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The Birthdays

The Birthdays

3.2 4
by Heidi Pitlor

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"Captivating, moving, painfully funny, and so very, very true."—Julia Glass
On an island off the coast of Maine, the Miller family reunites to celebrate the father's seventy-fifth birthday. Each of the adult children is expecting a first child, and at the same time each is at a major crossroads in life. The eldest, Daniel, still reeling from a car accident


"Captivating, moving, painfully funny, and so very, very true."—Julia Glass
On an island off the coast of Maine, the Miller family reunites to celebrate the father's seventy-fifth birthday. Each of the adult children is expecting a first child, and at the same time each is at a major crossroads in life. The eldest, Daniel, still reeling from a car accident that has left him a paraplegic, is also grappling with the fact that his wife had to be artificially inseminated. Jake, the middle child, discovers that his wife is carrying twins after many trying years of fertility treatments. Hilary - the free-spirited youngest daughter - arrives in Maine five months pregnant with no identifiable father in sight. As the family gathers, something shattering happens from which no one will emerge the same. The Birthdays deftly explores the myriad ways of seeking sustenance after disappointment or loss. Reading group guide included.

Editorial Reviews

“Undeniably gratifying...subtly riveting....This isn't just a terrific family novel; it's a terrific novel through and through.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Pitlor writes with a delicate hand to absorbing effect.”
“Offers sharp insights into simmering resentments and misunderstandings among relatives.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Pitlor demonstrates a remarkable understanding of family relationships and transitions.”
Publishers Weekly
On a rainy summer weekend, the Miller clan gathers, for the first time in four years, at their summer house on an island off the coast of Maine to celebrate patriarch Joe's 75th birthday. Oldest son Daniel is in a wheelchair following a cycling accident; his wife, Brenda, is pregnant after having used a sperm donor, about whom Daniel is now obsessed. Younger son Jake, who spent his whole childhood feeling insecure and inferior to his siblings, is now more financially successful than either of them; his wife, Liz, is pregnant with twins following fertility treatments and has no interest in sex. The irresponsible youngest, Hilary, returns from the West Coast, also pregnant-and with no idea who the father is. As their children stand on the verge of becoming parents themselves, Ellen and Joe reflect on the daily heartbreak, tragedies and joys of parenthood, on the impossibility of ever keeping one's children safe. Rich in symbolism and a strong sense of place, Pitlor's debut novel, with its overlapping narrative perspectives, creates a multilayered portrait of family in all its fragility and its strength. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In Pitlor's absorbing debut novel, the Miller family arrives on a Maine island to celebrate patriarch Joe Miller's 75th birthday. Daniel and Jake, with pregnant spouses, and single Hilary, who's also pregnant, can't wait to share in this rare family reunion, but tension builds as pent-up feelings prevail. A recent paraplegic whose child comes from a sperm donor, Daniel fantasizes about the character of the donor and fears that wife Brenda will soon have two helpless people on her hands. Insecure middle child Jake and wife Liz, who own the lavish beach house where the reunion takes place, are having their baby by in vitro fertilization. Tattooed and pierced Hilary doesn't know who fathered her child and now feels pulled back to her traditional family. Meanwhile, mother Ellen imagines a new life of culture and refinement with a widower friend; husband Joe, solid and dependable, seems oblivious to her needs. Then tragedy opens up some unpleasant family truths. Pitlor, a senior editor at Houghton, has secured a place in literary fiction with this engrossing portrayal of ordinary people coping with life's calamities as they try not to hurt the ones they love. Highly recommended for all public libraries.-Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Heidi Pitlor's fiction has been published in Ploughshares. She is a former senior editor at Houghton Mifflin and, as of 2007, will be the annual series editor for The Best American Short Stories. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

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The Birthdays 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
annaolivia More than 1 year ago
It is a wonderful book with very believable characters. I thought the character development was great and look forward to another novel about them and to see if and when they have a growth spurt.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CommentQueen More than 1 year ago
The writer really got me in the beginning of the book but then it got too descriptive and honestly quite boring. I kept reading hoping that something would happen and it didn't. I was really disappointed especially with how good the book began. I hope the writer does write more, but she needs to quit being so descriptive and have an actual end to the story.
berrie143 More than 1 year ago
To put it plainly, this book STANK! I'm so glad that I bought it in the Bargain section and didn't pay full price for it. I had such a hard time reconciling the fact that the characters in this book were portrayed as a bunch of selfish, whiny jerks with the exception of the father, Joe. The siblings were not developed in ways that made them realistic and humanized; instead, they came off as very Droid-like, with no real emotions except disdain for every person around them. And the ending- what was that about? Seriously, how can an author call that ending an ending? It literally ended as the previous chapters ended, but there were no more chapters to read! All in all, I was VERY disappointed with this book and do not think that the author put enough time and effort into developing characters that were relatable and personable; instead of feeling sorry for the characters or feeling any kind of kinship or empathy, one just ends up feeling as if they would all be better off just falling off a cliff, they were so depressed as a group. Don't read this unless you have to!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I kept wanting to stop reading it, but I was hopeful it would get better. It never did. I gave up 3/4 of the way through.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is written with the perfect set up for a sequel. Definitely, I was enjoying reading about the characters, but the novel stops. Here's hoping that the author expands the novel into a new book with a smashing and inventive ending for the characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
please, do not buy this book in hardcover. The story started off as very compelling, but then dropped off suddenly. There was a lot of time spent buliding complex charcters that were quite interesting, but the book just ended without any kind of resolution whatsoever. Now, I don't need every book ending tied into a nice, neat package, but a small amount of direction or finality would have been nice considering the book was basically a lenthy character study.