From Jane Hamilton, author of the beloved New York Times best sellers A Map of the World and The Book of Ruth, comes a warmly humorous, poignant novel about a young man, his mother's email, and the often surprising path of infidelity.
Henry Shaw, a high school senior, is about as comfortable with his family as any 17-year-old can be. His father, Kevin, teaches history with a decidedly socialist tinge at the Chicago private school Henry and his sister attend. His mother, Beth, who plays the piano in a group specializing in antique music, is a loving, attentive wife and parent. Henry even accepts the offbeat behavior of his 13-year-old sister, Elvira, who is obsessed with Civil War reenactments and insists on dressing in handmade Union uniforms at inopportune times.
When he stumbles on his mother's email account, however, Henry realizes that all is not as it seems. There, under the name Liza38, a name that Henry innocently established for her, is undeniable evidence that his mother is having an affair with one Richard Polloco, a violin maker and unlikely paramour who nonetheless has a very appealing way with words and a romantic spirit that, in Henry's estimation, his own father woefully lacks.
Against his better judgment, Henry charts the progress of his mother's infatuation, her feelings of euphoria, of guilt, and of profound, touching confusion. His knowledge of Beth's secret life colors his own tentative explorations of love and sex with the ephemeral Lily, and casts a new light on the arguments - usually focused on Elvira - in which his parents regularly indulge. Over the course of his final year of high school, Henry observes each member of the family, trying to anticipate when they will find out about the infidelity and what the knowledge will mean to each of them.
Henry's observations, set down 10 years after that fateful year, are much more than the "old story" of adultery his mother deemed her affair to be. With her inimitable grace and compassion, Jane Hamilton has created a novel full of gentle humor and rich insights into the nature of love and the deep, mysterious bonds that hold families together.
"Ms. Hamilton gives Ruth a humble dignity and allows her hope - but it's not a heavenly hope. It's a common one, caked with mud and held with gritted teeth. And it's probably the only kind that's worth reading about."(New York Times Book Review on The Book of Ruth)
"It takes a writer of rare power and discipline to carry off an achievement like A Map of the World. Hamilton proves here that she is one of our best." (Newsweek on A Map of the World)
"Stunning prose and unforgettable characters...an enthralling tale of guilt, betrayal, and the terrifying ways our lives can spin out of control." (Entertainment Weekly on A Map of the World)
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Thanks, Robert Sean Leonard!
I was looking for narration by Robert Sean Leonard after hearing him read on Selected Shorts. So glad that search led me to Hamilton's book! This is a well-crafted, finely observed novel with distinctive characters. Worth the read!