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What to expect

‘I can’t think of a writer who is at once so formally daring and so rigorously uncompromising as Sarah Manguso’ – Miranda July, author of The First Bad Man

‘No-one’s there to watch her, so she just waits for the lights to turn on, waits to begin her performance.’

No-one is watching Ruth. She, however, watches everyone and everything, and waits, growing up on the outskirts of an affluent but threadbare New England township, on the outer edge of popularity. She doesn’t necessarily understand what she is seeing, but she records faithfully and with absolute clarity the unfurling of her awkward youth, under even more awkward parenting. As they alternately mock, ignore, undermine and discount their daughter, Ruth’s parents present now as damaged, now as inadequate, now as monstrous. All the while the Future comes towards them all, steadily, inexorably, for some of them fatally. And the fog of the Past and the abuses committed under it gathers, swirls, settles, intermittently clears.

Watching the future come, the reader of Very Cold People is immobilized, transfixed as much by the gross failures of the adults to be adults, as by the determinedly graceful arc Ruth’s trajectory makes towards an adulthood of her own making.

Critics Review

  • A masterclass in unease

    Observer
  • My parents didn’t belong in Waitsfield, but they moved there anyway.’ So opens Manguso’s crystalline, mordant first novel about who belongs and who doesn’t in a declining Massachusetts town, as fortunes and status ebb and arrivistes displace the WASP gentry. Ruthie, the protagonist, has never felt at home in her hometown, and often wonders why; like other New England communities, Waitsfield hides its secrets well, until they erupt with a vengeance. Manguso puts her own indelible stamp on the literary terrain of John Cheever and Susan Minot, daring to brush against the third rail of class.

    Oprah Daily
  • Magnificent . . . I hope all my fellow reader friends can find their way to this title either through their local library or independent bookseller. It is indeed special.

    Sarah Jessica Parker via Instagram
  • Sarah Manguso is one of the most original and exciting writers working in English today. Every word feels necessary, and she’s redefining genre as she goes

    Jhumpa Lahiri, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Interpreter of Maladies
  • With its adult narrator trying to recover the intuitions of her younger self, Very Cold People reminded me of My Brilliant Friend, the first novel in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet. Like Ferrante’s Lila and Lenu, Ruthie is sharply attuned to a force she doesn’t understand. Something is pushing through the cracks in the walls, the felted wool of her coat, but she lacks the context or language to name it . . . For Ruthie, the unseen current is some combination of class, whiteness, and the widespread sexual abuse of children.

    New Yorker
  • Manguso is consistent in her approach and the cumulative effect is satisfying

    TLS

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