A Face in Every Window

( 9 )

Overview

James Patrick (JP) O'Brien's once safe and secure world quickly unravels with the death of his beloved grandmother. Grandma Mary had always been the guiding hand of the O'Brien family, lovingly raising his mentally challenged Pap and allowing Mam to remain free of adult responsibility. Soon after Grandma Mary's death, Mam wins a farmhouse in an essay contest and insists on sharing her good fortune with various neighborhood outcasts. As J P sees both Pap and himself being replaced in his mother's life by others, ...
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A Face in Every Window

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Overview

James Patrick (JP) O'Brien's once safe and secure world quickly unravels with the death of his beloved grandmother. Grandma Mary had always been the guiding hand of the O'Brien family, lovingly raising his mentally challenged Pap and allowing Mam to remain free of adult responsibility. Soon after Grandma Mary's death, Mam wins a farmhouse in an essay contest and insists on sharing her good fortune with various neighborhood outcasts. As J P sees both Pap and himself being replaced in his mother's life by others, his anger pushes his family and friends further away. It's not until he begins to understand that he must learn to accept differences, human frailties, and the randomness of life that he recaptures his happiness and begins to grow as a person.

After the death of his grandmother, who held the family together, teenage JP is left with a mentally challenged father and a mother who seems ineffectual and constantly sick, and he feels everything sliding out of control.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
[set star] “An emotional roller-coaster ride . . . A profound and heartwarming message about the various manifestations of love.”—Publishers Weekly (starred)
 

[set star] “Only a writer as talented as Han Nolan could make this improbable story line and bizarre cast of characters not only believable, but ultimately uplifting, intriguing, and memorable.”—Booklist (starred)

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this sometimes outlandish, often poignant exploration of a chaotic household, Nolan (Dancing on the Edge) delectably takes the notion of "nontraditional family" to extremes. The novel opens when narrator James Patrick (JP) has just lost his grandmother. The son of a fragile mother and mentally disabled father, JP begins to realize just how much his grandmother held them together. When his childlike mother attempts to take charge, she moves them to a rambling old farmhouse that she wins in a contest for invoking a Harpo Marx quote ("When she came home from work each day she wanted to see `a face in every window' "). JP becomes increasingly distressed as his mother invites an odd assortment of outcasts, artists and musicians to live with them. Nolan takes readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride right along with JP, who initially holes up in his room, trying to distance himself from the unwelcome visitors, then opens his door and heart little by little as he begins to accept his new role in an ever-changing family. In addition to a supporting cast as compelling and offbeat as the main characters, the author delivers a profound and heartwarming message about the various manifestations of love. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Christopher Moning
Grandma Mary was the glue that held James Patrick O'Brien's family together. When Grandma Mary dies suddenly, JP's family unravels like so much knitting. His father, who has always been "weak in the head," now spends much of his time sitting on the roof, keeping company with a large plastic Nativity scene. And Mam--well, Mam is just not Mam anymore. First, she wins a farmhouse in rural New Hope, Pennsylvania. Then she accumulates the strangest assortment of "artistic" types, misfits ranging from musicians to poets to reformed drug dealers. The worst thing is how Mam spends way too much time with Dr. Mike. JP, who craves order in his life and fears chaos above all else, feels ashamed and angry with his mother. He is an outcast among Mam's eccentric new friends. Finally, Mam does something that JP can never forgive, and JP is alone in his world. In this finely crafted drama about love, pain, grief and ultimately, redemption, Han Nolan paints a poignant picture of a family torn apart by tragedy.
ALAN Review
James Patrick O'Brien (JP) cannot cope with the unraveling of his well-ordered life. Changes rock the serenity of his world of being a straight-A average in all honors courses, and his dream of becoming class valedictorian and attending Princeton. His father is out of control and his mother is in a fit of depression. To add more unexpected pressure, Grandma Mary wins a farmhouse in a contest and the family moves in, along with a series of teenage misfits whom JP's depressed mother invites, on a whim, to live with them. Next, to add company to misery, his mother runs off with the family doctor, leaving JP to wonder, "Why can't I live a normal life?" Teetering on the edge of chaos, JP comes to terms with his crazy family; he learns to blend logic and compassion and to see the inner beauty of a "crazy extended family." Genre: Family Life. 1999, Harcourt Brace, Ages 12 up, $16.00. Reviewer: Laura M. Zaidman
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-When 14-year-old James Patrick's grandmother dies, the small family that she kept solidly knit together comes undone. Left in the care of his fragile and impractical mother and his retarded father, the mature and highly intelligent JP feels his orderly life slipping away. When his mother returns from convalescing at the hospital, she is increasingly preoccupied with the attentions of her doctor. When she wins an old farmhouse through an essay contest, JP must steel himself and Pap through another transition fraught with emotional turmoil. Mam becomes a social magnet, attracting an odd assortment of people who take up residence in their rambling new home. JP is beset with annoyance over her free-spirited behavior and is disquieted by the crowded living arrangements. Pap's love for his wife and son remains solid and unconditional, yet his intuition alerts him to the shifting relationships, and his vulnerability and innocence deepens JP's despair. Mam takes a trip to Switzerland with the shadowy Dr. Mike, but returns early and announces that she's pregnant. JP confronts the man, who suddenly, and quite tellingly, is no longer in the picture. The teen then confronts himself, making a far more satisfying discovery. Revealed through JP's eyes, the story engages readers and leads them to accept the reality and prevalence of human frailties, allowing for mistakes and best intentions gone awry. They will applaud the young man as he gains tolerance for the complications of family life with all of its imperfections and inexplicable tangle of emotions. Nolan has used her adroit writing skills to show the pathos of unusual circumstance within everyday lifestyles.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A teenager's resistance to change drives this meaty tale from Nolan (Dancing On The Edge, 1997, etc.), about people who are reinventing themselves, or reaffirming who they are. The death of JP's Grandma Mary not only sends his frail mother to the hospital and his mentally retarded father out into the yard to dig holes with a spoon, it also brings an end to the harmonious, neatly ordered household in which he grew up. Changes are rolling over him like ocean waves as he and his parents move to a big old farmhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania, along with a gay ex-druggie, a gaggle of budding young poets and musicians, and Bobbi, a teenager fleeing her father's beatings. Alternating fits of outrage with awkward, sincere efforts to fit in, JP sees his mother take up with a too-friendly doctor and Bobbi with a man ominously like her father, tracks changes in other members of what becomes an extended family, falls in and out of love, and ultimately regains senses of place and self. Nolan makes JP engrossingly complex, prickly but good at heart, confused about his own strong feelings, given to endearingly trite observations ("While everyone around me seemed to have found themselves, I grew more and more lost"), steadfast in his love for his father, and just as steadfast in his love for his mother, although their connection is a stormy one. Most, not all, of the people here make good choices, and Nolan beautifully captures the shifts and textures of human relationships. (Fiction. 12-15)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152064181
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/1/2008
  • Pages: 264
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

