Summary and book reviews of The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora

The Wonder Garden

by Lauren Acampora

The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora X
The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora
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  • First Published:
    May 2015, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2016, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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About this Book

Book Summary

Deliciously creepy and masterfully complex The Wonder Garden heralds the arrival of a phenomenal new talent in American fiction.

John likes to arrive first. He enjoys standing quietly with a house before his clients arrive, and today, although he feels pinned beneath an invisible weight, he resolves to savor this solitary moment. It's one of those overhauled ranches so common to Old Cranbury these days, swollen and dressed to resemble a colonial. White, of course, with ornamental shutters and latches pretending to hold them open. A close echo of its renovated sisters on Whistle Hill Road, garnished with hostas and glitzed with azaleas. He has seen too many of these to count.

A man strikes an under-the-table deal with a surgeon to spend a few quiet seconds closer to his wife than he's ever been; a young soon-to-be mother looks on in paralyzing astonishment as her husband walks away from a twenty-year career in advertising at the urging of his spirit animal; an elderly artist risks more than he knows when he's commissioned by his newly-arrived neighbors to produce the work of a lifetime.

In her stunning debut collection, The Wonder Garden, Lauren Acampora brings to the page with enchanting realism the myriad lives of a suburban town and lays them bare. These linked stories take a trenchant look at the flawed people of Old Cranbury, incisive tales that reveal at each turn the unseen battles we play out behind drawn blinds, the creeping truths from which we distract ourselves, and the massive dreams we haul quietly with us and hold close.

Deliciously creepy and masterfully complex The Wonder Garden heralds the arrival of a phenomenal new talent in American fiction.


Author Lauren Acampora describes the inspiration behind her book - the suburbs - and how she and her husband collaborated in the video below:

The Umbrella Bird

It had been a touch of incredible fortune to find David one spring night at a dive on Houston Street. He'd been attending a coworker's farewell gathering, an anomalous outing for him. He was short-haired and clean against the peeling paint and graffiti. That he'd been there that night nursing a Stella Artois, and had needed the restroom at the same time as she, had upended statistical logic. He was taller than everyone, and thinner, as if streamlined for air travel. Not conventionally handsome, but with a narrow, austere face. His green irises seemed lit, like dappled leaves on a forest floor. When he looked at Madeleine, she was briefly paralyzed, a field mouse in a clearing. He bought her a vodka tonic and left a three-dollar tip for the bartender. As he handed the glass to her, turning the tiny straw in her direction, she'd felt the dizzy euphoria of a traveler who has turned onto the right road, the easy expansion of ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

It should come as no surprise that the land of the white picket fence and the McMansion can harbor deep existential angst. The trope has been expertly mined many a times before by veteran authors like John Updike, John Cheever, Philip Roth, Tom Perrotta and many more. To this eclectic list we can add Lauren Acampora, whose debut collection of short stories, The Wonder Garden, set in a tony New England suburb called Old Cranbury, carries a razor-sharp edge of dark satire and lands Acampora firmly on my list of writers to watch.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review (672 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Acampora's debut creates a portrait of a fictional upscale Connecticut suburb, Old Cranbury, through a series of linked stories that are intelligent, unnerving, and very often strange.

Booklist

Starred Review. Acampora wields prose with the precision of a scalpel, insightfully dissecting people's desperate emotions and most cherished hopes...Acampora brilliantly captures the heartaches and delusions of American suburbanites.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Spooky and fabulous... A cleareyed lens into the strange, human wants of upper-class suburbia.

Library Journal

Starred Review. The stories in Acampora's first collection are so vivid, tightly plotted, and expertly woven that they make you look forward to reading more by this accomplished author.

Author Blurb Joseph O'Neil, author of Netherland and The Dog
A dark and brilliant collection of stories. Lauren Acampora is a terrific writer.

Author Blurb Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City
The world depicted in Lauren Acampora's stories seems reassuringly familiar, until it becomes unaccountably strange and unsettling ... Acampora is an original and The Wonder Garden is an outstanding debut.

Author Blurb Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans
The Wonder Garden is a beautiful book: witty, intelligent, deeply compassionate and gorgeously crafted.

Author Blurb Susan Choi, author of My Education
The Wonder Garden is wondrous, and its stories are addictive. I dreaded coming to the end.

Author Blurb Elliott Holt, author of You Are One of Them
Lauren Acampora is a writer of extraordinary dexterity.

Author Blurb Heidi Pitlor, author of The Birthdays
I loved The Wonder Garden. Acampora's writing moves like a laser through her characters' souls, finding the deepest, darkest truths and delusions. Every story surprises. Every story is devastating. Like Mad Men set in the present day, but better.

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Beyond the Book

Installation Art

Maurizio Bolognini art installationIn The Wonder Garden, one of the stories, "Swarm," features a sculpture created by local artist Martin who is commissioned to meticulously craft thousands of different bugs to carpet the exterior surface of a neighbor's house. Should it also be considered installation art?

Installation art is a form of art where a variety of media (paints, sculpture, lighting, sound, even video) are used in tandem to create an artistic message for the viewer by the artist. The art takes the entire boundaries of the space assigned to it into account and is tailored for just that unit.

Ann Hamilton art installationUnlike most other forms, where the value of the art is inherent to the material object, installation art derives its utility from the net experience created by an...

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