×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Wonder Garden
     

The Wonder Garden

4.1 7
by Lauren Acampora
 

See All Formats & Editions

An Indie Next Pick
An Amazon Debut Spotlight
A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection

“Like Wharton, Acampora seems to understand fiction as a kind of elegant design. As characters reappear in one story after another, Acampora reveals herself as a careful architect... lovely prose... often a single sentence twists sinuously, charged

Overview

An Indie Next Pick
An Amazon Debut Spotlight
A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection

“Like Wharton, Acampora seems to understand fiction as a kind of elegant design. As characters reappear in one story after another, Acampora reveals herself as a careful architect... lovely prose... often a single sentence twists sinuously, charged with positive and negative electricity.”—New York Times Book Review

Launched by four starred prepubs and a full page New York Times book review, The Wonder Garden marks Lauren Acampora’s rarely seen, sensational entrance into the literary world. With enchanting realism, these linked stories bring to the page the myriad lives of a suburban town, and reveal at each turn the unseen battles we play out behind drawn blinds, the creeping truths from which we distract ourselves, and the massive dreams we haul quietly with us and hold close. Deliciously creepy and masterfully complex The Wonder Garden heralds the arrival of a phenomenal new talent in American fiction.

“Acampora’s stories show that an Anna Karenina principle still applies: All happy families are the same; the unhappy ones are miserable in their own special way. Or to boil it down to modern terms: mo’ money, mo’ problems … Add well-drawn characters, interesting plots, cultural zingers and dead-on critiques of consumerism and Acampora delivers a page-turner.”—Dallas Morning News

“A smashing debut, with range, subtlety and bite. Reading Acampora, we’re in Cheever country, with hints of Flannery O’Connor.”—Jane Ciabattari, BBC.com

“In 13 sharply drawn linked stories, Acampora reveals the complexities beneath the polish and privilege of a prosperous Connecticut town.”—People

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Alix Ohlin
I thought of [Edith] Wharton when reading Lauren Acampora's stylish debut collection of linked stories, The Wonder Garden, and not just because her characters—WASPy, upper-middle-class residents of a town called Old Cranbury—are contemporary descendants of Wharton's own. Like Wharton, Acampora seems to understand fiction as a kind of elegant design. As characters reappear in one story after another, Acampora reveals herself as a careful architect, gradually building a group portrait of a place that is financially comfortable but otherwise ill at ease…There is a barbed honesty to the stories that brushes up against Acampora's lovely prose to interesting effect. Often a single sentence twists sinuously, charged with positive and negative electricity.
Publishers Weekly
★ 03/16/2015
Acampora’s debut creates a portrait of a fictional upscale Connecticut suburb, Old Cranbury, through a series of linked stories that are intelligent, unnerving, and very often strange. In “The Umbrella Bird,” a woman eases into her new life as a housewife in a stuffy neighborhood only for her husband to trade his lucrative job for a career as a spiritual healer. In “The Virginals,” a woman obsessed with the town’s early American history resorts to criminal measures to preserve it. The book’s best entry, “Afterglow,” centers on a wealthy businessman who pays off a doctor in order to gain a troublingly intimate glimpse of his wife’s anatomy. In each story, Acampora examines the tensions, longings, and mild lunacies underlying the “beady-eyed mommy culture” and sociopolitical “forgetfulness” marking Old Cranbury. At the same time, Acampora’s picture of the town—rendered in crisp prose and drawing on extensive architectural detail—is as irresistible as it is disturbing. At one point, a resident of Old Cranbury feels as though “the air of this beautiful place... has begun to sear his individual cilia.” Agent: Bill Clegg, the Clegg Agency. (May)
Library Journal
★ 04/01/2015
The dark underside of picture-perfect suburban life is familiar territory in American fiction, but Acampora brings fresh insight to the theme in this debut collection, offering short stories that connect various residents in an upscale Connecticut town. Their problems are not new (infidelity, failed marriages, kids on drugs), but these suburbanites have enough quirks and stories intriguing enough to keep readers turning the pages. Acampora's characters seem compelled to leave the straight and narrow to walk a darker, more twisted path. One guy walks out on his corporate job to become a New Age shaman/healer, leaving his wife stunned. A historic preservationist is determined to prove that you can live in the past if you try hard enough. A distinguished neurosurgeon slides into alarming paranoia. Parents are clueless about what their children are up to. Characters either find cherished illusions shattered or cling blindly to their delusions. VERDICT The stories in Acampora's first collection are so vivid, tightly plotted, and expertly woven that they make you look forward to reading more by this accomplished author. [See Prepub Alert, 11/10/14.]—Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2015-02-17
The odd interior lives of suburban Connecticut residents are unceremoniously unearthed in the interwoven stories of Acampora's debut. On the surface, Old Cranbury is just another New England town: picturesque, soaked in history, full of unspoken class divides, and populated with people who have abandoned New York City for, presumably, greener pastures. But beneath its exterior are wishes, dreams, and choices as grotesque as anything out of Winesburg, Ohio, and Acampora paints the town's web of relationships with lucid, unsettling prose. In "Afterglow," a wealthy businessman becomes obsessed with touching a human brain in the wake of his wife's tumor diagnosis. A pregnant newlywed watches helplessly as her husband becomes convinced he's being poisoned by technology and abandons his livelihood to take up New-Age medicine in "The Umbrella Bird." An aging gay couple struggles with the yawning gulf between them in "Elevations." In "Moon Roof," a real estate agent stops her car at an intersection on her way home and cannot bring herself to continue as the minutes and hours inch by. In "Swarm," a retired teacher is given the chance to realize his artistic dreams when a couple commissions him for an ambitious installation project: giant insects obscuring every wall of their home. "If it is possible," he wonders, marveling at his good fortune, "that a boy who sucked licorice on the sidewalks of Flatbush could be a millionaire now…then the world is a spooky and fabulous place indeed." Acampora's world is exactly this: spooky and fabulous. There are expected beats—affairs, teenage mischief, ennui, unhappy marriages—but woven through them are bizarre set pieces, unnerving hungers, and such weirdly specific desires it's as if the author rifled through a local therapist's filing cabinet. A cleareyed lens into the strange, human wants of upper-class suburbia.
From the Publisher
A Barnes and Noble Discover Pick

