- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: St Martin's Press; Reprint edition (September 18, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250293758
- ISBN-13: 978-1250293756
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 245 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs Paperback – 18 Sep 2018
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"Peery's insightful writing turns a happily-ever-after conclusion into appreciation for the serenity of acceptance and steadfastness." - Booklist
"A tender - if not altogether surprising - family portrait with generous heart. Ultimately satisfying, a quiet novel with lingering warmth." - Kirkus
"A powerful new novel...Potent and memorable." - Publishers Weekly
"An honest portrait of a complicated family...The author deftly reveals the innermost thoughts of seven separate characters [with] pitch-perfect prose." - Washington Independent Review of Books
"It's rare to find a book that so mercilessly, and beautifully, and honestly concerns itself with middle-aged life. With the tender, enduring, fraught relationships among aging siblings and their even more aged parents. Janet Peery is a magnificent sentence-maker and a faithful reporter of the human condition as it regards this large and flawed and recognizable -- so recognizable -- midwestern family. I will gift everyone I know with a copy of The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs, just because it has such important confirmation to bestow upon us." --Antonya Nelson, author of Talking in Bed and Funny Once
"Never have the highs and lows of love and sacrifice--of addiction and enabling--and the inevitable passage of time, been so eloquently rendered in the moments and memories of everyday life. Janet Peery has masterfully connected all the points of one family's complex constellation and emerged with a brilliantly moving and unforgettable novel." --Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life
"Piercingly observant of the minutia that make life meaningful, Janet Peery paints a portrait in The Exact Nature of our Wrongs of a family both unmistakably familiar and unforgettably unique, one that will stay with you for a while. This is a richly accomplished, novel by a writer as wryly funny as she is wise." --Josh Weil, author of The Great Glass Sea and The New Valley
"A masterpiece. One of the wisest, most nuanced evocations of the hopeless quandary of family relations--the trying to understand, to get along, the failure and the suffering--and yet the grace of it, too." --Blake Bailey, author of Cheever: A Life
"Powerful writing." - The Virginian-Pilot
About the Author
JANET PEERY's books include Alligator Dance (stories), What the Thunder Said (a novella and stories), and her first novel The River Beyond the World, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. She has received numerous honors for her fiction including the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Whiting Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. She lives in Cape Charles, Virginia.
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I read this book free and early thanks to Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press. If I had paid full retail price, it would have been worth every red cent. It had me at hello.
But back to the Campbells of Kansas. Everyone has known for some time about Billy’s dependency issues; he’s been riding the roller coaster of addiction for many years. Billy’s father wants to take a hard line with him, while his mother, Hattie, just wants to bring him home and tuck him into the guest bedroom. Brother Jesse objects, “He’s forty-fricking-seven, Mom.”
Elder daughter Doro, who is sixty and perhaps the only sane, normal person in the family, is concerned for her mother, who is past eighty and has already had a heart attack. Doro reminds her mother that “It’s Amicus. It’s your family. Where two’s company and three turns into an intervention.”
The setting of Amicus and the time period we see as we reach back into the family’s history is well rendered, but remains discreetly in the background as it should, not hijacking the story. The story itself is based on character, not just of any one person, but of the family itself. By the twenty percent mark I feel as if I have known these people all my life. The full range of emotion is in play as I immerse myself in this intimate novel, and there are many places that make me laugh out loud.
It isn’t too long before I can identify someone I know that is a Hattie, and someone that is a Billy. Given the widespread horror of opiate addiction, I will bet you a dollar that you know someone too. But before the halfway mark is reached, a terrible sense of dread comes over me, an aha moment I would not wish on my worst enemy. I begin to sense that perhaps I am Hattie.
I hope that you can get this book and enjoy it for its sly humor, brilliant word-smithery, and unmatchable character development. It’s excellent fiction, just exactly right for a chilly autumn evening in your favorite chair or snuggled beneath the quilts. But for me, it is valuable as a wake-up call, and it will do the same for many other readers also—I have no doubt.
It’s the right story, at the right time.
