OVERRIDE

Tinderbox

A Novel

Lisa Gornick

Sarah Crichton Books

When you invite a stranger into your home, you never know who’s really coming in . . .

Myra is a Manhattan psychotherapist. A quick study and an excellent judge of character, she thinks she knows what she’s getting when she hires a nanny—it’s her job, after all, to analyze people. Her phobia-addled son has just moved back in with his wife and child, and the new nanny, Eva, seems like a perfect addition: she cleans like a demon and irons like a dream, and she forms an immediate bond with Myra’s grandson.
     But as Eva, a Peruvian immigrant, reveals more of herself, what seemed a felicitous arrangement turns ominous. She racks the household with screams from a night terror. She spits in her hands to ward off evil spirits. Then, one afternoon, she settles into Myra’s patient chair and begins to expose the secrets of her past. Their relationship slowly and inexorably becomes too close, too dependent, and, ultimately, terrifyingly destructive. As events spiral out of Myra’s control, she learns that even a family as close-knit as her own can have plenty to hide.
     In the rich tradition of Lionel Shriver, Jane Hamilton, and Anne Tyler, the psychoanalyst and novelist Lisa Gornick tells us a story about the tragedy of good intentions. Tinderbox spins a suspenseful mystery of hidden traumas. It’s a searingly perceptive, deeply honest novel about families and secrets, and power, and love.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Myra cradles the phone to her ear as she gives the yes that she knows even now, this April Saturday morning, should be a no. Her yes is not even a yes, since Adam, her fragile second child—acrophobic, claustrophobic, equinophobic screenwriter of grade-B Westerns—is too avoidant to make a request, though the request is so clearly implied, it might as well be granted words.
“Rachida’s head was still in Morocco when she chose dermatology,” Adam says in the mumbly voice that has followed him from childhood, muffled now by the scraggly
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REVIEWS

Praise for Tinderbox

“This vivid portrait of a family unravelling is perfect for book clubs.” —People, Four-Star Review

 

“Lisa Gornick’s second novel, Tinderbox, will certainly be compared to Jonathan Franzen’s acclaimed The Corrections. And it should be, since Gornick creates a world of characters every bit as complex and flawed—and as real—as Franzen’s subjects.” —Juli Berwald, Jewish Book Council

“Lisa Gornick’s novel, Tinderbox, explores the entanglement of human lives and the stunning result when lightness and darkness meet. Without a doubt, Tinderbox is corporeal, and a beating product of Gornick’s experiences.” —Caitie Hannigan, Slice Magazine

“Read Lisa Gornick’s Tinderbox, and you may adopt her family of characters as your imaginary friends. So palpable, lifelike, and worthy of your love are these New Yorkers that after finishing the book, you’ll probably find yourself having conversations with them aloud . . . I clung to every page of Tinderbox; the writing is intelligent and sharp, and with each turn of the story, my investment surged. Gornick has translated the very real and tender chaos of family into a novel that’s expertly constructed and engaging. This book is so cling-worthy, you almost risk clinging too much and confusing the book with reality.” —Claire Luchette, Bustle.com

“Lisa Gornick is both a writer and a psychoanalyst. Her gifts for seeing beyond the surface, for appreciating and depicting the consequences of unrealized love and psychic pain, for observing with unblinking honesty the dynamics of family life and human foibles, come together in this novel, which starts off like a brush fire and then engulfs and burns with fury.” —Lloyd I. Sederer, The Huffington Post

 

Tinderbox is the story of a family undergoing seismic changes brought on by a stranger who unwittingly forces her hosts to face themselves. A masterly and dramatic group portrait, drawn with intelligence, precision, and deep feeling.” —Daniel Menaker, author of The Treatment

“A fiery, tender novel about the smoldering secrets that can destroy a family. Lisa Gornick is a psychoanalyst as well as a novelist, and the training serves her well. She exposes her characters with a skilled therapist’s blend of gentility and intensity. She knows just when to hang back—and when to light the match.” —Lisa Zeidner, author of Love Bomb and Layover

“I was gripped from the first line of Lisa Gornick’s ingenious novel to the last. Using a polished prose to scratch hard and deep through the surface of a pristine upper-middle-class Upper West Side family’s life, Gornick’s incisive narrative explores the creepy underbelly of privilege and self-satisfaction.” —Jenny McPhee, author of A Man of No Moon

