The Why of Things by Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop
A Novel

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In many ways, Winthrop has written a novel about continuance. And while it’s tempting at times to find her characters too numb, too passive...is that the unendurable can and will be endured only if one chooses to go on.
-NY Times

Synopsis

“A fast-paced, entertaining summer read” (People), The Why of Things is a “keenly observed” and “richly drawn” (The New York Times) novel about a family fighting towards hope in the wake of a terrible tragedy.

Since the loss of her seventeen-year-old daughter less than a year ago, Joan Jacobs has struggled to keep her tight-knit family from coming apart. But Joan and Anders, her husband, are unable to snap back into the familiarity and warmth they so desperately need, both for themselves and for their surviving daughters, Eve and Eloise. The family flees to their summer home in search of peace and renewal, only to encounter an eerily similar tragedy when a pickup truck drives into the quarry in their backyard killing a young local named James Favazza.

As the Jacobs family learns more about the inexplicable events that preceded that fateful evening, each of them becomes increasingly tangled in the emotional threads of James’s story: fifteen-year-old Eve is determined to solve, on her own, the mystery of his death; Anders finds himself facing his own deepest fears; and seven-year-old Eloise unwittingly adopts James’s orphaned dog. For her part, Joan becomes increasingly fixated on James’s mother, a stranger whose sudden loss so closely mirrors her own.

With an urgent, beautiful intimacy that her fans have come to expect from this “bitingly intelligent writer” (The New York Times), Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop delivers here a powerful, buoyant novel that explores the complexities of family relationships and the small triumphs that can bring unexpected healing. The Why of Things is a wise, empathetic, and exquisitely heartfelt story about the strength of family bonds. It is an unforgettable and searing tour de force.
 

About Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop

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Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop was born and raised in New York City. She earned her B.A. from Harvard University and her M.F.A. in fiction from the UC Irvine, where she was the recipient of the Schaeffer Writing Fellowship. She is the author of two novels, Fireworks and December. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and St. Bernard.
 
Published June 11, 2013 by Simon & Schuster. 322 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Why of Things
All: 3 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Helen Schulman on Jun 14 2013

In many ways, Winthrop has written a novel about continuance. And while it’s tempting at times to find her characters too numb, too passive...is that the unendurable can and will be endured only if one chooses to go on.

Read Full Review of The Why of Things: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Publishers Weekly

Below average
on Jun 10 2013

...insists that they, and the reader, must accept that sometimes you have to live without answers. It's an understandable sentiment, but an unsatisfying conclusion.

Read Full Review of The Why of Things: A Novel | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Kirkus

Good
on Apr 16 2013

Winthrop’s novel is tender and true, and if it slows at times, in the end it reveals a quiet beauty.

Read Full Review of The Why of Things: A Novel | See more reviews from Kirkus

Reader Rating for The Why of Things
87%

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