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The Deep End of the Ocean

by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Kirkus Madison, Wisconsin, newspaper columnist Mitchard (Mother Less Child: The Love Story of a Family, 1985) makes a splash with her first novel--a lush melodrama centered around the kidnapping of a three-year-old boy--and keeps us turning the pages long after the brain synapses have gone to sleep. Too sharp-tongued and disorganized to make the five-star rating in the neighborhood's ideal-mother competition, Beth Cappadora nevertheless considered herself a good enough parent until three-year-old Ben, the second and sunniest of her three children, disappears from a Chicago hotel lobby while Beth is checking in. In town for her 15th high-school reunion, Beth searches the neighborhood, calls the police, and gets drunk before the truth dawns: The child has been snatched and is not coming back. The days, weeks, months, and years that follow are a nightmare for the Cappadora family back home in Madison, Wis., as Beth sleeps most of her days away, unable to connect with her increasingly disturbed son Vincent, who was supposed to have been watching Ben, and her daughter. Beth falteringly resumes her freelance photography career and husband Pat halfheartedly pursues his goal of opening a restaurant in Chicago. The restaurant is a success, the family moves back to the now-hated Windy City, and Vincent causes increasingly serious trouble as his guilt over his brother's disappearance festers. Then a miracle happens: Beth opens her door to find a boy offering to mow her lawn, a boy who looks exactly like, who must be, her baby boy Ben. . . . Workaday prose and fist-clenching earnestness combine to make this an exceptionally promising movie treatment, if not a work of literary greatness. Mitchard's Good Mother-like eye for hot family melodrama should keep her rolling in dough. (First printing of 100,000; $100,000 ad/promo; film rights to Mandalay; author tour)

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal By her own admission, Beth Cappadora is a rather haphazard mother and wife. Still, her family is reasonably happy and her career as a photographer relatively satisfying. In a few short minutes in a crowded hotel lobby, Beth's world changes forever. Her two-year-old son, Ben, left in the care of older brother Vincent, disappears. Despite the efforts of police and friends, the search for Ben fails, and Beth retreats into grief. Emotionally abandoning her other children and her husband, she spends the next nine years in self-absorbed brooding, unmoved by either the increasing delinquency of Vincent or her husband's demands for change. Ben's miraculous return results more in shock than joy and initially drives the family further apart. First novelist Mitchard unstintingly explores the minutiae of grief, creating realistic characters and no easy solutions. With film rights already sold and an extensive advertising budget, libraries can expect demand. For all popular collections.?Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll., N.C. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly One of the most remarkable things about this rich, moving and altogether stunning first novel is Mitchard's assured command of narrative structure and stylistic resources. Her story about a child's kidnapping and its enduring effects upon his parents, siblings and extended family is a blockbuster read. When three-year-old Ben Cappadora is abducted from a crowded Chicago hotel lobby where his mother, Beth, has taken him and his two siblings for her 15th high-school reunion, Beth's slow-motion nightmare is just the beginning of nine years of anguish about his fate. Beth retreats into an emotionless, fugue-like state, in which she neglects her surviving two children-oldest child Vincent and a baby daughter, Kerry-and seals herself off from her husband, Pat, the manager of a family restaurant near their home in Madison, Wisc. Yet jolting surprises continue to rock the narrative, as clues to Ben's fate emerge and the tension in the Cappadoras' marriage accelerates. That tension is partly responsible for and partly reflects the now teenaged Vincent's increasingly aggressive behavior, his desperate effort to forget that he had been in charge of his younger brother when Ben disappeared. Meanwhile, the large, voluble Cappadora clan remains faithful to the hope of Ben's return, disapproving of Beth's cold, angry denial that she will ever see her boy again. When she does, after nine years have passed, a series of bitter ironies drives the family off balance once more. Mitchard imbues her suspenseful plot with disturbingly candid psychological truths about motherhood and family relationships. Displaying an infallible ear for family conversation and a keen eye for domestic detail, she writes dialogue that vibrates with natural and unforced humor and acerbic repartee. She charts the subtle and minute gradations of maternal love with candor and captures the essence of teenage experiences and lingo. The novel becomes a universal tale of traumatic loss and its effects on individuals and families, an astute inquiry into the wellsprings of identity and a parable of redemption through suffering and love. Readers who explore the uncharted reaches of "the deep end of the ocean" with the Cappadoras will find this compelling and heartbreaking story-sure to be compared to The Good Mother-impossible to put down. Mitchard, who previously wrote the nonfiction Mother Less Child, has a wise and compassionate heart and talent to spare. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; movie rights to Peter Guber's Mandalay Entertainment, in conjunction with Michelle Pfeiffer's production company; rights sold in England, Italy, France, Germany and Holland; author tour. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved