cover image Something Wild

Something Wild

Hanna Halperin. Viking, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-984882-06-6

Halperin’s bold and surprising debut explores the complexity of familial bonds in the face of domestic violence. Tanya and Nessa Bloom, sisters who were once very close but are now somewhat estranged, are visiting their childhood home in the Boston suburbs to help their mother, Lorraine, pack up and move out. But Nessa’s brief indulgence of nostalgia from perusing items in her bedroom (Tanya, “who looks forward with a vengeance... would have rolled her eyes,” writes Halperin) gives way to a reckoning with their abusive stepfather, Jesse. On the first night, the sisters find their mother on the kitchen floor, bruised from a strangulation by Jesse. Soon, they learn this isn’t the first time Lorraine has been physically assaulted, and yet she is reluctant to press charges. Tanya, the younger and more levelheaded daughter, urges Lorraine to get a restraining order. But Nessa, with her distorted sense of self and an unhealthy attachment to their stepfather, is unsure. As contention between the sisters grows, a traumatic experience that altered their relationship threatens it again, except now the sisters have to protect each other as well as their mother. Unflinching and brave, Halperin’s story lays bare the characters’ nuanced and complicated responses to domestic violence. This haunting portrait of a broken family will stay with readers. Agent: Margaret Riley King, WME. (June)