Books by Jane McCafferty

Released: Jan. 17, 2012

"Everyday tragedy takes a surreal spin in this slight but soulful, idiosyncratic tale."
How will brittle, needy, fanciful Evvie cope when her husband Ben falls out of love and leaves her? Badly, is the answer, in this sensitive, offbeat second novel. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 13, 2004

"Sharply observed but limited in scope: more by the way of background, or some other dramatic depth, could make such dim and shadowy characters worth caring for."
Fourteen stories set in Pittsburgh describe the quiet griefs of everyday life: a second collection from McCafferty (Director of the World, 1992; One Heart, 1999). Read full book review >
ONE HEART by Jane McCafferty
Released: Oct. 1, 1999

Loneliness is the dominant emotion in this sad, sensitive first novel by the author of a previous story collection (Director of the World, 1992). It's not that McCafferty's characters are isolated, alienated individuals; they live in an intricate web of family relations revolving around the tension-riddled bond of Ivy and Gladys, who, when the story opens in 1978, are middle-aged sisters working as cooks in an upstate New York camp/school for troubled rich kids. The author deftly moves her narrative backward to their childhood and forward to the present in chapters related (in nicely distinct voices) by each of the sisters; Gladys's ex-husband, James; and her much younger friend, Raelene. It seems that James's arrival shattered the sisters" youthful intimacy, which appeared to have withstood their father's blatant favoring of Gladys, and that the accidental drowning of Ann, James and Gladys's preschool daughter, broke her mother's spirit in a way that would never be put right. Gladys, always disinclined to communicate, becomes even more resistant to Ivy's attempt to get close, displaying something like contempt for her sister's efforts to put a good face on a world Gladys sees as cruel and meaningless. Yet Gladys can—t entirely resist the neediness of Raelene, daughter of a clinically depressed mother and drug-addicted father who arrives at Camp Timber as a teenaged counselor after years of correspondence initiated when Raelene began wearing a bracelet with the name of James's POW son (later revealed to be dead). This is a story about loss and the pain of love that never seems to reach the right person at the right time, but a strain of dark humor and appreciation for natural beauty keeps it from unrelieved grimness. McCafferty makes us care for her troubled characters, each a fully rounded, complex individual. Her themes are evident, yet always grounded particulars. Strong work from a writer to watch. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 1992

Tender, richly textured stories of children and adults working against their feelings of loss, abandonment, and personal dissolution—in a first collection from this year's winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. A young girl watches her mother blame ``her great speed and recklessness on the car....`Come on, Aqua Nova...We gotta slow down!' '' and fill a grocery cart with syrup (``she adored it, she worshiped it, some overblown verb like that''); the child already knows this will lead to the Delaware State Hospital and is ``heavy with a gut-level knowledge that everyone and her mother in this world was doomed.'' There's lots of doom here, along with efforts to connect: A young widow briefly fills the void with a foreign- looking man and someone else's child; a man, hoping to see his daughter for the first time in three years, falls into a casual friendship at the bus stop; a beleaguered woman, on an excruciating family outing, is drawn to strangers; a dumped wife hopes for a happy vacation in Florida with her sons, but her 12-year-old suddenly drops his usual recitation of nature facts for a frightening outburst. McCafferty looks at morally ambiguous moments in adolescence: a prank played on a neighbor; cruelty to a girl who looks gorgeous only from behind. Much reminiscent memoir-ish writing, plus a couple of stories less conventional in style: an incest survivor's psychic confusion and cold disconnection from husband and adopted child; the jumpy interior monologue of a girl whose father has returned home, deeply disturbed, from war. Fine writing in an often touching debut. Read full book review >