One Heart: A Novel

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9780060192631: One Heart: A Novel

"You're given life, and certain people walk into it. Some make a small but deep impression, like a kid from your second grade class who shows up in your dream every three years. Others walk in and break your heart. You remember them every day. Very few people, maybe one, maybe none, stay with you for the long run. It's a kind of miracle if someone's with you for the long run. A kind of miracle..."

From the award-winning author of the acclaimed short story collection Director of the World comes this stunning debut novel--a charmingly poignant, razor sharp tale of two sisters and the depths and consequences of love that is reminiscent of the works of Anne Tyler, Louise Erdrich, and Barbara Kingsolver.

Gladys and Ivy are sisters, reluctant best friends who have depended upon each other through a shared lifetime marked by grief and loss, including the untimely deaths of Gladys's two children and the end of her passionate yet troubled marriage. While bonded by love and loneliness, the sisters remain divided by a wall of silence and pain that prevents Gladys from accepting the solace Ivy desperately needs to give.

Then one late April day, the pattern of their quiet lives is suddenly ruptured when a dark-eyes young woman with a mysterious past arrives on their doorstep. Quickly befriending Gladys, the intriguing Raelene convinces her to escape on a cross-country jaunt that will become a journey of discovery. Left to contend with the loss of her sister--and a surprise visit from Gladys's estranged husband--Ivy too will contemplate the frayed tapestry of her life and confront emotions long denied.

For Ivy and Gladys, however, personal transformation has just begun. Eventually reunited, the two must face searing truths about themselves, their past, and their relationship--soulful revelations that will ultimately bring them closer or hopelessly keep them apart.

Rich in character, language, and emotion, One Heart is a powerful, moving tale of family, friendship, forgiveness, and redemption--a remarkable achievement from an exquisitely talented new writer.

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About the Author:

Jane McCafferty was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for a section of this novel. Her stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, Story, Witness, and other publications, and her short story collection, Director of the World, was awarded the 1992 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. She teaches at Carnegie Mellon University and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Loneliness is the dominant emotion in this sad, sensitive first novel by the author of a previous story collection (Director of the World, 1992). Its not that McCaffertys characters are isolated, alienated individuals; they live in an intricate web of family relations revolving around the tension-riddled bond of Ivy and Gladys, who, when the story opens in 1978, are middle-aged sisters working as cooks in an upstate New York camp/school for troubled rich kids. The author deftly moves her narrative backward to their childhood and forward to the present in chapters related (in nicely distinct voices) by each of the sisters; Gladyss ex-husband, James; and her much younger friend, Raelene. It seems that Jamess arrival shattered the sisters youthful intimacy, which appeared to have withstood their fathers blatant favoring of Gladys, and that the accidental drowning of Ann, James and Gladyss preschool daughter, broke her mothers spirit in a way that would never be put right. Gladys, always disinclined to communicate, becomes even more resistant to Ivys attempt to get close, displaying something like contempt for her sisters efforts to put a good face on a world Gladys sees as cruel and meaningless. Yet Gladys cant entirely resist the neediness of Raelene, daughter of a clinically depressed mother and drug-addicted father who arrives at Camp Timber as a teenaged counselor after years of correspondence initiated when Raelene began wearing a bracelet with the name of Jamess POW son (later revealed to be dead). This is a story about loss and the pain of love that never seems to reach the right person at the right time, but a strain of dark humor and appreciation for natural beauty keeps it from unrelieved grimness. McCafferty makes us care for her troubled characters, each a fully rounded, complex individual. Her themes are evident, yet always grounded particulars. Strong work from a writer to watch. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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