HAN NOLAN is the author of several books, including Dancing on the Edge which won the National Book Award and Send Me Down a Miracle, a National Book Award finalist. She lives with her husband on the East Coast.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 3, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Rebecca Wells for TeensReadToo.com

    When JP O'Brien's Grandma Mary dies, his orderly world quickly begins to unravel - his mentally challenged father becomes completely lost, and his mother, Mam, starts acting quite unlike her usual sheltered self. JP tries to make do in this new world, but when Mam wins a farmhouse in an essay contest and the family moves, things really come apart. <BR/><BR/>Mam insists on opening the farmhouse to just about every neighborhood outcast who comes by, and suddenly the house is filled with strangers who borrow his things without asking, and seem to be creating a world in the farmhouse that doesn't include JP or his father. <BR/><BR/>All JP wants is for the world to reorder itself, and his family to be restored to what it used to be. But what if the world is meant to stay the way it is? As the people in his life begin to make space for this sudden chaos, JP finds himself realizing that maybe family is more than just the people you're born with, and maybe chaos isn't the worst thing that has happened to him. <BR/><BR/>In this novel, Han Nolan presents a boy struggling to maintain control of his world even as it slips between his fingers. JP O'Brien is a sympathetic protagonist whose worries draw the reader into his world, and we find ourselves hoping that he gets what he wants. <BR/><BR/>Not everything that is broken gets fixed in A FACE IN EVERY WINDOW, but this novel is a heartwarming tale of family and friendship nonetheless.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2007

    VERY GOOD BOOK~

    This books was good from the beginning to the end. I can understand JP's feelings quite well and I can also relate to his problems. This book was very well written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2003

    Good Book

    A beautifully written story with great characters.This book is full of emotions and keeps you interested from beginning to end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2002

    The best book I have ever read!!!!

    A face in every window is a touching story full of emotion. This is a great book for anyone who is having truoble finding themselves. This book will make you laugh, cry, and it is so realistic you can relate to JP in so many ways.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2000

    A great book from start to finish.

    This is a great book, but starts out a little slow. It keeps you guessing until the end and has a great plot. Recommended to fifth through eighth graders.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2000

    THIS IS THE BEST BOOK A MUST READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This is the best book I have ever read. It is a great story and the characters are phonominal. A wonderful stoty of how JP finds himself!

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    Posted August 2, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2011

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews

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