A woman must face the truth about her past in this luminous, evocative novel of parents and children, guilt and forgiveness, memory and magical thinking.
Olivia Reed was fifteen when she left her hometown of Ocean Vista on the coast of New Jersey. Two decades later, divorced and unstrung, she returns with her teenage daughter, Carrie, and nine-year-old son, Daniel, recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Distracted by thoughts of the past, Olivia fails to notice when Daniel disappears from her side. Her frantic search for him sparks memories of the summer of 1987, when she exploded out of the cocoon of her mother's fierce, smothering love and into a sudden, full-throttle adolescence, complete with dangerous new friends, first love, and a rebellion so intense that it utterly recharted the course of her life.
Olivia's mother, Myla, was a practicing psychic whose powers waxed and waned along with her mercurial moods. Myla raised Olivia to be a guarded child, and also to believe in the ever-present infant ghosts of her twin sisters, whom Myla took care of as if they were alive--diapers, baby food, an empty nursery kept like a shrine. At fifteen, Olivia saw her sisters for the first time, not as ghostly infants but as teenagers on the beach. But when Myla denied her vision, Olivia set out to learn the truth--a journey that led to shattering discoveries about herself and her family.
Sarah Cornwell seamlessly weaves together the past and the present in this riveting debut novel, as she examines the relationships between mothers and daughters, and the powerful forces of loss, family history, and magical thinking.
- ISBN-13: 9780062237859
- ISBN-10: 0062237853
- Publisher: Harper Perennial
- Publish Date: August 2014
- Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.48 pounds
- Page Count: 288
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HER HIDDEN PAST
Sarah Cornwell’s debut novel, What I Had Before I Had You, is a moving and authentic depiction of a family struggling to reconcile with the past. Olivia, mother of two, returns to Ocean Vista, her hometown on the Jersey Shore, after a 20-year absence. The visit brings back difficult memories of her childhood, which was spent in the care of her loving but eccentric mother, Myla, a professional psychic. Both Olivia and her 9-year-old son, Daniel, suffer from bipolar disorder. When Daniel disappears during the visit home, Olivia tries to find him, embarking on a search that forces her to face up to a family history that’s loaded with secrets. Myla, capricious, beautiful and forever mourning the stillborn twins she lost in 1971, lies at the heart of Olivia’s quest for redemption. Skillfully weaving the story of Olivia’s past together with her search for Daniel, Cornwell has crafted a luminous narrative that proves she’s a writer to watch.
Best-selling author and Oprah favorite Wally Lamb offers up a poignant, timely family story with his new novel, We Are Water. With 27 years of marriage behind her, artist Anna Oh has an ex-husband, three children and a new love interest: art dealer Viveca, the glamorous Manhattanite who launched her career. Plans for a wedding are soon brewing, but Anna’s family has a few misgivings about her decision to tie the knot again. The novel is narrated, in turns, by members of the Oh family, including Anna’s psychologist ex-husband, Orion, and their kids, Ariane, Andrew and Marissa, all of whom have lives of their own—and scarred psyches. As Anna’s wedding nears, unpleasant episodes from the family’s past come to light, causing the Oh clan to take stock of mistakes and heartaches. Lamb writes about delicate issues like child abuse and addiction with the openness and compassion his many fans have come to expect. His moving portrayal of a contemporary family drama is sure to resonate with readers.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Winner of the 2013 National Book Award for fiction, The Good Lord Bird by James McBride is an inspired and slightly transgressive take on the story of abolitionist John Brown. The novel is narrated by 12-year-old Henry Shackleford, a Kansas slave Brown mistakes for a girl. When Brown shoots Henry’s owner, the boy joins his band of abolitionists and lives as a female. Brown and his crew cross the country trying to marshal support for their cause, and Henry tags along, bearing witness to meetings with Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, as well as the raid on Harpers Ferry. McBride, author of the acclaimed memoir The Color of Water as well as two previous novels, shows a remarkable flair for making events come alive and never shies away from the comic possibilities of the boy’s situation. A wonderfully imaginative retelling of history that’s been compared to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, McBride’s latest is a page-turner thanks to Henry’s unique voice and remarkable coming-of-age experiences.