The central question of this richly layered novel asks how well we can truly know another person. The characters here came to life for me and I felt in my bones their loneliness, their sorrow, along with their moments of generosity, their joy. I will think about them and root for them for a long time.” - Mary Beth Keane, New York Times bestselling author of ASK AGAIN, YES
“Marisa Silver uses language as she would a sharp needle: to stitch, and to puncture, in her examination of people who are as vivid and anxious as the tragic souls of Richard Yates.” - Rachel Kushner, New York Times Bestselling author of THE MARS ROOM
“This exquisite gem of a novel digs deep into the longings of the human heart. Funny, compassionate, sorrowful, and tender, The Mysteries is an insightful and emotionally astute exploration of how love can both heal and fail us. I couldn’t put it down, and I will be thinking about these characters for a very long time.” - Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, New York Times Bestselling author of THE NEST
“Marisa Silver’s vividly alive and wondrously precise THE MYSTERIES stirringly explores marriage, friendship, betrayal and a shattering moment of loss that offers grace and salvation. At its pulsing heart center is the delightful and ungovernable Miggie. A heroine and novel I won’t soon forget.” - Maria Semple, New York Times Bestselling author of WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE and TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT
“Family and friendship are the central mysteries of Silver’s latest novel, which is set against the tumult of the early 1970s and features a fraught bond between young girls.” - The New York Times Book Review
“Silver’s unsettling study of the painful effects of change channels the bitter nostalgia of Rick Moody.” - Publishers Weekly
“From the mysteries that captivate two little girls to those that confound four adults, Silver’s luminous exploration of foundational relationships catastrophically altered by a gut-wrenching accident reveals the poignancy and vulnerability that underlie so many human contracts. Whether writing in the precociously gleeful voices of two guileless children or the increasingly jaded tones of damaged adults, Silver achieves a powerful and gripping authenticity that captures the confusion and, yes, the mystery of both innocence and maturity.” - Booklist, starred review
“This story is not a mystery as we all expect, but a mystery of how people react to one another. Silver’s approach to these characters is dynamic not in the relationship between the families as much as the relationships within the families... The Mysteries is character driven, and the reader will get wrapped up in each character’s purpose and the story’s theme. A definite keeper.” - New York Journal of Books
“Silver paints an evocative picture of the early ’70s. This compelling domestic drama, with heartbreak at its center, depicts the everyday mysteries that lead up to the big one.” - Library Journal
“[The] chapters are written with a keen ear for the voices of children, filtered through the syntactic elegance that marks the entire book. In this way, language becomes character; Miggy and Ellen, as well as their parents, are embodied as much by what they think as by what happens to them.” - Alta
“Silver’s latest novel is centered on the unusual friendship between two seven-year-old girls, named Miggy and Ellen. One is carefree, raging, and rowdy, while the other is cagy, wary, and observant. When the world’s cruelty pierces the girls’ bubble, Miggy and Ellen must come to terms with the vicissitudes of life.” - Alta, “14 New Books for May”
“In The Mysteries Marisa Silver faces the big mystery and the lesser, among them the mystery of personality, with her trademark clarity, her gorgeous sentences, to savor and underline, and her all-around brilliance. A Silver novel is always cause for celebration.” - Jane Hamilton, author of A MAP OF THE WORLD and WHEN MADELINE WAS YOUNG
“Clear-eyed and devastating, Marisa Silver's The Mysteries is full of wisdom about grief, but also about the joys of childhood. Silver is the rare writer who can write in any register, about any age and state of being.” - Karan Mahajan, author of THE ASSOCIATION OF SMALL BOMBS
“With deep clarity and grace Marisa Silver winds this beautiful story of grief and love and of the thread that connects mothers and daughters to each other, and to the work of living.” - Jade Chang, author of THE WANGS VS. THE WORLD
“The Mysteries is a profound work of American portraiture. Each of the six interconnected characters in The Mysteries is rendered with masterful specificity, most especially the two vivid little girls around which the worn-out adult world turns. Marisa Silver sees with clear eyes and writes with dignity. Her compassion for ordinary hurt brings to mind the work of William Trevor and Yiyun Li. The Mysteries moved me almost to discomfort, but then released me into a broader understanding of intimacy, childhood, grief, and the very passage of time. Like the best of fiction, this novel broke my heart, then put it back together.” - Amity Gaige, author of SEA WIFE
“Even a loyal, longtime reader of Marisa Silver's outstanding previous stories and novels might be unprepared for the power and delicacy of THE MYSTERIES. I found it to be a novel of almost unbearable intimacy. As one character, Celeste, thinks: "She's never learned to trust the idea of family." For good reason, as the complexities and profound mysteries of family life form the beating heart of this stunning, uncanny novel.” - Peter Orner, author of MAGGIE BROWN AND OTHERS: STORIES
Against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, Watergate, and an economic downturn on the nightly news, the lives of two families intersect through the friendship of their seven-year-old daughters. Miggy is the headstrong child of the Brennemans, a once proudly nonconformist couple who are now weighed down by the responsibilities of Jean's fledgling dance studio and Julian's failing hardware business. Miggy's devoted follower Ellen is content to escape her quiet home, where her mother sleeps away postpartum depression, and a severe housekeeper rules the roost. Left mostly to their own devices, the girls play at religious confession, become preoccupied with POWs and patients in iron lungs, and watch over Miggy's expectant dog. When a tragedy occurs, the lives of both families are completely derailed. VERDICT Silver (Mary Coin; Little Nothing) paints an evocative picture of the early '70s. This compelling domestic drama, with heartbreak at its center, depicts the everyday mysteries that lead up to the big one—life itself.—Barbara Love, formerly with Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.
An intense story about two young girls growing up in St. Louis during an unsettled time.
Miggy (short for Margaret Ann) Brenneman is a temperamental, unruly 7-year-old, an only child who always seems to be courting danger. Her best friend—and complete opposite—is Ellen Gallagher, who attends Catholic school and is unfailingly polite and restrained. Ellen has a new baby brother, Louie. It’s 1973: Nixon is president, the Vietnam War is winding down, and the economy is in recession. St. Louis itself has seen better days. Miggy’s father, Julian, has inherited a failing hardware store, and he and his wife, Jean, a ballet teacher, both think they were meant for better things. Meantime, Ellen’s mother, Celeste, spends too much time sleeping, ostensibly because of postpartum depression. But there’s reason to believe her malaise runs deeper. Ellen’s stepfather, William, is a good man, somewhat baffled by his wife. The narrative unfolds slowly at first; then there’s a terrible accident, which swiftly upends everything. Author Silver is probing grief and guilt here as well as the mysteries of fate and character: On two separate occasions, Jean and Julian look at Miggy, “their demanding, often unappeasable child,” and ask, “Who are you?” Sentence by sentence, Silver’s writing is graceful and observant. Yet the novel doesn’t add up to much. The author portrays the accident as a turning point. Yet the grown-ups were struggling before the catastrophe, which only seems to push them further along the road they were already traveling. Miggy and Ellen are by far the freshest, liveliest characters, but the author keeps shifting focus away from them. Some parts of the novel seem truncated—Jean and Julian’s courtship, for example—while others feel too expansive.
Lovely writing but airless and unsatisfying in the end.