HOUSE OF WONDER by Sarah Healy


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In Healy's second novel (Can I Get An Amen?, 2012), divorced single mother Jenna returns home to New Jersey to help her aging mother, Silla, cope with accusations that Jenna's autistic brother, Warren, is responsible for a string of burglaries in the neighborhood.

The word "wonder" is defined as "rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious," which is a concise way of describing how Jenna, single mother to daughter Rose, has always conceived of her undiagnosed, but likely autistic, twin brother, Warren. For 36 years, Warren has barely held down a series of entry-level jobs when he's not in his room in his hoarder mother's home making model airplanes. A recent spate of petty thefts has made the formerly tolerant neighbors suspicious of Warren and openly hostile to his mother. Jenna, who's running a graphic design business and trying not to think about her charming absentee ex, Duncan, finds herself drawn into the familial dynamics she once sought to escape. However, as she delves into her mother's secret past, Jenna begins to find the seeds of a new life potentially blooming with a former high school crush. But can Warren be trusted, or will he need to be institutionalized? Creating a rich family mythology, including earlobe pulling in times of distress to summon a family member and fabricated monsters named "Maglons," Healy also occasionally writes in gorgeous metaphor: "I had stood on the front steps of our apartment as [Duncan] got in a cab for the airport, wishing that I could cross and cross and cross my arms over my chest, wishing that I had rows and layers of arms, like the horseshoe crabs my father used to pull out of the water at the beach." The family-specific language and nuanced emotional turns make the novel feel instantly familiar without being predictable. 

Shifting admirably between the hidden past and the uncomfortably exposed present, Healy creates a believable and poignant portrait of a unique family grappling to understand itself and its role in a largely unimaginative world.

Pub Date: Sept. 2nd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-451-23987-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: New American Library
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2014


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