An Amazon Book of the Month

Praise for THE WONDER GARDEN:

"Like Wharton, Acampora seems to understand fiction as a kind of elegant design. As characters reappear in one story after another, Acampora reveals herself as a careful architect...accomplishes great depth of characterization, in no small part because Acampora doesn’t shy from the unpalatable...There is a barbed honesty to the stories that brushes up against Acam­pora’s lovely prose to interesting effect. Often a single sentence twists sinuously, charged with positive and negative electricity."—Alix Ohlin, New York Times Book Review

“Acampora is a brilliant anthropologist of the suburbs ... [The Wonder Garden] is reminiscent of John Cheever in its anatomizing of suburban ennui and of Ann Beattie in its bemused dissection of a colorful cast of eccentrics. But Acampora’s is entirely her own book ... Acampora’s ability to lay bare the heartaches of complex individuals within an utterly unique imaginative world is worthy of high praise.”—Boston Globe

"In 13 sharply drawn linked stories, Acampora reveals the complexities beneath the polish and privilege of a prosperous Connecticut town."—People

“Acampora’s stories show that an Anna Karenina principle still applies: All happy families are the same; the unhappy ones are miserable in their own special way. Or to boil it down to modern terms: mo’ money, mo’ problems … Add well-drawn characters, interesting plots, cultural zingers and dead-on critiques of consumerism and Acampora delivers a page-turner.”—Dallas Morning News

"A smashing debut, with range, subtlety and bite. Reading Acampora, we’re in Cheever country, with hints of Flannery O’Connor."—Jane Ciabattari, BBC.com

"Well-plotted, incisive and beautifully written fiction."—Bookreporter.com

“Acampora’s debut creates a portrait of a fictional upscale New York suburb, Old Cranbury, through a series of linked stories that are intelligent, unnerving, and very often strange…In each story, Acampora examines the tensions, longings, and mild lunacies underlying the “beady-eyed mommy culture” and sociopolitical “forgetfulness” marking Old Cranbury. At the same time, Acampora’s picture of the town—rendered in crisp prose and drawing on extensive architectural detail—is as irresistible as it is disturbing.”—Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)

