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The Centre of Winter by Marya Hornbacher

The Centre of Winter

Family Drama   Literary Fiction   
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Sarah Broadhurst's view...

A lovely, lovely book. The story of an American family towards the end of the Vietnam War told by three of its members, the mother, the 6-year old daughter and the very disturbed 12-year old son. Their voices are quite different as indeed are their viewpoints and as a strategy for telling this powerful tale, it works like a dream. Harrowing in places, it is a novel of survival, strong, beautifully drawn and highly convincing. Just read it. The author’s previous work, Wasted, was a shattering memoir of coming through eating disorders. She is very good.

Comparison: Alice Sebold, Alice Hoffman, William Kowalski.
Similar this month: Ingrid Hill, Hilary Mantel.

If you like Marya Hornbacher you might also like to read books by Alice Sebold, Alice Hoffman and William Kowalski.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst


The Centre of Winter by Marya Hornbacher

At the centre of winter, in Motley, Minnesota, Arnold Schiller gives in to the oppressive season that reigns outside and to his own inner demons and commits suicide, leaving a devastated family in his wake. Claire Schiller, wife and mother, takes shelter from the emotional storm with her husband's parents, but must ultimately emerge from her grief and help her two young children to recover.

Esau, her oldest, is haunted by the same darkness that plagued his father. At twelve years old, he has already been in and out of state psychiatric hospitals and now, with the help of his mother and sister, he must overcome the forces that drive him deep into himself. But as the youngest, perhaps, it is Kate who carries the heaviest burden. A precocious six-year-old who desperately wants to help her mother hold the family together, she will have to come to terms with the memory of her father who was at once loving and cruel.

Narrated alternately by Claire, Katie and Esau, this powerful and passionate novel explores the ways in which both children and adults experience tragic events, discover solace and hope in each other, and survive. The Centre of Winter finds humour in unlikely places and evokes the north – its people and landscape – with warmth, sensitivity and insight. The story of three people who, against all odds, find their way out of the centre of winter, Marya Hornbacher's debut novel will leave you breathless, tearful, and ultimately, inspired.


Hornbacher has created characters who are genuine, engaging, and unforgettable. Following her brutally honest memoir, the acclaimed Wasted (1998), with this stunning debut novel, Hornbacher, who inevitably will be compared to Alice Sebold, proves herself to be a master storyteller’ Booklist (starred review)

‘Hornbacher succeeds marvelously...[She] constructs a kaleidoscope of speakers at times beautiful and often disturbing...[An] adroit first novel.’ Los Angeles Book Review

About the Author

Marya Hornbacher

Marya Hornbacher works as a freeelance editor and writer and maintains her day-to-day battle with her eating disorders. She was educated at the University of Minnesota and the American University, where she won many awards for student journalism. Since she was 18 she has travelled around the US addressing young women (and men) about the causes of eating disorders. After a relapse in 1994, after completing ‘Wasted’, she resumed her leap-of-faith battle. "It’s exhausting," as she writes in ‘Wasted’, "but it is a fight I believe in."

She currently lives in California.

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Book Info

Publication date

3rd January 2006


Marya Hornbacher

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Harpercollins Publishers


Paperback (b Format)


Family Drama
Literary Fiction



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