THE WONDER GARDEN by Lauren Acampora
Kirkus Star


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The odd interior lives of suburban Connecticut residents are unceremoniously unearthed in the interwoven stories of Acampora’s debut.

On the surface, Old Cranbury is just another New England town: picturesque, soaked in history, full of unspoken class divides, and populated with people who have abandoned New York City for, presumably, greener pastures. But beneath its exterior are wishes, dreams, and choices as grotesque as anything out of Winesburg, Ohio, and Acampora paints the town's web of relationships with lucid, unsettling prose. In “Afterglow,” a wealthy businessman becomes obsessed with touching a human brain in the wake of his wife’s tumor diagnosis. A pregnant newlywed watches helplessly as her husband becomes convinced he’s being poisoned by technology and abandons his livelihood to take up New-Age medicine in “The Umbrella Bird.” An aging gay couple struggles with the yawning gulf between them in “Elevations.” In “Moon Roof,” a real estate agent stops her car at an intersection on her way home and cannot bring herself to continue as the minutes and hours inch by. In “Swarm,” a retired teacher is given the chance to realize his artistic dreams when a couple commissions him for an ambitious installation project: giant insects obscuring every wall of their home. “If it is possible,” he wonders, marveling at his good fortune, “that a boy who sucked licorice on the sidewalks of Flatbush could be a millionaire now…then the world is a spooky and fabulous place indeed." Acampora's world is exactly this: spooky and fabulous. There are expected beats—affairs, teenage mischief, ennui, unhappy marriages—but woven through them are bizarre set pieces, unnerving hungers, and such weirdly specific desires it’s as if the author rifled through a local therapist’s filing cabinet.

A cleareyed lens into the strange, human wants of upper-class suburbia.

Pub Date: May 5th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2355-8
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2015


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