Harper Academic

The Fourth Child

A Novel

by Jessica Winter

On Sale: 03/09/2021

Price: $26.99

The Fourth Child

Enlarge Book Cover

The Fourth Child

A Novel

by Jessica Winter

On Sale: 03/09/2021

Format:

Price: $26.99

About the Book

“A beautifully observed and thrillingly honest novel about the dark corners of family life and the long, complicated search for understanding and grace.” —Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation and Weather

The Fourth Child is keen and beautiful and heartbreaking—an exploration of private guilt and unexpected obligation, of the intimate losses of power embedded in female adolescence, and of the fraught moments of glancing divinity that come with shouldering the burden of love.” —Jia Tolentino, New York Times bestselling author of Trick Mirror

“A remarkable family saga . . . The Fourth Child is a balm—a reminder that it is possible for art to provide a nuanced exploration of life itself.” —Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind and Rich and Pretty

The author of Break in Case of Emergency follows up her “extraordinary debut” (The Guardian) with a moving novel about motherhood and marriage, adolescence and bodily autonomy, family and love, religion and sexuality, and the delicate balance between the purity of faith and the messy reality of life.

Book-smart, devoutly Catholic, and painfully unsure of herself, Jane becomes pregnant in high school; by her early twenties, she is raising three children in the suburbs of western New York State. In the fall of 1991, as her children are growing older and more independent, Jane is overcome by a spiritual and intellectual restlessness that leads her to become involved with a local pro-life group. Following the tenets of her beliefs, she also adopts a little girl from Eastern Europe. But Mirela is a difficult child. Deprived of a loving caregiver in infancy, she remains unattached to her new parents, no matter how much love Jane shows her. As Jane becomes consumed with chasing therapies that might help Mirela, her relationships with her family, especially her older daughter, Lauren, begin to fray. 

Feeling estranged from her mother and unsettled in her new high school, Lauren begins to discover the power of her own burgeoning creativity and sexuality—a journey that both echoes and departs from her mother’s own adolescent experiences. But when Lauren is confronted with the limits of her youth and independence, Jane is thrown into an emotional crisis, forced to reconcile her principles and faith with her determination to keep her daughters safe. The Fourth Child is a piercing love story and a haunting portrayal of how love can shatter—or strengthen—our beliefs.

Critical Praise

“A beautifully observed and thrillingly honest novel about the dark corners of family life and the long, complicated search for understanding and grace.” - Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation and Weather

The Fourth Child is keen and beautiful and heartbreaking—an exploration of private guilt and unexpected obligation, the intimate losses of power embedded in female adolescence, and the fraught moments of glancing divinity that come with shouldering the burden of love.” - Jia Tolentino, New York Times bestselling author of Trick Mirror

“Jessica Winter's The Fourth Child is a brave, complex novel about a mother and her two daughters—and a morally astute exploration of the rewards, limits, and unexpected costs of faith and compassion.”  - Francine Prose, New York Times bestselling author of Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932

“In this compassionate and riveting novel, Jessica Winter raises some of the hardest questions about motherhood, daughterhood, and personhood. In rich and insightful prose, The Fourth Child explores, with ravishing complexity, the inner lives of girls and women.” - Helen Phillips, author of The Need

“This book is remarkable enough as an engaging family saga—mapping lives across decades, teasing out the complexities of being a mother, a daughter, a spouse, a sibling, a person. What I can’t quite get over is how deftly Jessica Winter is able to tackle some of our most contentious issues: faith, reproductive rights, power, and sex. The Fourth Child is a balm—a reminder that it is possible for art to provide a nuanced exploration of life itself.” - Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind and Rich and Pretty

“Winter elegantly delineates the circumstances that create her characters' belief systems, gently lays bare their foibles and convictions, and shows how even the most rigid ideology can chafe against the messy and tender realities of life.” - Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State

The Fourth Child does something that seems impossible—it probes the Manichean abortion wars through a subtle and arresting family drama. Jessica Winter's portrait of Buffalo during the massive anti-abortion protests of the 1990s is pitch-perfect, and her exploration of the deep sacrifices of motherhood is indelible.” - Michelle Goldberg, New York Times columnist and author of The Means of Reproduction

"A wonder of shape-shifting characters shored up by a political and cultural backdrop that is forever alive with simmering portent. It is a haunting and sometimes prophetic immersion of the ways in which lives can be trapped by the impossibility of what might have once been and the cold truth of what is now. These characters spoke to me in my dreams . . . I could not bear to come to the end, and I find myself wondering, even now, where are they? What might happen? The Fourth Child is, frankly, everything our best novels can hope to be.” - Rachel Louise Snyder, author of No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us

"I loved this novel. It’s as if Maile Meloy’s Liars and Saints met Susan Choi’s A Person of Interest. It's also a stealth treatise on Catholic mysticism. I loved its moral sophistication and nuance. There are consequences for character choices, which felt like a breath of fresh air." - Brandon Taylor, author of Real Life, finalist for the Booker Prize

"This is a work of precise social realism, in which the intricate tableau of detail offers a backdrop for larger questions about morality, family, and obligation." - Chloe Schama, Vogue

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780062971555
  • ISBN 10: 0062971557
  • Imprint: Harper
  • On Sale: 03/09/2021
  • Trimsize: 6.000 in (w) x 9.000 in (h) x 1.130 in (d)
  • Pages: 352
  • List Price: $26.99
  • BISAC1 : FICTION / Family Life
  • BISAC2 : FICTION / Literary
  • BISAC3 : FICTION / Contemporary Women