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Fiction Literary

The Spectacular

A Novel

by (author) Zoe Whittall

Publisher
HarperAvenue
Initial publish date
Aug 2021
Category
Literary, General, Contemporary Women
  • eBook

    ISBN
    9781443455251
    Publish Date
    Aug 2021
    List Price
    $13.99
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9781443455244
    Publish Date
    Aug 2021
    List Price
    $24.99
  • Hardback

    ISBN
    9781443455237
    Publish Date
    Aug 2021
    List Price
    $32.99

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Description

It’s taboo to regret motherhood. But what would happen if you did? Shifting perspectives and time periods, The Spectacular is a multi-generational story exploring sexuality, gender and the weight of reproductive freedoms, from the author of The Best Kind of People. 

It’s 1997 and Missy’s band has finally hit the big time as they tour across America. At twenty-two years old, Missy gets on stage every night and plays the song about her absent mother that made the band famous. Missy is the only girl in the band and she’s determined to party just as hard as everyone else, loving and leaving someone in every town. But then a forgotten party favour strands her at the border. 

Forty-something Carola is just surfacing from a sex scandal at the yoga centre where she has been living, when she sees her daughter, Missy, for the first time in ten years—on the cover of a music magazine. 

Ruth is eighty-three and planning her return to the Turkish seaside village where she spent her childhood. But when her granddaughter Missy winds up crashing at her house, she decides it’s time that the strong and stubborn women in her family find a way to understand each other again. 

In her new book, by turns sharp and provocative, Zoe Whittall captures three generations of very different women who struggle to build an authentic life in the absence of traditional familial and marital structures. Definitions of family, romance, gender and love will radically change as they seek out lives that are nothing less than spectacular. 

About the author

ZOE WHITTALL’s third novel, The Best Kind of People is currently being adapted for limited series by director Sarah Polley. It was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, named Indigo’s #1 Book of 2016, a Heather’s Pick and a Best Book of the Year by the Walrus, the Globe and Mail, Toronto Life and the National Post. Her second novel, Holding Still for as Long as Possible, won a Lambda Literary Award for trans fiction and was an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book. Her debut novel, Bottle Rocket Hearts, won the Dayne Ogilvie Prize and is being adapted for screen. In 2014 Whittall sold her first sitcom, Breaking, to CTV, and recently optioned the half-hour comedy Wellville to CBC. She has worked as a TV writer on the Emmy Award–winning comedy Schitt’s Creek and the Baroness Von Sketch Show, for which she won a 2018 Canadian Screen Award. She has written three volumes of poetry, most recently an anniversary reissue of The Emily Valentine Poems, about which Eileen Myles said, “I would like to know everything about this person.” Zoe Whittall was born on a sheep farm in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, has an MFA from the University of Guelph and has called Toronto home since 1997. 

Zoe Whittall's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Fearless, challenging, epic—these are all words I have been using to describe The Spectacular, Zoe Whittall’s latest novel about three generations of women who are tied together by family obligations and a crooked connection to motherhood. Ruth, Carola, and especially Missy crackle off the pages, sometimes prickly, often uncertain, but always searching for a happiness that is bound by the expectations of becoming a mother and the resentments that follow. Fiction often teaches us truths, and The Spectacular does just that, laying bare the ways in which women are defined and the ways in which women can define themselves.”

Jen Sookfong Lee, author of <em>The Conjoined</em>

“[A] totally absorbing contemporary epic with characters and social worlds that are Edith Wharton-level dimensional, but as relatable as your own uncannily recognizable self. . . . The Spectacular lets us fully inhabit the historical moment of the 90s by drawing exquisite threads forward and back in time, creating a broad, deep landscape - a matriarchal counter-history. As with all of her works, Zoe Whittall is, yet again and even more spectacularly, a consummate, generous novelist whose immensely assured prose is a gift to her readers.”  

