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First You Try Everything
Cover of First You Try Everything
First You Try Everything
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An engrossing tale of a marriage that's falling apart and a wife who will stop at nothing to keep it together.

From their early days in college, Evvie and Ben were drawn to each other by feelings of isolation stemming from their wounded childhoods, passionate idealism, and zeal for music. Sheltered by their love, they weathered the challenges and trials of the imperfect world around them. But as the years passed, they grew apart. Now Ben has his sights set on a completely different kind of future--alone, or with someone else.

Convinced that Ben cannot live without her, Evvie begins to unravel, as she obsessively devises ways to reclaim the love that she cannot let go of. She gambles on a spectacularly dangerous scheme, one that may ultimately have devastating consequences.

Jane McCafferty has written a highly original, utterly beguiling, and emotionally satisfying novel about marriage. Told from alternating viewpoints, this gripping, psychologically astute, and madcap novel illuminates the power of love to define and transform our lives, for better or for worse.

An engrossing tale of a marriage that's falling apart and a wife who will stop at nothing to keep it together.

From their early days in college, Evvie and Ben were drawn to each other by feelings of isolation stemming from their wounded childhoods, passionate idealism, and zeal for music. Sheltered by their love, they weathered the challenges and trials of the imperfect world around them. But as the years passed, they grew apart. Now Ben has his sights set on a completely different kind of future--alone, or with someone else.

Convinced that Ben cannot live without her, Evvie begins to unravel, as she obsessively devises ways to reclaim the love that she cannot let go of. She gambles on a spectacularly dangerous scheme, one that may ultimately have devastating consequences.

Jane McCafferty has written a highly original, utterly beguiling, and emotionally satisfying novel about marriage. Told from alternating viewpoints, this gripping, psychologically astute, and madcap novel illuminates the power of love to define and transform our lives, for better or for worse.

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About the Author-
  • Jane McCafferty was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for a section of One Heart. Her stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, Story, Witness, and other publications, and her short story collection, Director of the World, was awarded the 1992 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. She teaches at Carnegie Mellon University and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    December 1, 2011
    How will brittle, needy, fanciful Evvie cope when her husband Ben falls out of love and leaves her? Badly, is the answer, in this sensitive, offbeat second novel. We know breaking up is hard to do, but it's harder still if you are Evangeline (Evvie) Muldoone, burdened by fears of abandonment and "magnificent vulnerability." You've spent 16 happy years in Pittsburgh with Ben, variously working a pushcart together selling Middle Eastern food, laughing, sharing music, but now Ben has changed, he's no longer charmed by your preoccupation with animal rights or your tendency to procrastinate. And he's met someone else, Lauren. Switching between Evvie and Ben's perspectives, McCafferty (Thank You for the Music, 2004, etc.) captures Evvie's ditzy, thin-skinned eccentricity and Ben's cooler isolation as their lives diverge, hers deeper into dreams of making a film about a convenience-store clerk and his into more conventional happiness with Lauren. Tragi-comic in tone, the novel offers some nicely observed insights into guilt and despair—"He was tired of the prison of his old affection"—until heartbreak and delusion lead to an act of lunacy that will redefine the landscape. Everyday tragedy takes a surreal spin in this slight but soulful, idiosyncratic tale.

    (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2011

    A childless, long-married couple, Evvie and Ben have always lived an unconventional lifestyle. But when Ben gets a good job that requires him to wear a suit and tie, he is surprised to note his comfort at joining the mainstream. Evvie's strident animal-rights activism and musical obsessions start to get on his nerves. Ben has always been the caretaker in the relationship as Evvie is both psychologically fragile and accident-prone. When Ben meets the calm and nurturing Lauren, he realizes his marriage with Evvie is no longer sustainable. Stunned, Evvie falls prey to a dangerous scheme to get Ben back. Skillfully told from both Ben's and Evvie's viewpoints, McCafferty's second novel (after One Heart) coins its own brand of heart-searing suspense. Can this marriage be saved? VERDICT Fans of Anne Tyler, Jacquelyn Mitchard, and other top-drawer domestic fiction writers will enjoy this unpredictable, offbeat novel.--Keddy Outlaw, formerly with Harris Cty. P.L., Houston, TX

