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Book cover of A Face in Every Window

A Face in Every Window

by Han Nolan

Publisher: Harcourt
Pages: 264
Paperback
ISBN: 9780152064181






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Overview of A Face in Every Window

James Patrick (JP) O'Brien's once safe and secure world quickly unravels with the death of his beloved grandmother. Grandma Mary had always been the guiding hand of the O'Brien family, lovingly raising his mentally challenged Pap and allowing Mam to remain free of adult responsibility. Soon after Grandma Mary's death, Mam wins a farmhouse in an essay contest and insists on sharing her good fortune with various neighborhood outcasts. As J P sees both Pap and himself being replaced in his mother's life by others, his anger pushes his family and friends further away. It's not until he begins to understand that he must learn to accept differences, human frailties, and the randomness of life that he recaptures his happiness and begins to grow as a person.

After the death of his grandmother, who held the family together, teenage JP is left with a mentally challenged father and a mother who seems ineffectual and constantly sick, and he feels everything sliding out of control.

Synopsis of A Face in Every Window

A teen learns to appreciate his unique family and friends in this novel by National Book Award–winning author

Publishers Weekly

In this sometimes outlandish, often poignant exploration of a chaotic household, Nolan (Dancing on the Edge) delectably takes the notion of "nontraditional family" to extremes. The novel opens when narrator James Patrick (JP) has just lost his grandmother. The son of a fragile mother and mentally disabled father, JP begins to realize just how much his grandmother held them together. When his childlike mother attempts to take charge, she moves them to a rambling old farmhouse that she wins in a contest for invoking a Harpo Marx quote ("When she came home from work each day she wanted to see `a face in every window' "). JP becomes increasingly distressed as his mother invites an odd assortment of outcasts, artists and musicians to live with them. Nolan takes readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride right along with JP, who initially holes up in his room, trying to distance himself from the unwelcome visitors, then opens his door and heart little by little as he begins to accept his new role in an ever-changing family. In addition to a supporting cast as compelling and offbeat as the main characters, the author delivers a profound and heartwarming message about the various manifestations of love. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

About the Author, Han Nolan

HAN NOLAN is the author of several books, including Dancing on the Edge which won the National Book Award and Send Me Down a Miracle, a National Book Award finalist. She lives with her husband on the East Coast.

Reviews of A Face in Every Window

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Editorials

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly

In this sometimes outlandish, often poignant exploration of a chaotic household, Nolan (Dancing on the Edge) delectably takes the notion of "nontraditional family" to extremes. The novel opens when narrator James Patrick (JP) has just lost his grandmother. The son of a fragile mother and mentally disabled father, JP begins to realize just how much his grandmother held them together. When his childlike mother attempts to take charge, she moves them to a rambling old farmhouse that she wins in a contest for invoking a Harpo Marx quote ("When she came home from work each day she wanted to see `a face in every window' "). JP becomes increasingly distressed as his mother invites an odd assortment of outcasts, artists and musicians to live with them. Nolan takes readers on an emotional roller-coaster ride right along with JP, who initially holes up in his room, trying to distance himself from the unwelcome visitors, then opens his door and heart little by little as he begins to accept his new role in an ever-changing family. In addition to a supporting cast as compelling and offbeat as the main characters, the author delivers a profound and heartwarming message about the various manifestations of love. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Children's Literature - Christopher Moning

Grandma Mary was the glue that held James Patrick O'Brien's family together. When Grandma Mary dies suddenly, JP's family unravels like so much knitting. His father, who has always been "weak in the head," now spends much of his time sitting on the roof, keeping company with a large plastic Nativity scene. And Mam--well, Mam is just not Mam anymore. First, she wins a farmhouse in rural New Hope, Pennsylvania. Then she accumulates the strangest assortment of "artistic" types, misfits ranging from musicians to poets to reformed drug dealers. The worst thing is how Mam spends way too much time with Dr. Mike. JP, who craves order in his life and fears chaos above all else, feels ashamed and angry with his mother. He is an outcast among Mam's eccentric new friends. Finally, Mam does something that JP can never forgive, and JP is alone in his world. In this finely crafted drama about love, pain, grief and ultimately, redemption, Han Nolan paints a poignant picture of a family torn apart by tragedy.

ALAN Review

James Patrick O'Brien (JP) cannot cope with the unraveling of his well-ordered life. Changes rock the serenity of his world of being a straight-A average in all honors courses, and his dream of becoming class valedictorian and attending Princeton. His father is out of control and his mother is in a fit of depression. To add more unexpected pressure, Grandma Mary wins a farmhouse in a contest and the family moves in, along with a series of teenage misfits whom JP's depressed mother invites, on a whim, to live with them. Next, to add company to misery, his mother runs off with the family doctor, leaving JP to wonder, "Why can't I live a normal life?" Teetering on the edge of chaos, JP comes to terms with his crazy family; he learns to blend logic and compassion and to see the inner beauty of a "crazy extended family." Genre: Family Life. 1999, Harcourt Brace, Ages 12 up, $16.00. Reviewer: Laura M. Zaidman

School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up-When 14-year-old James Patrick's grandmother dies, the small family that she kept solidly knit together comes undone. Left in the care of his fragile and impractical mother and his retarded father, the mature and highly intelligent JP feels his orderly life slipping away. When his mother returns from convalescing at the hospital, she is increasingly preoccupied with the attentions of her doctor. When she wins an old farmhouse through an essay contest, JP must steel himself and Pap through another transition fraught with emotional turmoil. Mam becomes a social magnet, attracting an odd assortment of people who take up residence in their rambling new home. JP is beset with annoyance over her free-spirited behavior and is disquieted by the crowded living arrangements. Pap's love for his wife and son remains solid and unconditional, yet his intuition alerts him to the shifting relationships, and his vulnerability and innocence deepens JP's despair. Mam takes a trip to Switzerland with the shadowy Dr. Mike, but returns early and announces that she's pregnant. JP confronts the man, who suddenly, and quite tellingly, is no longer in the picture. The teen then confronts himself, making a far more satisfying discovery. Revealed through JP's eyes, the story engages readers and leads them to accept the reality and prevalence of human frailties, allowing for mistakes and best intentions gone awry. They will applaud the young man as he gains tolerance for the complications of family life with all of its imperfections and inexplicable tangle of emotions. Nolan has used her adroit writing skills to show the pathos of unusual circumstance within everyday lifestyles.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

A teenager's resistance to change drives this meaty tale from Nolan (Dancing On The Edge, 1997, etc.), about people who are reinventing themselves, or reaffirming who they are. The death of JP's Grandma Mary not only sends his frail mother to the hospital and his mentally retarded father out into the yard to dig holes with a spoon, it also brings an end to the harmonious, neatly ordered household in which he grew up. Changes are rolling over him like ocean waves as he and his parents move to a big old farmhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania, along with a gay ex-druggie, a gaggle of budding young poets and musicians, and Bobbi, a teenager fleeing her father's beatings. Alternating fits of outrage with awkward, sincere efforts to fit in, JP sees his mother take up with a too-friendly doctor and Bobbi with a man ominously like her father, tracks changes in other members of what becomes an extended family, falls in and out of love, and ultimately regains senses of place and self. Nolan makes JP engrossingly complex, prickly but good at heart, confused about his own strong feelings, given to endearingly trite observations ("While everyone around me seemed to have found themselves, I grew more and more lost"), steadfast in his love for his father, and just as steadfast in his love for his mother, although their connection is a stormy one. Most, not all, of the people here make good choices, and Nolan beautifully captures the shifts and textures of human relationships. (Fiction. 12-15)

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