Within Arm's Reach by Ann Napolitano
A Novel

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“No one in my mother’s family ever talks about anything that can be categorized as unpleasant or as having to do with emotions, and, as a result, they no longer have anything to say. For them it’s not a matter of keeping secrets; it’s a matter of being polite, mannerly, and tough. The McLaughlins couldn’t spill their woes or ask for help even if they wanted to, because they don’t have the vocabulary. They are stranded within themselves, convinced that the only way is to silently persevere.”

Within Arm’s Reach follows three generations of an Irish-American Catholic family who are jarred into crisis by an unexpected pregnancy. This lyrical first novel is told through six different points of view, including those of the unmarried, pregnant Gracie, a local advice columnist; and her grandmother, the matriarch, who is struggling with her commitments to both the living and the dead. Within Arm’s Reach is a poignant reminder of how interconnected our lives are with those we love, how much more we inherit than wills decree, and how the ghosts of our ancestors walk by our sides every day.

Ann Napolitano artfully paints a riveting portrait of a family in crisis, depicting how the ties that bind us so closely to one another are often the ones that cause us the most pain. As the McLaughlins respond to the unplanned and profound change in Gracie’s life, their own memories and personal stories begin to emerge.

In the end, Napolitano creates a family quilt of sorts, each person’s life and actions closely woven throughout the fabric of the past, present, and future. Within Arm’s Reach is a rich and deeply satisfying narrative of guilt, love, betrayal, and the ultimate loyalty—that of blood.

About Ann Napolitano

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Ann Napolitano is a graduate of Connecticut College and received her MFA from New York University, where she studied with Paule Marshall and Dani Shapiro. She lives in New York City.
Published June 29, 2004 by Crown. 320 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Within Arm's Reach

Kirkus Reviews

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A fresh and exceptionally strong family portrait, mercifully free of the sentimentality that could easily have turned the proceedings into a soap opera.

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Kirkus Reviews

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Catharine McLaughlin isn’t your typical family saga matriarch—neither rich nor controlling, she does nevertheless possess the one indispensable mark of the grande dame: longevity.

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Publishers Weekly

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In Napolitano's wonderful first novel, deftly told from six points of view, a New Jersey family bears witness to the cycle of life.

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Book Reporter

In addition to Gracie's dramatic secret, other members of the McLaughlin factory harbor secrets no less transformative than the one Gracie holds.

Jan 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Within Arm's Reach: A Novel

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