A New York Times Notable Book, Winner of the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, A Book-of-the-Month Club and Quality Paperback Book Club Selection, and Winner of the Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature
Tamara Anderson was in third grade when she found out most people stay in the same house for more than a year. Until then she thought everyone picked up and moved on a regular basis, crossing the country, leaving behind people and bedrooms and belongings. Now she’s turning fifteen, and she wants to stay in Mayville, New York. At first glance, there isn’t much to stick around for. In the tarpaper house across the road there are the Murphys, the Baptist family who upset Tamara’s atheist parents by inviting her to church. In the pasture there’s Edith the cow. And up in the attic there’s the ghost of the boy who used to live here, or at least that’s what Tamara suspects. But this time Tamara is putting her foot down, and planting it...
Taking us into the heart and mind of an unforgettable young girl, and a unique corner of a rural 1950s America, Sarah Willis presents a “heartfelt first novel [in which] the characters are so vivid and rounded they produce a reflected happiness in the reader.” (The Miami Herald)
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Sarah Willis, a Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of the Cleveland Arts Prize for Literature, is also the author of Some Things That Stay, The Rehearsal, and A Good Distance. She lives in Ohio.From Publishers Weekly:
The deceptively quiet voice that inhabits this intelligent and moving first novel belongs to Tamara Anderson, 15 years old in 1954, who comes of age within an unconventional family that's struggling in an era of social conformity. Her father is a landscape painter, so the family (including Tamara's younger siblings, Robert, 11, and Megan, seven) moves every year, living in furnished houses from Georgia to Idaho to Maine, owning only what can fit in a trailer. Stuart and Liz, Tamara's parents, met when Liz modeled nude for art classes, with Stuart defying his family to marry the woman who had flirted with the Communist Party. Now they are determined to bring up their children as atheists, teaching them evolution and carefully explaining sexuality and reproduction. The '50s era, with its shadow of Moral Rearmament, is vividly evoked with references to Davy Crockett hats, the generalized fear of a Communist conspiracy and the atom bomb, as Tamara's perceptions of her new home in upstate rural New York drive the narrative. She explores her new school, and religion and sexuality with the boy across the street, juxtaposing her need for stability against her family's transient life. When Liz becomes seriously ill with tuberculosis, the Anderson family is weighted with fear, sadness and uncertainty of a kind entirely new to them. Willis deftly balances her depiction of the domestic unit: vulnerable Tamara correctly believes no one is listening to her, and knows that in Stuart's life, art ranks above his children. Liz and Stuart are devoted to each other, and are alternately selfish and caring parents; their idiosyncrasies, such as overrationalized reckless styles of driving the family car, suggest larger problems. Not a seamless tale, the narrative is hampered by a few stale patches of exposition, but overall, Tamara's uncommonly lucid, honest and expansive view marks this as a luminous, impressive debut. (Feb.)
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