A taut, groundbreaking new novel from bestselling and award-winning author Elizabeth McCracken, about a writer’s relationship with her larger-than-life mother—and about the very nature of writing, memory, and art
Ten months after her mother’s death, the narrator of The Hero of This Book takes a trip to London. The city was a favorite of her mother’s, and as the narrator wanders the streets, she finds herself reflecting on her mother’s life and their relationship. Thoughts of the past meld with questions of the future: Back in New England, the family home is now up for sale, its considerable contents already winnowed.
The woman, a writer, recalls all that made her complicated mother extraordinary—her brilliant wit, her generosity, her unbelievable obstinacy, her sheer will in seizing life despite physical difficulties—and finds herself wondering how her mother had endured. Even though she wants to respect her mother’s nearly pathological sense of privacy, the woman must come to terms with whether making a chronicle of this remarkable life constitutes an act of love or betrayal.
The Hero of This Book is a searing examination of grief and renewal, and of a deeply felt relationship between a child and her parents. What begins as a question of filial devotion ultimately becomes a lesson in what it means to write. At once comic and heartbreaking, with prose that delights at every turn, this is a novel of such piercing love and tenderness that we are reminded that art is what remains when all else falls away.
Elizabeth McCracken is the author of seven books, including The Souvenir Museum, Bowlaway, Thunderstruck & Other Stories (winner of the 2014 Story Prize and long-listed for the National Book Award), and The Giant’s House (a National Book Award finalist). Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, won three Pushcart Prizes, a National Magazine Award, and an O. Henry Prize. She has served on the faculty at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently holds the James Michener Chair for Fiction at the University of Texas at Austin.
“The question of what this work is—a novel or a memoir, a fiction or a fact—can’t be answered. Doesn’t matter. The Hero of This Book is tender, funny, heartbreaking, philosophical. Elizabeth McCracken is a writer who always delights, and this is an exhilarating book.” — Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind
“Braided into McCracken’s gorgeously spiraling narrative is an expansive meditation on the act of writing and, intriguingly, the art of writing memoir….the novel assumes a hybrid quality that could be called autofiction but really is an homage to the art of great storytelling. Novel? Memoir? Who cares. It’s a great story, beautifully told.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred)