Child of My Heart A Novel

Alice McDermott




Trade Paperback

256 Pages



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A Los Angeles Times Best Book

In Alice McDermott's haunting new work of fiction—her first since the best-selling Charming Billy, winner of the National Book Award—a woman recalls her fifteenth summer with the wry and bittersweet wisdom of hindsight.

The beautiful child of older parents, raised on the eastern end of Long Island among the summer houses of the rich, Teresa is the town's most sought-after babysitter—cheerful, poised, an effortless storyteller, a wonder with children and animals—but also a solitary soul already attuned to the paradoxes and compromises of adult life. Among her charges this fateful summer is Daisy, her younger cousin, who has left a crowded working-class household in the city to spend a few quiet weeks in this bucolic place, under Theresa's benevolent eye.

While Theresa copes with the challenge presented by the neighborhood's waiflike children, the tumultuous households of her employers, the mysteriously compelling attentions of an aging painter, and Daisy's fragility of body and spirit, her precocious, tongue-in-check sense of order is put to the test as she makes the perilous crossing into adulthood.

McDermott's deeply etched rendering of all that happened that seemingly idyllic season lends her surprising story its uniquely resonant impact. Once again, Alice McDermott explores the depths of everyday life with inimitable insight and grace.


Praise for Child of My Heart

"Has something of a classic about it . . . [Its] craftsmanship and its moral intelligence are as one . . . Immaculate."—The New York Times Book Review

"A meditation on the massacre of the innocents . . . Child of My Heart concerns itself with . . . the almost timeless, action-free lagoon of the spirit, the territory of dalliance and delight—and also with its paradoxes, and also with how to make a story out of it."—Margaret Atwood, The New York Review of Books

"It is one of Alice McDermott's many gifts that she is able to borrow from the riches of literature, both religious and secular, without becoming heavy-handedly allegorical or swapping resonance for allusion. In this novel, we have echoes and stirrings of Hardy, Shakespeare, Dickens, James, Beatrix Potter, Christina Rosetti . . . and a host of biblical and mythical tales. Because of these stirrings, the novel manages, in all of its simplicity, to contain the eerie and shimmering depths of a hologram . . . But what haunts, at the end of the novel, is the future, rather than the past, and it is this haunting that is McDermotts's greatest accomplishment."—Laura Kasischke, Chicago Tribune

"This is a novel which moves slowly and awakens the senses. Freed from the demands of an intricate plot, it lingers over light and shade, the taste of ripe peaches, and the smell of suntan lotion until we lose all sense of boundary between our world and its. McDermott does not rely on the momentum of the story to pull us along; rather, she commands our attention through arresting similes, original metaphors, and resonant, poetic descriptions. The dialogue, too, is expertly rendered, conveying a character's world-view in a single sentence. Although several of the wealthy Hamptonites conform to type, the novelist's keen ear ensures they never revert to cliché."—Heather Clark, The Times Literary Supplement

"Alice McDermott is a genius of quiet observation. Her antenna is perpetually raised and turning, humming and warm with reception . . . It's apt that McDermott weaves into her story elements of A Midsummer Night's Dream, for this novel casts the same mystical spell as Shakespeare's fantasy . . . McDermott, one of our finest novelists at work today, is the master of a domain that in the hands of most writers would be limiting. In Child of My Heart, she has transformed her trademark material of Irish American life into a poignant and rewarding fictional world."—David Ebershoff, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"[A] quietly enchanting novel, graced by McDermott's well-calibrated writing and observant eye . . . Filled with subtle truths and hard-won wisdom."—The Charlotte Observer

"Her prose is effortlessly effective, her characters varied and interesting, her narrative smoothly coherent . . . exquisitely subtle."—Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

"Emotionally intelligent . . . unfailingly sensual, tactile, fragrant."—The Raleigh News & Observer

"Subtle and beautiful . . . the tender relationship between [Daisy and Teresa] . . . is as revelatory and touching as any friendship recounted in recent fiction . . . If we have to learn the lessons of loss, let it be by reading novels such as this one."—The Commercial Appeal

"Like an elegantly carved miniature of a person long dead and half forgotten, this novel captivates by its very darkness and sadness and reserve."—Buffalo News

"A terrific writer—precise, immaculate, and with a keen lyrical ear."—The Economist

"McDermott sculpts her small story with a meticulous eye for the telling detail and transcendent metaphor."—Kirkus Reviews

"Magical . . . McDermott's gorgeous novel is laced with sly literary allusions and provocative insights into the enigma of sexual desire, the mutability of art, death's haunting presence, our need 20for fantasies, and the endless struggle to keep love pure."—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)



  • Alice McDermott

  • Alice McDermott is the author of six novels and a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The recipient of a Whiting Writers Award, Ms. McDermott is currently the Richard A. Macksey Professor for Distinguished Teaching in the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Her articles, reviews and stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, Redbook and elsewhere.

  • Alice McDermott Epic Photography/Jamie Schoenberger




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