Summary and book reviews of Asta in the Wings by Jan Elizabeth Watson

Asta in the Wings

By Jan Elizabeth Watson

Asta in the Wings
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  • Paperback: Feb 2009,
    314 pages.

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Book Summary

Asta in the Wings is a poignant and often darkly funny story narrated by Asta Hewitt, a resourceful seven-year-old growing up in an isolated house in Bond Brook, Maine. Shut off from the outside world and restricted to the company of a delusional mother and a bookish older brother, Asta is content to be part of a "society of three," constructing fanciful, theatrical worlds of their own. When circumstances push her into a strange outside world—with all of its discontents—Asta must find a way to assimilate while remaining true to herself and her fractured family.

Excerpt
Asta in the Wings

On the last day, the day before everything changed, my mother told me her theory about the movies. It could have been a theory about anything else . . . Mother was always bursting with ideas. A few weeks earlier, she had expressed her thoughts on evolution, which included her conjecture that the towering dinosaur remains in the Museum of Natural History were not dinosaurs at all, but a hoax—a man-made likeness built from human bones.

On this day, however, the subject was movies. I was guilty, I think, of not listening closely enough; I was only seven years old, and greater things beckoned to me. I was busy awaiting the arrival of an insect, concentrating on the sodden strip of bathroom tile—the one just alongside the tub’s foremost clawfoot— from which earwigs or silverfish might emerge. Balanced on my haunches, head lowered till my face grazed the floor, I whispered this urgent enticement into the cracks:

“Come out, you ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Such is the strength of Watson's writing, and the immediacy of Asta's narration, that you can't help but be drawn deep into the terrible reality of the book... An early review called this "a gem of a book" and I would agree.   (Reviewed by Vy Armour).

Full Review Members Only (1183 words).

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street
In Asta in The Wings Jan Elizabeth Watson has created one of the most appealing fictional heroines I've encountered in a long time. Asta is brave, resourceful, intelligent, and loyal. She also happens to be seven years old, which means she's at the mercy of the unreliable adults who rule her world. The result is a vivid and suspenseful narrative where, over and over again, Asta shows us the world from her own very particular angle. A highly original debut.

Author Blurb Aryn Kyle, author of The God of Animals
Like Alice after tumbling down the rabbit hole, Asta takes us on a journey through a confounding world filled with remarkable characters. A compassionate tale mixed with hope and sorrow, Asta In the Wings evokes both the tenderness and the danger of one child's struggle to find a place for herself in a world she is only beginning to understand. It's a gem of a book.

Library Journal - Maureen Neville

An unusual novel; recommended for larger public libraries.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Asta's narration is full of the wonderment and matter-of-factness of youth, and her eye-opening trip into reality is flawlessly executed by Watson.

Booklist

Starred Review. A cleverly constructed, beautifully written first novel from a gifted new writer.

Powells - Sheila Ashdown

Much to her credit, Watson doesn't allow the reader to make an easy, black-and-white judgment that society is "good" and isolation is "bad." ... the story is beautifully devoid of grown-up editorializing. It is neither accusatory nor confessional. She doesn't blame her mother for anything; she doesn't position herself as a victim. What she does is give an expressive, authentic rendering of childhood through a child's eyes, at a time when her mother and brother are, literally, her entire world.

The Portland Phoenix - Nina MacLaughlin

The mysteries and ambiguities that Watson creates, raising questions and not trying to answer them—is what powers the novel.

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Beyond the Book

Title Trivia

Asta

In homage to her obsession with movies, Asta's mother has named her after the wire-haired terrier in a series of six comic-detective films inspired by Dashiell Hammett's last novel, The Thin Man. In the films, William Powell and Myrna Loy play Nick and Nora Charles, a witty couple who solve crimes, engage in snappy banter and imbibe numerous cocktails. The first movie (The Thin Man, 1934) was nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture. The low-budget MGM film was shot in fourteen days and earned over $2 million. Its sequel, After the Thin Man (1936), was the first sequel ever to be nominated for Best Picture.

In the Wings

When Asta and Orion accidentally fall through a broken floorboard, ...

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