    Copyright 2011 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    December 1, 2011
    Short story writer McCafferty's second novel (after One Heart, 1999) is a quirky yet deeply moving portrait of the dissolution of a marriage. Years of infertility treatments have turned 41-year-old Evvie into a strident activist, while Ben has found great contentment in the routine and rewards of his nine-to-five job testing and selling medical equipment, even finding himself enjoying the way it felt to glide down the street in a coat and tie. Once so close, drawn together by their painful childhoods, idealism, and love of music, the two now circle each other with a certain wariness, as Evvie desperately tries to bridge the gulf between them, and Ben is increasingly attracted to a woman with whom he works ( Unlike Evvie, she still believed in the custom of sitting down for dinner ). When Ben moves out, Evvie becomes increasingly unstable, eventually hatching a bizarre scheme to get Ben back. Although McCafferty's plot goes off the rails in spots, her novel offers many heartrending scenes illuminating the pain of separation, both for the one leaving and the one left.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2011, American Library Association.)

  • Marie Claire

    "[An] evocative read. . . . A gimlet-eyed story of divorce and love, which bristles with pain and beauty. . . . Set amid the gritty splendor of Pittsburgh, the novel masterfully conveys both the youthful love that Ben and Evvie once shared and why it has fizzled."

  • Cleveland Plain Dealer

    "With the plainspoken beauty of her prose and the convincing way the novel inhabits each protagonist's consciousness...McCafferty has given us a story of shattered illusions, essential as long as humans have dreams from which they need to wake up."

  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    "McCafferty maintains complete control, alternating points of view between the two parties with empathy and aplomb. Glowing with natural humor . . . as the story develops in McCafferty's warm, steady voice, you stay enchanted to the bitter end."

  • O, the Oprah Magazine blog

    "[A] life-stopping novel by Jane McCafferty (a crackerjack of a writer) . . . about heartbreak--as it happens to all of us. McCafferty's gift is character, and she creates such singular, riveting personalities that you're laughing and puzzling out whole new understandings of the world."

  • Library Journal

    "McCafferty's second novel coins its own brand of heart-searing suspense. . . . Fans of Anne Tyler, Jacquelyn Mitchard, and other top-drawer domestic fiction writers will enjoy this unpredictable, offbeat novel."

  • Booklist

    "[A] deeply moving portrait of the dissolution of a marriage . . . [with] heartrending scenes illuminating the pain of separation, both for the one leaving and the one left."

  • Kirkus

    "[A] sensitive, offbeat second novel. . . . [that] offers some nicely observed insights into guilt and despair . . . until heartbreak and delusion lead to an act of lunacy that will redefine the landscape. Everyday tragedy takes a surreal spin in this . . . soulful, idiosyncratic tale."

  • Stewart O'Nan, author of Emily, Alone and The Odds

    "Jane McCafferty knows how marriage can go stale, how it can turn and curdle despite a couple's best intentions and efforts. Wise, wry and surprising, First You Try Everything is about the mad things we do to hang on to lost love."

  • Nancy Zafris, author of Lucky Strike and The Metal Shredders

    "The tools in Jane McCafferty's anatomy lab: big heart, big brain, jars of funny bones, twine of poetic prose. Under the microscope one finds expanding constellations, other times the minute dna of words combining beautifully with other words. Either way the reader sits back in charged happiness at the discoveries."

  • New York Times Book Review

    "Told in direct, plain-spoken language, Jane McCafferty's first novel gathers genuine emotional depth and complexity as it follows the lives of two middle-aged sisters, Ivy and Gladys, and the 17-year-old girl, Raelene, who befriends them. When the book o

  • Publishers Weekly

    "[This] first novel focuses on the life-altering effects of love, loss and abandonment... McCafferty gives readers a...view of the nature of personal transformation."

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