THE WHY OF THINGS by Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop


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A somber novel about the effects of suicide on a family and the secret wounds that become memorials.

This is the Jacob family's first summer at the cabin since 17-year-old Sophie's suicide. And on the night that they return to the Cape Ann house, to throw off the dusty sheets and put out the porch furniture, 14-year-old daughter Eve notices tire tracks across the lawn and into the quarry. Soon enough, the police are called, then the divers, and the sad story is unwound: A young man, James Favazza, had driven into the quarry and died. The irony is not lost on Joan and Anders, both still broken up over the death of their sweet daughter Sophie, who drove her car into an oncoming train. This death begins to uncover the sorrow the family has kept politely hidden. Young Eloise brings home dead things (a young sea gull found at the beach, a chipmunk from day camp) and insists on backyard burials. Joan drives by Mrs. Favazza’s house for no apparent reason. Anders finds an address in Sophie’s room and follows it to its pointless conclusion. And then there is Eve, whose story this is, who becomes obsessed with James. Before the truck is lifted and towed away, she dives in and retrieves all sorts of things: a T-shirt from a downtown bar, flip-flops, a cooler with another man’s name on it, beer bottles and trash, the sad relics of James' tomb. She is convinced his death was a murder and spreads this evidence on her bed every night, piecing together the clues. But of course the answer everybody wants, why Sophie killed herself, will always be their mystery to live with, the one too painful to investigate.  

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

Pub Date: June 11th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4516-9575-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2013


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