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 ...

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First You Try Everything

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Stewart O'Nan
“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
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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
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.”
the Oprah Magazine blog O
“[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
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
Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780066210629
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/17/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane McCafferty is the author of the novel One Heart and two collections of stories, Thank You for the Music and Director of the World and Other Stories, which won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. She is the recipient of an NEA award, the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award, and two Pushcart Prizes. She lives and works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 2, 2012

    There are books that are about sad or deep topics that make you

    There are books that are about sad or deep topics that make you think, but don't bring the mood down and then there are books that just quite bring the mood to the pits. This one is of the latter group. What a debbie downer that left me hoping that no one would compare me with Evvie and her crazy antics to get her estranged husband back.

    Evvie went to the ends of the earth to try to repair her marriage that was holding on by a string until the string broke. She went above and beyond, hence the title to try to get her husband back in their home and in love with her. I respect her ideas to try to repair, but she did some crazy things.

    I rarely read reviews of books before or during reading it, but this one made me stop and see if I was the only one that wasn't enjoying Evvie and her craziness. Maybe I am.

    Has anyone else read this? Am I alone in my thoughts?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2012

    Disappointing

    I enjoy off beat and quirky, but the main character was so abnormal it was painful to read. Unbelievable, off the spectrum dialogue with the same repetitve theme. The story is supposed to be about a woman's desperate slip into madness and losing her grip on reality due to her husband leaving her. The woman was bizarre all her life so it's hard to understand why her husband put up wth her ever. This was a waste of my time, I'd give it one half star if I knew how to.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    I've been there

    I really enjoyed going along on Evvie's decent into madness. I can't say this book is for everyone but if you are a woman who suffered from depression and came out on the otherside you will appreciate this well written account of loss and dispair.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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