The Ragged Way page image

"I don't love you anymore," William told Molly one Sunday afternoon as they sat together in the den. His eyes had a glass-slick look, strong with conscience. "It comes down to that, I think." He smiled. She wanted to ask him why he smiled. She knew he didn't mean to. They could hear the children playing volleyball on a neighbor's court, and Molly looked out the window, northward. She tried not to seem surprised. She didn't believe him anyway.

They had stopped arguing about anything, months ago, and instead became extremely critical of each other. "I'm not important to you, Will," Molly said repeatedly. She made it come true. "You don't trust me," William told her, and that came true too.

-- From the novel


Molly Hanner's marriage to William is slowly unraveling, and the pulls of entropy this exerts upon them and their three children painfully instruct Molly in the many ways people barely miss loving each other. But divorce is only a catalyst in Molly's life. Amazed at the weight of her family's hurt and at her isolation within it, Molly, painter and student of astronomy, shifts her gaze outward -- to the stars, to the images she paints, to the world around her -- looking for an order that will contain the disarray of her own life.

As the novel widens to include the lives of others, so too does Molly's perspective. From "disorder and early sorrow," she learns an inclusive way of extending herself and her immediate family that has little to do with an exclusive idea of order, but that allows her to focus once more on the people around her own table one Halloween night, and fully join them in a love without order but with much meaning.


"This elegieac and meticulously observed family portrait leaves the reader appreciative but also wary; only in art can the mistakes of our lives be measured with such grace and forgiveness, or redeemed through such close attention."

The New Yorker

"Succeeds hugely... When bad things happen to these people, your blood jumps. You are made to care about them that much, and I know of no higher praise you can give a book."

Washington Post Book World

"A novel of sparkling originality and depth..."

San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

Has the clean lines, the counterpoint of shadow and light and the sense of solitude edging into loss of an Edward Hopper painting.

—New York Times Book Review