“Is this a memoir or a novel? Does it matter? A very well-written story about memoir writing, following a writer who, in the wake of her mother's death, travels to London. A great examination of the grieving process and what it does to art.”
— Alex Einhorn, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA
A Most Anticipated Book of Fall from: Los Angeles Times * Boston Globe * BookPage * Book Riot * The Millions * Publishers Weekly * LitHub * St. Louis Post Dispatch * Town & Country * Austin-American Statesman
A taut, groundbreaking new novel from bestselling and award-winning author Elizabeth McCracken, about a writer’s relationship with her larger-than-life mother—and about the very nature of writing, memory, and art
Ten months after her mother’s death, the narrator of The Hero of This Book takes a trip to London. The city was a favorite of her mother’s, and as the narrator wanders the streets, she finds herself reflecting on her mother’s life and their relationship. Thoughts of the past meld with questions of the future: Back in New England, the family home is now up for sale, its considerable contents already winnowed.
The woman, a writer, recalls all that made her complicated mother extraordinary—her brilliant wit, her generosity, her unbelievable obstinacy, her sheer will in seizing life despite physical difficulties—and finds herself wondering how her mother had endured. Even though she wants to respect her mother’s nearly pathological sense of privacy, the woman must come to terms with whether making a chronicle of this remarkable life constitutes an act of love or betrayal.
The Hero of This Book is a searing examination of grief and renewal, and of a deeply felt relationship between a child and her parents. What begins as a question of filial devotion ultimately becomes a lesson in what it means to write. At once comic and heartbreaking, with prose that delights at every turn, this is a novel of such piercing love and tenderness that we are reminded that art is what remains when all else falls away.
Elizabeth McCracken is the author of seven books, including The Souvenir Museum, Bowlaway, Thunderstruck & Other Stories (winner of the 2014 Story Prize and long-listed for the National Book Award), and The Giant’s House (a National Book Award finalist). Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, won three Pushcart Prizes, a National Magazine Award, and an O. Henry Prize. She has served on the faculty at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently holds the James Michener Chair for Fiction at the University of Texas at Austin.
“How reassuring it is to have writers like Elizabeth McCracken among us. She has no interest in gaining a few yards on the field. Frontiers do not interest her. Her fiction does not offer us a map. She trusts that her real readers are not interested in being delivered to the destination. Her specialty is the interior, and the interior is vast. We must bring our own compasses, emotional and aesthetic.” — Yiyun Li, Harper’s
“Readers who enjoy tales of quiet, internal reflection will find themselves right at home in this thoughtful exploration of the lived experience of grief.” — BookPage
“I have long been a fan of McCracken’s fiction: her imagination! Her endlessly stellar and impressive sentences. But “The Hero of This Book” is a world all its own. McCracken hews closely to her own life, tracking the loss of her beloved mother and allowing the reader access to an extraordinary mind grappling in real time with what both a story and real lasting love might be. It’s funny as hell, brilliantly built, deeply felt, and the sentences remain incredible throughout.” — Los Angeles Times
"Transcending categories, McCracken’s novel-as-eulogy and meditation on writing and truth is mischievous, funny, canny, and deeply affecting." — Booklist (starred review)
“Braided into McCracken’s gorgeously spiraling narrative is an expansive meditation on the act of writing and, intriguingly, the art of writing memoir….the novel assumes a hybrid quality that could be called autofiction but really is an homage to the art of great storytelling. Novel? Memoir? Who cares. It’s a great story, beautifully told.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“The question of what this work is—a novel or a memoir, a fiction or a fact—can’t be answered. Doesn’t matter. The Hero of This Book is tender, funny, heartbreaking, philosophical. Elizabeth McCracken is a writer who always delights, and this is an exhilarating book.” — Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind