Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Hannah Pittard

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-199605-4
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

The sudden disappearance of a teenage girl has far-reaching implications for the psyches of the boys from her suburban town.

That 16-year-old Nora Lindell goes missing on Halloween is beyond dispute, but what happens to her afterward is anyone’s guess, and in fact becomes something of an obsession for her male schoolmates. Did she, clad in her school uniform, get into a strange man’s car to face a grisly fate? Or maybe she was pregnant with twins and ran away to Arizona, where she married a sweet-natured Mexican cook decades her senior. Or, least plausible of all, did she end up in India, take a female lover and barely survive the 2006 Mumbai hotel bombings? Circumstantial evidence exists for all these scenarios, but what emerges from Pittard’s debut novel, told in the collective first person plural, is how the boys as a group experience the loss of Nora. For almost 30 years, she becomes a symbol of possibility, while their lives become increasingly smaller and limited. There are dramas, of course. Trey Stephens, the only boy who claimed to have slept with Nora, goes to prison in his 30s for having sex with the 13-year-old daughter of a friend. Another one’s wife leaves him after a series of miscarriages, while a third guy has an extramarital affair that is exposed at a funeral. And the most awkward of the bunch, sensitive Danny Hatchet, carries a longtime torch for Nora’s younger sister Sissy, who is subject to almost as many rumors as Nora. Gracefully written by the winner of the 2008 Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award, this elegiac portrait of an upscale community offers an interesting take on modern manhood. And while the hive mentality comes across as a bit claustrophobic, that just might be the whole point.

A melancholy coming-of-age debut novel in the spirit of The Virgin Suicides.