Precious

Precious

by Sandra Novack

The summer of 1978, ten-year-old Vicki Anderson rides her bike to the local park and goes missing.

Frank Kisch, grappling with his anger, is left to raise their girls alone, oblivious to his daughters struggles with both disappearances: Eva, seventeen, plunges into an affair with her married high school teacher, and nine-year-old Sissy escapes to a world of imagination and storytelling that becomes so magical it pierces the reality of the everyday.

When Natalia unexpectedly returns, the struggles and tensions that have built over the summer erupt into a series of events that change the Kisches irrevocablyforcing them to piece together their complicated pasts and commitments to each other.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.41
  • Pages: 304
  • Publish Date: February 17th 2009 by Random House
  • Isbn10: 1400066808
  • Isbn13: 9781400066803

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It is the story of a family, a neighborhood, an era set in 1978 rural Pennsylvania. Sissy, her younger sister, is nine years old and has to deal with the changes in her family as well as the disappearance of a neighbor girl Vickie. The neighborhood itself was a character with the nosy neighbors, barking dogs, picnics and looking out for each other during some trying times. I highly recommend reading this book, it's strength is that it's a character driven novel with a strong story line and beautifully written.

In this accomplished first novel, she Novack: writes tellingly of the complex relationships among families, lovers, and friends.Booklist (Starred review) (2/1/09) "Known for her incisive short stories, published in literary journals like the Iowa Review, Novack has written a haunting first novel... This is a novel about an era, a world, and a neighborhood, but at its core, it's about a family struggling to understand, and to be understood."Laura Moriarty, author of The Rest of Her Life "Precious is a powerful, gracefully written, subtly startling work of art." - Huntington News "Suffused with grief and an unsettling coolly observed nostalgia." - Atlanta Journal-Constitution "The novel's narrative richness and focused energy baffle conventional expectations, and Novack's frequent use of the present tense adds a chilling sense of urgency to her tale, driven as much by character as plot." - Morning Call/Chicago Tribune "Novack engineers her plot so flawlessly that the reader is swept up in the flow of the story. Her fine writing holds your attention...you want to know what is going to happen to these people." - The Baton Rouge Advocate "A sense of foreboding lies beneath the lazy summer suburban surface of their the characters': lives...Novack infuses the suspense of a thriller into her close observation of a domestic drama." - The Columbus Dispatch "Exquisitely written, Precious is about all the vanishings in our livesfamily, love, trustand the stories we tell ourselves and each other to fill the subsequent holes left in our hearts.

At the very heart of the novel is the characters, each one weighed down by the events in their lives which have seemingly swallowed them whole. There are so many threads running through the novel. A mother who feels trapped in her life and neglected by her husband runs off, leaving behind a husband and two daughters. Sissy and the missing girl, Vicki, had been good friends as had Sissys mother, Natalia, and Ginny. Natalias return sets off an entirely new set of consequences for her family. The novel takes place in the summer of 1978, a time period that is quite significant to the setting of the book. Natalias own history as an immigrant child who lost her family during the Holocaust, herself having once lived in a concentration camp, colors her desires and perceptions of the day. There were so many little threads like these which I would have liked to explore further, but Precious is not the book in which to do that.

The US had just gone through enormous economic and social change post-WWII, and in Precious, it is home to European immigrants like middle-aged, Natalia Kisch, a Hungarian gypsy by birth and a child-survivor of the Nazi pogroms; to her husband Frank Kisch, an American steel worker; as well as, to weary, disillusioned idealists like Peter, a high school teacher and married lover to a frankly sexual seventeen-year old, Eva Kisch. The story opens with the disappearance of nine-year old Sissy Kisch's best (and seemingly only) friend, Vicki Anderson.

When the mother Natalia leaves her husband and daughters behind for something new, something with a new man they are left to pick up the pieces of their broken family. When summer arrives the girls are left home to fend for themselves and the older sister Eva takes off most days leaving Sissy to do anything she wants anywhere. Like others have said, a lot of times I felt worried for Sissy. All in all an interesting look at a broken family trying to pick up the pieces that I know will appeal to a lot of readers out there.

What I learned about her after reading her debut novel is that the depth of her soul and her heart must be so large as to be immeasurable because surely one cannot write a story like this one with anything less. Novack is a writer who understands the power of connecting emotionally to her reader.

Sandy's first novel explores this in the ways she writes about how each of us is at our core essentially alone; how the actions of others are in the end inexplicable to us; how some go missing and never come back, and how each of us tells ourselves and others the stories the help us believe we never are alone, the stories that help us make sense of the missing and precious in our own lives. It's all the more wonderful and rewarding for me to read a book by someone I know and admire so much as a writer and a friend.