Jordy Rosenberg, author of <em>Confessions of the Fox</em>

"The Spectacular is a lush, sweeping novel that excavates the maternal layers of a family's genealogy to breathtaking, surprising ends. This book will leave you with a brilliant roar inside your chest -- Whittall's prose is afire with the most complex and daring forms of empathy."

Alissa Nutting, author of <em>Made for Love</em>

“A gorgeous, aching family saga that sweeps through decades, this book touches brilliantly on motherhood, womanhood, family, singledom, and every kind of aging.” 

Chatelaine

"Zoe Whittall has this incredible ability to go straight at the honest emotional heart of a story, and yet even with that ferocity, her writing is always graceful, a total joy to read. It makes it so easy to love her characters. In the best books characters feel like my friends, but with the mothers of The Spectacular, they came to feel like my family."

Torrey Peters, author of <em>Detransition, Baby</em>

“[G]ritty, raw, and unapologetic, [Whittall] builds strong female protagonists who seem largely unconcerned with how others expect them to behave. There is a strong focus on sexuality, gender fluidity, and free love, but the book also explores themes of motherhood and family responsibility. . . . An entertaining story that is equal parts family saga and cultural indictment.”

<em>Kirkus Reviews</em>

"The Spectacular gives us three brilliantly distinct voices of women challenging the societal expectations of who they should be. This is a novel about how we learn to define who we are, about the courage to make decisions nobody will understand, and about the profound complexities of maternal ambivalence. Zoe Whittall has a gift for vividly capturing our human behaviours, and for dialogue that will grab your heart. Both expansive and intimate, wild and tender, I loved it."  

Ashley Audrain, author of <em>The Push</em>

“Zoe Whittall's The Spectacular is such a fun read. It sizzles with women's desire -- for success, fulfillment, distraction, drugs, sex, love, care. The worlds Whittall's characters inhabit - a former ashram, a commune, the indie rock scene of the 1990s - are alive with meaning. Witnessing the women in this novel connect, miss each other, and try to figure one another out is a joyful and tender experience. The Spectacular is... what can I say, spectacular!” 

Ilana Masad, <em>All My Mother’s Lovers</em>

“What an honor and privilege to read a book that so fiercely wants to be read. Zoe Whittall's The Spectacular is rangy and deft, weaving three character threads together in a dexterous series of twists that left me excited for more. I found myself deeply attached to the women of this book and their relationships with one another. Whittall addresses motherhood and autonomy in ways I've never seen done before. A fascinating stunner of a novel, The Spectacular is exactly that: spectacular!”

Kristen Arnett, author of <em>With Teeth </em>

“Birth, identity, sex, what a woman wants, the vagaries of desire, love nibbling at the heart, independence, forfeiture of self, mother. Zoe Whittall carves at all of this with her pen and lays it out on the page in this fierce and tender novel.” 

David Bergen, author of <em>Here the Dark</em>

"Whittall is excellent at writing the small, intimate details and sharp dialogue, as well as the mostly propulsive plot, while making no bones about opinions on gender inequities. Whittall is a great storyteller, and her latest does not disappoint."

<em>Publishers Weekly</em>

“Zoe Whittall's engrossing and epic novel paints an indelible portrait of three women, each of them navigating the complex constraints of their bodies, their families, their obligations, and their desires. A daring and beautiful examination of motherhood, The Spectacular left me breathless.” 

Robin Wasserman, author of <em>Mother Daughter Widow Wife</em>

The Spectacular is a deeply thoughtful, deeply felt novel, ceaselessly questioning and genuinely empathetic to its characters’ actions. What should not be overlooked, however, is how fun it is, with moments (particularly in Missy’s storyline) of powerful joy and (mostly in Juniper’s sections) wicked, almost black humour . . . .Whittall . . . brings all of her talents to bear on her new novel, and the result is a singularly impressive piece of fiction.” 

Toronto Star

“Both raw and refined, The Spectacular is an insightful, poignant exploration of family and relationships from one of my favorite writers working today. A multi-generational story that’s fully alive.”

Iain Reid, author of <em>I’m Thinking of Ending Things</em>

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