A SEAHORSE YEAR
D'Erasmo's quiet, penetrating second novel (after Tea ) follows a San Francisco family coping with a 16-year-old son's mental illness. Christopher's mom, Nan, is in a long-term relationship with girlfriend Marina, who's like another mom; his sperm donor dad, Hal, is gay, a dancer-turned-CPA. But despite the unconventional setup, his parents sometimes act with the confused stiffness of the most traditional of families. When Christopher runs away the first time, Nan is distraught; she explains that her son had "a freak-out, we think. He wouldn't wash, he was angry all the time, he was saying all sorts of strange stuff, and he just, he just wasn't Christopher." After Christopher is fetched home, he's diagnosed with schizophrenia; Nan, meanwhile, is grasping at connection, and Marina's sleeping with someone else. D'Erasmo portrays Christopher's strange thoughts with beauty and insight; his misguided girlfriend, Tamara, is also tenderly, convincingly rendered. The family's unsettled state adds to the complications, as Christopher nearly kills himself and then escapes, with Tamara's help, from a mental health facility. As D'Erasmo shifts between different points of view—distinct, but united by her lush prose—she paints a portrait of illness, but also of growth and change. 5-city author tour. Agent, Jennifer Carlson. (July 7)
Forecast: The book's non-traditional family set-up and effortless prose will remind readers of Michael Cunningham's early novels, and should help build D'Erasmo's readership.
Release date: 07/01/2004