Tuesday, July 06, 2010

New Today: What Is Left the Daughter by Howard Norman

When a bizarre love tangle causes 17-year-old Wyatt Hillyer’s parents to jump off different bridges within a few hours of each other, the tone of Wyatt’s life seems set. At the same time, so is his immediate course: he must pick up sticks and go to live in a small town with his uncle and aunt and their gorgeous daughter.

Despite what could certainly sound like a farcial set up, What Is Left the Daughter (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is a searing look into the hearts of the characters author Howard Norman builds for us so skillfully. What Is Left the Daughter is a slender book that, nonetheless, packs a surprising punch. Norman’s novel seems oddly weighty at times. Important. As though there are thoughts and lessons being imparted that the reader should pay close attention to.

Two of Norman's novels -- 1994’s The Bird Artist and 1987’s The Northern Lights -- have been shortlisted for a National Book Award. What Is Left the Daughter is a book of that calibre. I would not be surprised to see it exceed the accolades accorded Norman’s earlier works. ◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.

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