This is not a memoir, the narrator assures the reader. To be clear, McCracken is married with children, and the narrator is neither of these things. And that clerk at the London inn who checks the narrator in? He’s completely imaginary. The story takes place on one London trip after the death of the narrator’s mother, revisiting the places they went together several years earlier, with each stop a jumping off point to a free-ranging collage of memories and reflections. Autofiction, you ask?! No way, answers the narrator. But however you wish to categorize it, the results glorious – and perfect for Elizabeth Strout fans.— Daniel Goldin
October 2022 Indie Next List
“Is this a memoir or a novel? Does it matter? A very well-written story about memoir writing, following a writer who, in the wake of her mother's death, travels to London. A great examination of the grieving process and what it does to art.”
— Alex Einhorn, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA
A Most Anticipated Book of Fall from: Los Angeles Times * Boston Globe * BookPage * Book Riot * The Millions * Publishers Weekly * LitHub * St. Louis Post Dispatch * Town & Country
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.