Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe

The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe

A Novel

Betsey Osborne

St. Martin's Press




Uncas Metcalfe is a sixty-five-year-old botany professor from a once prosperous central New York town, whose habitat is changing much too quickly: his wife is ill, his daughter has returned home, and an unusual new friendship unexpectedly stirs up memories of an almost forgotten infidelity. Uncas is rooted in a life of plants and manners. When his routine is upended by the menacing demands of a former student, Uncas finds his comfortably obstinate nature at odds with his family's growing impatience and a newfound, terrifying uncertainty.

The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe follows an unforgettable hero as he struggles to right himself and adapt to changing expectations, even as he approaches the end of his life. Beautifully wrought and wonderfully imagined, the intricacies of the Metcalfe family will linger in your imagination long after the last page.


Chapter One

Uncas Metcalfe's Raleigh had been stolen. There was a time, not so long ago, when he'd ridden his bicycle everywhere, in all but the most inclement weather. Now he rode locally, for errands, and, occasionally, a mile or...


Praise for The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe

“Betsey Osborne has written a lovely and thoughtful novel about marriage, ageing and the complications of living within the world. The quiet elegance of her prose, her careful observation and her sympathy for her characters make The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe a pleasure to encounter.” —Roxana Robinson, author of Sweetwater and A Perfect Stranger

“The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe is a delightful contemporary novel that is at the same time a marvelously civilized and truly literary treat for wise readers devoted to the nearly lost worlds explored by J.P. Marquand, and Booth Tarkington before him.” —Katharine Weber, author of Triangle, The Little Women, The Music Lesson, and Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

“Writing with the precise and haunting tones of Virginia Woolf, Betsey Osborne creates a compelling world . . . Uncas Metcalfe is a character for the ages, as if drawn by John Kennedy Toole or Jonathan Franzen. I dare you not to laugh with him one moment and shiver with misunderstanding the next.” —Stephen J. Dubner, author of New York Times bestseller Freakonomics and Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family

“With graceful and poetic prose Betsey Osborne has created an engrossing, suspenseful, mysterious, often funny, and at times haunting tale of a man forced to reflect on his life, his family, his own character. Osborne is a truly compelling writer--intelligent, subtle, moral, and deep.” —Rosemary Mahoney, author of A Singular Pilgrim, Whoredom in Kimmage and The Early Arrival of Dreams

“In her careful, thoughtful and moving first novel, The Natural History of Uncas Metcalfe, Betsey Osborne charts a course through what she describes as ‘a thicket of intimates,’ to reveal the achingly human heart of a man out-of-step with the times, a man whose reticence leaves him stranded from those he holds most dear. It is a heartbreaker of a book, beautifully observed and rendered.” —Victoria Vinton, author of The Jungle Law

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Betsey Osborne

Betsey Osborne graduated from Harvard, attended the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and has a master of fine arts from Columbia. She has worked at Grand Street, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair, where she is currently a Contributing Editor. She lives in Cranston, Rhode Island.

Betsey Osborne

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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