The Outside of August by Joanna Hershon

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Critics and readers alike hailed Swimming, Joanna Hershon’s fiction debut. “Compelling,” said the Washington Post, while Vanity Fair called Swimming a “page-turning premiere.” Now Hershon brings us her anticipated second novel, in which she vividly explores the secrets of an American family. The Outside of August is a mesmerizing, beautifully written story that combs the emotional landscape of its characters with power and precision.

For as long as Alice Green can remember, her elusive mother, Charlotte, has moved in and out of family life—disappearing relentlessly and often without explanation. Despite the exotic clutter of souvenirs that detail Charlotte’s international travels, the Green’s home becomes progressively hollow, as nothing but Charlotte can fill the empty spaces.

With their mother’s tenuous presence, and their tender but distant father working long hours, Alice and her brother, August, react in different ways. While seeking constant affection from other women, August relies on an unspoken bond with Charlotte that allows him a certain freedom. But Alice feels no such security and grows increasingly unmoored, always in search of ways to keep her mother at home.

When, years later, her unfettered brother becomes strangely remote, Alice journeys to find him in an isolated beach town. It is there that a deeply buried secret will have to unravel in order for Alice to come to terms with her fractured family and her place within it—and learn to let go of a mother she perhaps never really knew.

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Joanna Hershon's A Dual Inheritance.

About Joanna Hershon

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Joanna Hershon is the author of The German Bride, The Outside of August, and Swimming. She has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Edward Albee Foundation. An adjunct assistant professor in the creative writing department at Columbia University, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the painter Derek Buckner, and their twin sons.
Published December 18, 2008 by Ballantine Books. 340 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Alan and Charlotte are a suave, well-educated couple (he a neurobiologist, she an artist) who raised two fine children (son August, daughter Alice) in their tastefully decorated colonial house.

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Publishers Weekly

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When Alice is 16 and August 18, their mother is killed in a fire, and August leaves home, gradually drifting farther and farther away.

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Book Reporter

It becomes obvious in later chapters that Alan prefers Alice over Gus, and is probably the parent who she feels closest to, but it is her mother who Alice yearns for, a mother who is often not there, physically or emotionally.

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of The Outside of August

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