The Campbell’s lived in Amicus, Kansas. The patriarch of the family, an elderly retired judge/attorney Abel Campbell was a WWII veteran that served in Saipan. With a quick and brilliant mind, he studied science and physics. He was a “man’s man” an outdoorsman that enjoyed hunting/fishing. Abel, a perfectionist, had high exact standards for behavior and was profoundly disappointed in his baby boom generation adult children who had brought shame to their once respected family name he had worked diligently to preserve. Often, from the bench and with other connections, his family members had to be excused from legal charges and violations.
Hattie, married for over sixty years to Abel had tried to shield her children from their father’s scathing wrath and judgment. As a daughter of pioneers, she was thoughtful and kind serving her community through church and civic duties. With all the scandals involving her adult children’s multiple divorces, public intoxication, DUI’s, drug/alcohol related embarrassing public confrontations, firearms violations, foreclosures, and family estrangement when “family problems” were brought to light-- Hattie was deeply troubled over these issues. In her late 80’s with a heart condition, she prayed that she would outlive her youngest son Billy, who was often unable to pay his rent or buy groceries.
The oldest daughter “Doro” (Theodora) had relocated to the east coast, and had successfully raised two daughters as a single parent. Smart and literary minded, she loved poetry and literature, wrote Western novels under a pen-name, and had a great job working at a college in her community. Doro's siblings viewed her as a goody two shoes and know it all, so she had to watch her critical opinions of her siblings carefully. Doro returned to Kanas with greater frequency to help with her elderly parents increasing hospitalizations and health issues, and additional alarming family problems.
Jesse: the oldest son since their brother Nick had passed away. Nick's premature death was due to a genetic heart condition combined with sepsis, and not his heroin addiction. Jesse, a brooding moody man had tried to keep his alcohol consumption under control. His family didn’t approve of his renting a room in his house to Patsy Gaddy, a floosy who had broken his heart numerous times.
Gideon: A menacing darkness in his character caused others to avoid him. His sister called him the “Uni-Bomber”. Still, he was thoughtful and concerned about his family, and sincerely tried to help. He usually carried a flask of alcohol tucked inside his coat pocket.
ClairBell: Fiercely devoted to her parents, opinionated, obnoxious, judgmental, and very jealous of anyone who had the slightest advantage over her, real or imagined. The large amount of pills she took were prescribed by a doctor. ClairBell spent most of her days on her couch, affected by a variety of ailments; she loved bingo, blackjack, and yard sales, and never hesitated too loudly voice her thoughts and ideas.
Billy: The youngest 40-something, at one time or another, had ingested every illegal substance known to man. He was a confident happy-go-lucky flamboyant gay man, and used his charm and colorful personality to get the money he needed to buy drugs. Everyone loved him, and likely felt sorry for him because of his HIV status, his life prolonged for decades by AZT drug therapy. Billy's siblings were most anxious to have him admitted to a rehab facility/program.
This novel was never meant to be a pleasant feel good type story. Rather, the focus is on addictive behavior patterns: such as co-dependency, enabling, control and manipulation, scapegoating, lying and other problems that impact families with substance and alcohol related issues. The Campbell’s needed to unite as a family—set aside differences, and deal constructively with themselves and each other, as this expertly developed storyline evolved and boldly moved to a realistic and unforgettable conclusion.
**With thanks and appreciation to St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for the direct e-copy for the purpose of review.
This is a wonderful family drama that looks into the dynamics of a family and tries to help us understand why the family members act like they do. It's a family made up of parents Hattie and Able, who are now in their late 80s, and their 5 middle-aged children. There is the normal squabbling that takes place in families over things like who is the favorite and remembered slights from childhood but this family's problems are even deeper due to drugs, alcohol and divorces. The mother definitely plays favorites and is a real enabler for her youngest son Billy. something that her husband and the rest of the children resent. As the patriarch of the family gets sicker, all of the family problems bubble to the surface to be dealt with once again.
This book looks deeply into what makes families work. Despite all of the issues and problems in this family, there is strong love and unbreakable bonds that hold them together as a family.