015)
  • Publication Date: May 5, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #324,906 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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on April 22, 2015
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on April 28, 2015
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on April 17, 2015
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