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Summary and book reviews of Child Of My Heart by Alice McDermott

Child Of My Heart

by Alice McDermott

Child Of My Heart
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2002, 208 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2003, 256 pages

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Book Summary

McDermott explores the mysterious depths of what seems like everyday life with unforgettable insight in this tale of a young girl's astonishing, poignant first look into the turbulent heart of things.

I had in my care that summer four dogs, three cats, the Moran kids, Daisy, my eight-year-old cousin, and Flora, the toddler child of a local artist. There was also, for a while, a litter of wild rabbits, three of them, that had been left under our back steps . . .

Alice McDermott's haunting and enchanting new work of fiction -- her first since the bestselling Charming Billy, winner of the 1998 National Book Award -- is narrated by a woman who was born beautiful. Her parents decided that her best chance in life was to marry a wealthy man, so she was raised on the east end of Long Island, among the country houses of the rich. On the cusp of fifteen, she is the town's most sought-after baby-sitter -- cheerful, beloved, a wonder with children and animals, but also a solitary soul with an already complex understanding of human nature -- when her favorite cousin, Daisy, comes to spend the summer.

The narrator's witty, piquant, deeply etched evocation of all that was really transpiring under the surface during that seemingly idyllic season gives her wry tale -- infused with suppressed passion, disappointment, and enduring hope -- its remarkable vividness and impact. Once again, Alice McDermott explores the mysterious depths of what seems like everyday life with unforgettable insight and resonant emotional power.

I had in my care that summer four dogs, three cats, the Moran kids, Daisy, my eight-year-old cousin, and Flora, the toddler child of a local artist. There was also, for a while, a litter of wild rabbits, three of them, that had been left under our back steps. They were wet and blind, curled up like grubs and wrapped in a kind of gray caul -- so small it was difficult to know if their bodies moved with the beating of their hearts or the rise of their breaths. Not meant to live, as my parents had told me, being wild things, although I tried for nearly a week to feed them a watery mixture of milk and torn clover. But that was late August.

Late in June, Daisy arrived, the middle child of my father's only sister. She came out by herself on the Long Island Railroad, her name and address written on a piece of torn brown paper and attached to her dress with a safety pin. In my bedroom, which she was to share, I opened her suitcase, and a dozen slick packages slid out -- tennis sets and...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Theresa spends each summer day, with Daisy in tow, splendidly enchanting her bedraggled neighbors, the Moran kids; Flora, the angelic toddler of the local artist; Red Rover, Dr. Kaufman's half-witted golden retriever; and Rupert and Angus, Mr. and Mrs. Richardson's prim Scottish pups. Theresa creates a dreamlike haven for the children and pets where lollipops grow on trees, friendly ghosts visit in the night, and magical pink shoes banish bruises from poor Daisy's feet. Theresa's own dream sequence is interrupted, though, as she discovers her sexual desires, the impending death of her favorite cousin, and the neglected longings for love of the deprived children for whom she cares.
  1. How old is Theresa as she narrates her memoir...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
The New York Times Book Review

There is...something Jamesian about McDermott's style this novel's craftsmanship and its moral intelligence are as one.

Publishers Weekly

There's a whisper of maudlin sentimentality throughout, but Theresa is so likable, and her observations so acute, that one easily forgives it.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

One of McDermott's many gifts is her ability to portray adults, the poor clowns, as seen through a child's or teenager's clear-sky eyes, an illuminating and unsettling feat she performs with tender wit and quiet soulfulness in her exquisite fifth novel....McDermott's gorgeous novel is laced with sly literary allusions and provocative insights into the enigma of sexual desire, the mutability of art, death's haunting presence, our need for fantasies, and the endless struggle to keep love pure.

Library Journal - Rachel Collins

Though some of the details about being a local in the Hamptons are slightly off the mark, McDermott's true-to-life evocation of the lazy, sun-soaked summers in such a heaven (albeit a troubled heaven) outweighs this deficit.

Kirkus Reviews

Though hobbled by a tendency toward sentimentality and self-consciousness, McDermott sculpts her small story with a meticulous eye for the telling detail and transcendent metaphor. We know what’s coming, but so do the characters--that’s part of this tale’s bittersweet power.

Reader Reviews
Judy

A lovely book. I am not sure that men would read it, however, it has some beautiful thoughts.

jill carmel

Child of my Heart
It was a little odd for me since it was about sexual abuse. I won't recommend it for a teen. I think the man took advantage of the sitter. Otherwise it was well written and I enjoyed the rest of it but Charming Billy was her best so far.

Teagan

it has some akward situations and i'm not sure her decissions were the wisest but it was intreguing. recomended for mature teenagers- i doubt any other type of teens could truly understand the dept to that summer or the seriousness of Dasie's ...   Read More

Bethie F.

I read "child of my Heart" for a book jacket in class, and I don't regret the fact that I chose to read it. I recommend "child of my Heart" to any teenager. the character for the book. Theresa keeps the readers interest, and ...   Read More

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