Excerpt from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Discuss |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

A Novel

by Bryn Greenwood

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood X
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2016, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2017, 432 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"Cassiopeia. Cepheus. Ursa Minor. Cygnus. Perseus. Orion."

Since she had finally spoken, I grew brave enough to ask, "What does it mean?"

"Names of stars."

Until then I hadn't known the stars had names. Arm extended, finger pointing, Wavy traced out shapes above her head, as though she were guiding the movements of the stars. A conductor directing a symphony.

The next night, Wavy smiled at me as Mom crawled around looking for the unwanted doll. A minute after we were tucked in, the baby was again among the dust bunnies under the bed. Eventually that became the doll's name: Dust Bunny. If Mom failed to look for the doll at bedtime, I said, "Oh, no. I think Dust Bunny is missing again," to make Wavy smile.

While I had a growing friendship with Wavy, my mother had only anxiety.

In the first month, Mom took Wavy to the doctor three times, because she wasn't eating. The first time, a nurse tried to put a thermometer in Wavy's mouth. It didn't end well. The other two times, Wavy mounted the scale and the doctor pronounced, "She's underweight, but not dangerously so. She must be eating something."

Dad said the same thing and he had evidence to back it up. One night, he came home from work after we were all in bed, and woke us up shouting, "Oh, goddamnit! What are you doing? What are you doing?"

Wavy wasn't in her bed, so I ran downstairs alone. I found Dad in the kitchen with the trash can lid in one hand and his briefcase in the other. I'd never been in the kitchen that late. In the day it was a warm, sunny place, but behind Dad, the basement door stood open and dark, like the mouth of a monster.

"What's the matter, Daddy?"

"It's nothing. Go back to bed." He put the lid on the trash and laid his briefcase on the table.

"What's going on, Bill?" Mom came up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder.

"She was eating out of the trash."

"What? Amy, what are you—"

"Not Amy. Your niece."

Mom didn't take Wavy to the doctor again to complain about her not eating.

After failing to solve that crisis, Mom became obsessed with sewing for Wavy. The dresses you could buy hung on her like sacks and were too frilly, which Wavy hated. The first day she wore my Christmas party dress, she tore the lace collar off.

So Mom sewed dozens of dresses that Wavy unraveled, plucking at the seams until a thread came loose. From there she could unravel a dress in less than a week. Mom rehemmed her dresses each time they came through the wash. It slowed the unraveling down, which was a practical solution, but Mom didn't want a solution, she wanted a reason.

One of the book club ladies said, "Does she have toileting problems?"

Mom frowned, shook her head. "No, there's no trouble like that. She'll be six in July."

Wavy and I eavesdropped from the other side of the kitchen door. Her games all involved sneaking around and finding people's secrets, like the cigarettes my father hid in a coffee can in the garage.

"I wonder if she's acting out over some inappropriate contact," the book club lady said.

"You think she might have been molested?" another lady said, sounding shocked but excited.

That conversation led to Wavy's first visit to a therapist. She stopped unraveling her dresses and Mom went around looking triumphant. To Dad, she said: "I think we've had a breakthrough."

Then she discovered the curtains in the guest bedroom, which were what Wavy took to unraveling when she stopped doing it to her clothes.

Mom and Dad yelled at each other while Wavy stared through them.

"Why does there have to be something wrong with her?" Dad said. "Maybe she's just weird. God knows your sister's weird enough. I don't have time for you to get hysterical over everything she does. We have to wrap up the books on the fiscal year-end."

Excerpted from All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood. Copyright © 2016 by Bryn Greenwood. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Age of Consent

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Seine
    The Seine
    by Elaine Sciolino
    Of the 24 members who reviewed Elaine Sciolino's The Seine: The River that Made Paris for BookBrowse...
  • Book Jacket: Fireborne
    Fireborne
    by Rosaria Munda
    Inspired by classical political theory and the French Revolution, Rosaria Munda's YA debut Fireborne...
  • Book Jacket: Frankissstein
    Frankissstein
    by Jeanette Winterson
    Jeanette Winterson's futurist sci-fi/alternative history hybrid unfolds in two main timelines. In ...
  • Book Jacket: Unbreakable
    Unbreakable
    by Richard Askwith
    In this well-researched biography, journalist Richard Askwith takes readers on a journey into 1930s ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Mighty Justice
    by Dovey Johnson Roundtree & Katie McCabe

    An inspiring life story that speaks urgently to our troubled times.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Ordinary Girls
    by Jaquira DĂ­az

    Reminiscent of Tara Westover's Educate and Roxane Gay's Hunger--a memoir that reads as electrically as a novel.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Wild Game

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me (Memoir)

A Best of Fall Title from: People, Entertainment Weekly, BuzzFeed, NPR, BBC, and many more!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T Bite T B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.