Josie and Jack is carefully constructed. Braffet roils a reader to crave to find out what happens next, not because her main characters are figures to root for -- pity the bystanders in their path -- but because she has paced their often appalling adventures at a quick, sustained rhythm. The second half of the book, when our modern Hansel and Gretel run away to New York, beats faster still. Forsaking their house, and the groping, alcoholic sameness of their days there, they find the trip is rich with suspense. Besides the two biggest questions of this compelling book -- Will Josie ever escape the thrall of Jack, and if so how will she do it? -- there's the bonus anxiety of the two most important, most mysterious questions of those new to New York: Where will they live and how the hell will they pay for it?
The New York Times
Braffet's creepy, captivating debut has a quote from Hansel and Gretel as its epigram, but the novel owes as much to Flowers in the Attic as it does to the fairy tale. Josie and Jack Raeburn are inseparable teenagers virtually raising themselves in a decaying Pennsylvania mansion. Intermittently and bizarrely home-schooled by their abusive father, a mad physics professor who lives at his college during the week, the isolated siblings are left mostly to their own vices-drinking, smoking and sleeping in the same bed. It's a weird but almost innocent existence, until Jack persuades Josie to seduce the pharmacist's son, Kevin, so they can score some drugs. When Josie falls for Kevin, Jack beats him senseless because he can't bear to share her. But because gorgeous, brilliant, magnetic Jack is the only person who's ever shown Josie love, she persists in her blind devotion to him. After a startling betrayal of their father, Jack and Josie leave home and leech off a string of women whom Jack easily, cruelly charms. But the women grow suspicious of the siblings' relationship, with good reason. Things can only end badly, of course, which happens when Lily, Jack's latest victim, confronts him about their atypical relationship. Braffet's sharp portrait of an asphyxiating love and a legacy of madness is darkly gothic and supremely readable. Agent, Julie Barer. (Feb. 4) Forecast: Booksellers can recommend this to fans of Donna Tartt and other writers of dark coming-of-age dramas. A blurb from Peter Straub will snag a few readers, too. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The debut novel opens with an epigraph from the Grimm Brothers's "Hansel and Grethel," neatly indicating the plot's mesmerizing trajectory. This modern-day adaptation retains all the frightening Gothic qualities of the original tale of mistreated siblings losing their way, getting trapped, and cunningly breaking free-though Braffet allows only one of her characters such redemption. Growing up half-abandoned by their scientist father in a ramshackle house, nursing hangovers and learning Greek instead of attending school, Josie and Jack are no ordinary siblings. Jack is fiercely proud of their uniqueness and fiercely protective of his younger sister. After running away from home, the two have a series of well-cast misadventures spurred on by Jack's self-destructive appetite and all-encompassing possessiveness of Josie. Things escalate in New York City, where they live like "cockroaches" with a socialite. "Happily ever after" does not concern the Grimm Brothers or Braffet, who is more interested in depicting the harsh reality of her characters' situation. A dramatic and horrific resolution is countered by Josie's subtle maturation throughout, and we emerge from the book's spell feeling almost hopeful. Recommended as an accomplished if disturbing read. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/04.]-Prudence Peiffer, Cambridge, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A gripping debut, hinting at the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, about what happens when a loving brother and sister run away from home. Josephine, 16, and Jack, 18, live with their genius father, Raeburn, in a lonely mansion surrounded by Pennsylvania forest. Raeburn teaches physics at a college and is home only on weekends. Crazy Mary, their mother, departed with Jack when he was a child. He lived with her for ten years, until her suicide, when Jack returned to the mansion and fell in love with the beautiful sister he'd never seen before-as did she with her remarkably handsome brother. The children attend no school, but Raeburn teaches them at home, starting Josie out on Greek at age three and Euclid at six. The kids are left piles of books and advanced lessons in chemistry, math, and physics to complete during the week while they're alone and caring for themselves. Raeburn is a harsh taskmaster, a vile and raving alcoholic who wets his pants and is so jealous of fellow physics teacher Ben Searles, already up for tenure, that he gets a student to say Searles made a pass at her. Famed recluses, the kids are heavy drinkers themselves. Jack gets Josie to seduce a druggist's son into getting them some drugs. As with Rapunzel, Josie's long blonde hair enraptures Jack, reminding him of his beautiful and beloved mother (at ten, he sat by her dead body for hours, running his hand through her hair). But at last Jack can no longer bear Raeburn's rages, and he disappears for six months before returning to get Josie, when off they go. Jack, it turns out, has been charming women to let him be their apartment mates while he dips into petty crime. After grueling adventures, the siblings wind up onCentral Park with an heiress in an all-white apartment smothered in lily fumes, but . . . Top dialogue, strong storytelling. Are Tristan and Isolde next? Author tour. Agent: Caspian Dennis/Abner Stein