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The Truth About Celia

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The Truth About Celia

A Novel
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While playing alone in her backyard one afternoon, seven-year-old Celia suddenly disappears while her father Christopher is inside giving a tour of their historic house and her mother Janet is at an...
While playing alone in her backyard one afternoon, seven-year-old Celia suddenly disappears while her father Christopher is inside giving a tour of their historic house and her mother Janet is at an...
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Description-
  • While playing alone in her backyard one afternoon, seven-year-old Celia suddenly disappears while her father Christopher is inside giving a tour of their historic house and her mother Janet is at an orchestra rehearsal.

    Utterly shattered, Christopher, a writer of fantasy and science fiction, withdraws from everyone around him, especially his wife, losing himself in his writing by conjuring up worlds where Celia still exists--as a child, as a teenager, as a young single mother--and revealing in his stories not only his own point of view but also those of Janet, the policeman in charge of the case, and the townspeople affected by the tragedy, ultimately culminating in a portrait of a small town changed forever. The Truth About Celia is a profound meditation on grief and loss and how we carry on in its aftermath.

    From the Trade Paperback edition.

Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    Here is Celia, running like a rabbit through the sunlight, on a day so perfectly pitched between winter and spring that she can feel streamers of warm air in the wind. The grass looks willowy and tender, and she very much wants to take off her shoes and flatten it beneath her feet, but her mom told her that if she went pounding around barefoot outside she might catch something. She is afraid of catching something. When she was six she caught the flu, and when she was five she caught the chicken pox. She stops by the pond and looks into the water, creased by the breeze. There is a cluster of minnows swimming just beneath the surface, and when she tries to touch one they scatter away in a spray of silver V's. Suddenly she thinks of a new jingle: Little silver minnows with their little silver finnows. It is a good day.

    She has three favorite toys: her dollhouse, her ring collection, and her stuffed giraffe, Franklin, but they are all in her bedroom. Here in the yard there is only her scooter and the top half of a Barbie doll. The bottom half of the Barbie doll was washed away last week during a thunderstorm, when she and her parents had to walk through the house lighting tall white candles with matches as long as magicians' wands. It has been five days since it rained (one, two, three, four, five-she can count as high as one hundred), but the ground is still spongy in places. She leaves a deliberate curve of footprints across the backyard, stretching from the deck to the maple trees. She has known ever since she woke up this morning that something important was going to happen-something enormous-and though she does not yet know what it is, she can feel herself slowly falling toward it. It is like the dreamlike fall of a diver from a high board. Her fingers and toes are tingling. She does not need her toys.

    She can see her dad through the kitchen window, escorting a man and woman past the pantry and the staircase and the wood-burning stove. I am her dad, and when I pass into the living room, she loses sight of me. In the pocket of her dress she finds a red rubber ball that she bought from the gum machine at the grocery store. Once a week her mom gives her a quarter to load into the gum machine, and though she always hopes for a plastic ring to add to her ring collection, usually she ends up cranking out a bracelet or a toy watch or something. She throws the ball as high as she can and it lands on the roof, drumming back down with a wonderful resiny thumping noise. Then she chases it across the grass and throws it once more, this time so high that it almost hits the chimney. She could listen to the sound it makes again and again, a hundred or a thousand times, but the fifth time she throws it, the ball lodges clunkily in the metal gutter. A great boat of a cloud drifts by. A dog barks across the street.

    In one of the elm trees behind the house is a cocoon she has been watching all winter long, and though she has only touched it once or twice, as gently as she could, and with her littlest finger, when she looks for it she discovers that it has already split open. She is afraid to look inside. She can almost picture the body of the butterfly, motionless, folded into a papery kink. But the cocoon, it turns out, is empty, stuffed with a sticky gray floss that comes off on her fingers.

    This means that the butterfly has flown away. Either that or been eaten.

    She hasn't seen any butterflies swaying through the flowers yet this year, but she believes just the same, or decides to believe, that it has flown away.

    Soon she is climbing onto the fragment of stone wall in the side yard of the house. The wall is almost as high as her waist, and she...

About the Author-
  • Kevin Brockmeier is the author of the story collection Things That Fall from the Sky and the children's novel City of Names. He has published stories in many magazines and anthologies, including The New Yorker, The Georgia Review, McSweeney's, and The Best American Short Stories, and his story "The Green Children" from The Truth About Celia was selected for The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. He has received the Chicago Tribune's Nelson Algren Award, an Italo Calvino Short Fiction Award, a James Michener--Paul Engle Fellowship, two O. Henry Awards (one of which was a first prize), and, most recently, an NEA grant. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Reviews-
  • San Francisco Chronicle

    "Emotional, heartbreaking and beautifully styled."

  • Time Out "Devastating and dazzling; in its painful fusion of pathos, fantasy and--ultimately--realism, Brockmeier's heartbreaking book is reminiscent of The Lovely Bones."
  • The New York Times Book Review "Together, the eight stories, ranging from psychological realism to science fiction to supernatural fantasy, fall somewhere between a linked collection and a full-fledge novel, and their unvarying gracefulness takes some of the bite out of the sadness--perhaps to much. They go down more easily than, given the subject, they ought to."
  • The Boston Globe "Fierce and tightly imagined. . . . The Truth About Celia has all the austere ache of a cello suite. . . . [Brockmeier] proves himself a master of compassionate reach."
  • Entertainment Weekly "Affecting. . . . A dazzling fantasia on grief and time."
  • Thisbe Nissen, author of The Good People of New York "Each sentence is an elegy--a celebration of every heartbreaking detail that makes life beautiful and an exacting portrait of the bone-aching, irredeemable despair of loss. Every scene is a heart that throbs with both glorious, garrulous joy and profound, insurmountable sorrow. Like all of Kevin's work, this book is exquisitely crafted and deeply evocative, and as a reader I am once again awed and moved to both desperation and delight."
  • The Miami Herald "A startlingly imaginative and empathetic work."
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Brilliant. . . . beautifully written and relentlessly gripping. . . . The psychological devastation suffered by Janet and Christopher . . . is made excruciatingly tangible in [this] remarkable novel."
  • The Baltimore Sun "Lyrical, magical, achingly bittersweet. . . . The mesmerizing whisper of Brockmeier's prose [turns] skeptical readers into believers. The gentle, rolling pulse of these sentences make elegiac epiphanies out of Christopher's grief-borne stream-of-consciousness. . . . For evoking this bleak estate with unflinching accuracy and honesty, Kevin Brockmeier deserves our praise." --Newsday "A compelling and intricate study of loss and acceptance."
  • Kelly Link, author of Stranger Things Happen "Imagine I'm standing beside you in the bookstore. I'm putting this book in your hands. I loved The Truth About Celia: you should buy this book, take it home, and read it at once."
  • John Hammond, The San Antonio Express-News "Outstanding. . . . Eloquently describes the pain of losing a child and the search for meaning in resistant fact and more resilient imagination. I highly recommend this book."
  • Arkansas Democrat-Gazette "Some of the most moving writing in the English language. . . . The pleasure of Brockmeier's novel--and it is a deep pleasure indeed--comes from an excruciatingly poignant exploration of the effect of Brooks' loss. . . . Fellow writers can only envy Brockmeier's felicity with prose, his lyricism that aspires to great music. The Truth About Celia is modest in size but not in scope, and the magnificent prose lingers in memory long after the book is closed."
  • The Arkansas Times "Wrenching . . . You may never read a more beautifully written novel than this one."
Title Information+
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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