“The stories in Acampora’s first collection are so vivid, tightly plotted, and expertly woven that they make you look forward to reading more by this accomplished author.”—Library Journal (starred review)

"Spooky and fabulous... A cleareyed lens into the strange, human wants of upper-class suburbia."—Kirkus (starred review)

"Acampora wields prose with the precision of a scalpel, insightfully dissecting people’s desperate emotions and most cherished hopes...Acampora not only meticulously conveys the allure of an outwardly paradisiacal suburban community, with its perfectly restored Victorian homes and well-tended lawns; she also clearly captures the inner turmoil of its residents, homing in on their darkest impulses and beliefs. Some of the stories’ starring characters make cameos in others, adding considerable complexity to the whole. Like Evan S. Connell in his iconic novels, Mrs. Bridge (1958) and Mr. Bridge (1969), Acampora brilliantly captures the heartaches and delusions of American suburbanites."—Booklist (starred review)

"A dark and brilliant collection of stories. Lauren Acampora is a terrific writer."—Joseph O’Neil, author of Netherland and The Dog

"The world depicted in Lauren Acampora’s stories seems reassuringly familiar, until it becomes unaccountably strange and unsettling. One moment we seem to be in Cheever’s Westchester, the next we plunge through the looking glass into realms that may remind some readers of George Saunders or Robert Coover or the David Lynch of Blue Velvet, though, inevitably, all resemblances prove to be superficial. Acampora is an original and The Wonder Garden is an outstanding debut."—Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City

"The Wonder Garden is a beautiful book: witty, intelligent, deeply compassionate and gorgeously crafted. Lauren Acampora is uncannily skilled at chronicling the emotional lives of her characters with the same razor-sharp precision as she does the suburban landscape that surrounds them. I can't stop thinking about these stories.” — Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans

"Like the famous opening scene in 'Blue Velvet,' Lauren Acampora's The Wonder Garden pulls us under the surface of that most carefully tended American garden, the prosperous suburb, to lay bare its dark underbelly. The Wonder Garden is wondrous, and its stories are addictive. I dreaded coming to the end."—Susan Choi, author of My Education

“Lauren Acampora's linked stories, about one Connecticut town, vividly explore dark interiors as well as polished facades. The Wonder Garden is an elegant construction and a chronicle of the surprising ways in which suburban lives intersect. Lauren Acampora is a writer of extraordinary dexterity.”—Elliott Holt, author of You Are One of Them

“I loved The Wonder Garden. Acampora's writing moves like a laser through her characters' souls, finding the deepest, darkest truths and delusions. Every story surprises. Every story is devastating. Like Mad Men set in the present day, but better.”—Heidi Pitlor, author of The Birthdays

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802123558
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
05/05/2015
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
1,245,163
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Lauren Acampora's fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, New England Review, and Antioch Review. Raised in Connecticut, she now lives in Westchester County, New York, with her husband, artist Thomas Doyle, and their daughter.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Wonder Garden 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outstanding first novel. Fans of Shirley Jackson and Daphne DuMaurier will enjoy this book. It is brilliant, dark, and riveting. I enjoyed the connections between the characters and stories. Her writing is so intelligent and engaging, and she does this magical thing where she turns ordinary people and things into eerie situations that will make you squirm. Barnes and Noble should clean up these review sections. It is ridiculous that kids are hijacking these Nook review threads and they are just being left here like graffiti. Not cool.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Took a story to get into this but then was entranced. Short stories stand alone but also reference one another in a way that makes you feel likd yiu have secret insight into the characters' private worlds. Clever and memorable.
Myrtle-Ruth More than 1 year ago
Disclaimer: this reviewer typically doesn't like short story collections. Given that, it is no surprise that I am having difficulty finding any positive element to write about. I was unable to find a connection with any of the characters -- not one! And their stories were just, well, too pathetic for me. A true display of dysfunction within families. Wish I could offer a more brilliant review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bruce Jenner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some ppl calll me Kacie or Jade btw if u wanna call me Kacie than just spell it Kc but then u could still call me J ade