What Is Left The Daughter

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What Is Left the Daughter
256 pages; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Fans of Howard Norman's The Bird Artist will recognize the venue and the oddball characters in the author's beautiful new novel, What Is Left the Daughter. In isolated Nova Scotia during WWII, an earnest, if dim, 17-year-old named Wyatt Hillyer is orphaned when both his parents commit suicide over their love for the same woman. Taken in by his uncle in nearby, optimistically named Middle Economy, Wyatt is apprenticed to the family toboggan business, and trying to win the affections of his headstrong cousin, Tilda, who, alas, is betrothed to another. (Years later, the cousins do spend a night together. As Wyatt reports, with proud understatement: "No dictionary definition of love might apply to what happened...but my choice is not to consult a dictionary.") This is an old story of unrequited love, but thanks to the delightfully weird details (Tilda rents herself out as a professional mourner at strangers' funerals), Norman turns a tiny town into an entire world in which even the most heinous sins can—almost—be forgiven.
— Sara Nelson