Booklist Reviews

Zailckas, known for her biting memoirs Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood (2005) and Fury: True Tales of a Girl Gone Ballistic (2010), turns to the (hopefully) fictional tale of a woman hell-bent on manipulating the world around her. Matriarch Josephine doesn't quite have things under control the way she would prefer. Her husband is an alcoholic; her son is on the autism spectrum; her younger daughter, Violet, has just been committed to a mental hospital; and her older daughter is a runaway. But to the outside world, this extremely dysfunctional family looks practically flawless, thanks to Josephine's well-plotted machinations. When she concocts a story meant to keep Violet locked away, it means a visit from Child Protective Services that puts the family in a spotlight, and Josephine's carefully constructed world begins to crumble (much like the Martha Stewart scones she has ready for them upon their arrival). Josephine is a truly frightening character—realistically flawed with just the right touch of over-the-top madness—and Zailckas crafts an intriguing mystery surrounding this family that will keep readers on edge as she slowly peels back layer after layer of deception. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

Having published the searing memoir Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood, which has sold more than 500,000 copies, Zailckas has a ready audience. Teenage Violet, hospitalized after drug experimentation; autistic eight-year-old Will; their Scotch-guzzling dad; even runaway sister Rose—all are under the control of ever-interfering matriarch Josephine.

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Library Journal Reviews

Zailckas's first novel after the extremely well-received memoir Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood tells a similarly compelling story that at times is difficult to read owing to the disturbing details of abuse. The dysfunctional family at the center of the novel is run like a corporation by a two-faced CEO: Josephine Hurst, former artist and mother of three. The story of Josephine's subtle manipulation unfolds from the perspectives of 12-year-old William, who has recently been diagnosed as autistic and taken out of public school, and 16-year-old Violet, who has just been committed to a mental hospital. The atmosphere of the hospital and its routines and characters are richly imagined and bring to mind Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted. While the novel takes place over a brief period in a small town in New York, the language and emotions render an epic quality of classic family sagas such as Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks or Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. VERDICT An excellent page-turner recommended for those who enjoy psychological thrillers and aren't afraid of narratives that look evil in the face. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.]—Kate Gray, Shrewsbury P.L., MA

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

This is a riveting fiction debut from Zailckas, whose bestselling memoirs Smashed and Fury portrayed the author as a young woman ravaged by alcohol addiction and anger. Never mind that Zailckas explores some of the same disturbing territory here. It's the kind of book that keeps you up at night, featuring a mother to rival Medea or Mrs. Bates. Violet, the dysfunctional Hurst family's stoner middle child, cannot remember which family member slashed her 12-year-old brother Will the night she overdosed on some strange seeds. But her mother, Josephine, blames her, and has her committed to a psychiatric hospital. Violet has no idea who to turn to for help: her spineless, alcoholic father, Douglas; her runaway older sister, Rose; or Will, the home-schooled mama's boy. Violet searches for clues relating to Rose's disappearance, but nothing adds up, and every day Will becomes more desperately dependent on Josephine. The shocking and violent denouement shows Zailckas to be a consummate storyteller. Let's hope that when she's used up all her own demons as subject matter, she'll come looking for ours. (Sept.)

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