At the beginning of Dana Spiotta’s newest novel, a woman falls in love—with a house. Chaos ensues.
Samantha Raymond’s life is coming apart: her mother is ill, her teenage daughter is increasingly remote, and at 53 she finds herself staring into “the Mids”—that hour of supreme wakefulness between three and four in the morning in which women of a certain age suddenly find themselves contemplating motherhood and mortality.
When she stumbles across a beautiful, decrepit house in a hardscrabble neighborhood of Syracuse, she buys it on a whim and flees her suburban life as she grapples with how to be a wife, a mother, and a daughter in a country that’s falling apart at the seams.
Because it allows a menopausal woman to be interesting, rather than relegating her to a stock turn as a harpy or shrew or somebody’s comically clueless mother.
Because the novel is a paean to the beauty of ruined things.
Because the New York Times reviewer gets it right when she says, “The characters stumble toward questions about the structures holding them — their bodies, homes, identities — wondering how and where to draw their borders.”
Dana Spiotta’s debut novel, Lightning Field, was a New York Times Notable Book, and subsequent books have been finalists for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her fifth novel, Wayward, appeared in July to critical acclaim.
The winner of a Rome Prize in Literature, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, Ms. Spiotta teaches creative writing at Syracuse University.
Order the book now from the Colgate Bookstore.
Listen to a 3-question podcast
“The novel itself develops a kind of consciousness.” That’s Dana Spiotta speaking about Wayward. Listen to this short Living Writers podcast to hear more.
Go beyond the book
- “So much contemporary fiction swims about in its own theories; what a pleasure to encounter not just ideas about the thing, but the thing itself—descriptions that irradiate the pleasure centers of the brain, a protagonist so densely, exuberantly imagined, she feels like a visitation.” Parul Sehgal praises Wayward for its curiosity about freedom, identity, and the structures that hold us in her review for the New York Times.
- Hear from Dana Spiotta herself about the complexities of her characters and her inspirations for Wayward in her NPR interview with Scott Simon: “I think she's at peace with the terms that we all have to face about our lives, that they are finite and that there is a way that you have to accept yourself by letting go of yourself.”
- Joanna Rakoff describes Wayward as “a virtuosic, singular and very funny portrait of a woman seeking sanity and purpose in a world gone mad.” Read the rest of Ms. Rakoff's review in the New York Times.
- Read this New Yorker article by Alexandra Schwartz to hear her thoughts on Dana Spiotta’s Wayward and Deborah Levy’s Real Estate, which she describes as books “about women getting older—and starting anew.”
- In this podcast hosted by Pamela Paul for the New York Times, listen to Dana Spiotta talk about her novel Wayward.
- “Spiotta writes radiant, concentrated books that, as she has put it, consider ‘the way things external to us shape us: money, technology, art, place, history.’ ” In this New York Times feature, Susan Burton brings us intimately into Dana Spiotta’s life and the passions that have manifested in her works.
- Read this New York Times article by Rebecca Clarke to learn about the literature Dana Spiotta loves, her book organizing habits, and to get inspiration for your own reading list. In it, Spiotta writes, “One of my favorite things is laughing at a joke in a really old book: I feel such connection to the human who made it, which delights and moves me.”
- Colgate librarian Josh Finnell reviewed Wayward for Library Journal and will join our book discussion on Monday, Sept. 13.
- For all of you reality junkies out there, here’s an image of the Garrett House, a boarded-up arts-and-crafts house situated at 110 Highland Street in Syracuse, NY.
Follow the discussion on Twitter @ColgateLW using the hashtags #ColgateLivingWriters and #Wayward
A mother cannot take chances with her daughter. Mothers cannot afford to be sentimental about how the world should be.Wayward
Living Writers is put on by the Department of English at Colgate University with generous support from the Olive B. O'Connor Fund as well as the President and Provost/Dean of the Faculty. Support from the Upstate Institute helped make this event possible.