“I loved this novel—it is deeply intelligent and shot through with suspense. The light that it shines on family life—from lethal traumas to daily love to misguided intentions—has a rare sort of rightness. An extraordinary book, written for adults.” —Joan Silber, author of Fools and National Book Award finalist for Ideas of Heaven

“What a smart, compassionate novel Lisa Gornick has written! In the first line of Tinderbox, Myra says yes when she should say no, allowing her maternal instincts to trump her wisdom as a therapist. That tension—the tug of war between the advice we give others and the life we actually live—pulls the reader through this wonderful book of family turmoil. Getting to know these characters truly, madly, deeply is as gut-wrenching and joyful as life itself.” —Mary Kay Zuravleff, author of The Bowl is Already Broken

Praise for A Private Sorcery

 
A Private Sorcery is a deep, powerful, exciting story that casts a spell on the reader from the opening pages. I was riveted and entranced—and something even more than that: thrilled to be in the presence of an important and authentic new voice.” —Dani Shapiro, author of Slow Motion

 
“Every now and then a new voice comes along that makes sense of our deep need for stories and their tellers. Lisa Gornick is one of those voices—she manages to match a compelling storyline with a language that is simultaneously intimate, intelligent, and crafted. It’s certainly not easy to make it seem so easy. A Private Sorcery is a wonderfully honest book, deeply felt, with characters carved from the true stuff of what we are. A first-rate novel, all the more surprising since it is Gornick’s debut.” —Colum McCann, author of This Side of Brightness

 
“An astonishingly good novel and completely compelling, A Private Sorcery is superbly written and sparkles with intelligence and subtlety. I can’t remember a first novel in the last ten years that has impressed me as much as this. The characters are complex and fascinating. The evocation of place and time is vivid and convincing. This seems to me to be a novel for grown-ups.” —Charles Palliser, author of Quincunx and The Unburied

In the Press

Bustle
Providing a fresh spin on news, entertainment, fashion, beauty, lifestyle, books, and any and all subjects that concern women. Bustle is an online community delivering original content that's smart, shareable, and, most importantly, fun.
- Bustle
A Tinderbox built on Embers
I can no longer recall how I stumbled upon Sándor Márai's exquisite short novel Embers which is set on a single day when…
- FSG Book Keeping on Medium
Lisa Gornick, Ph.D.: Googling Your Therapist
You absolutely should know whether your prospective therapist is well-trained and respected in the community. What you don't need is the Internet fishing trip that yields the price of your prospective therapist's home or her marriage announcement.
- Huffington Post
The Sun Magazine | Things
he Sun is an independent, ad-free monthly magazine that for more than thirty years has used words and photographs to invoke the splendor and heartache of being human. The personal essays, short stories, interviews, poetry, and photographs that appear in its pages explore the challenges we face and the moments when we rise to meet those challenges. Writing from The Sun has won the Pushcart Prize, been published in Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays, and been broadcast on National Public Rad
- The Sun
Tinderbox: A Book Review | Lloyd I. Sederer, MD
These two stories, actually metaphors, are woven into and illustrative of the imagery of Lisa Gornick's powerful novel. Fire, folly, and fortitude all play their part as a family is torn asunder, and it turns out they needed to be.
- Huffington Post
Shrink-Wrapped: Two novels linked by their psychoanalyzing protagonists
Lisa Gornick © Sigrid EstradaDear Mary Kay, After I finished Man Alive!, I felt as though I had spent a week living wit…
- FSG Book Keeping on Medium
Our Nannies | Lisa Gornick, Ph.D.
It's a big job, bigger than most parents anticipate, this thinking about our nannies, their life circumstances and psychic and health states, the reverberations between us, our communications spoken and unspoken.
- Huffington Post
Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession
Certain books are so strongly associated with the places and times we read them, we cannot imagine having been in that s…
- FSG Book Keeping on Medium

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Lisa Gornick

  • Lisa Gornick is the author of A Private Sorcery, a novel. Her stories have appeared in Agni, Confrontation, The Massachusetts Review, Slice, and other journals; have received awards, including Best American Short Stories Distinguished Story of the year; and have been named a finalist in the Glimmer Train Fiction Open and a winner of the Summer Literary Seminars Unified Literary Contest. Her essays have been published in The Huffington Post, The Sun, and various psychoanalytic journals. She has a BS from Princeton, and a PhD in clinical psychology from Yale, and is a graduate of the writing program at New York University and the psychoanalytic training program at Columbia, where she is currently on the faculty.

  • Lisa Gornick © Sigrid Estrada
    Lisa Gornick
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Tinderbox

A Novel

Lisa Gornick

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