A moving novel about motherhood and marriage, adolescence and bodily autonomy, family and love, religion and sexuality, and the delicate balance between the purity of faith and the messy reality of life.
Book-smart, devoutly Catholic, and painfully unsure of herself,...Read More
Book-smart, devoutly Catholic, and painfully unsure of herself, Jane becomes pregnant in high school; by her early twenties, she is raising three children in the suburbs of western New York State. In the fall of 1991, as her children are growing older and more independent, Jane is overcome by a spiritual and intellectual restlessness that leads her to become involved with a local pro-life group. Following the tenets of her beliefs, she also adopts a little girl from Eastern Europe. But Mirela is a difficult child. Deprived of a loving caregiver in infancy, she remains unattached to her new parents, no matter how much love Jane shows her. As Jane becomes consumed with chasing therapies that might help Mirela, her relationships with her family, especially her older daughter, Lauren, begin to fray.
Feeling estranged from her mother and unsettled in her new high school, Lauren begins to discover the power of her own burgeoning creativity and sexuality - a journey that both echoes and departs from her mother's own adolescent experiences. But when Lauren is confronted with the limits of her youth and independence, Jane is thrown into an emotional crisis, forced to reconcile her principles and faith with her determination to keep her daughters safe. The Fourth Child is a piercing love story and a haunting portrayal of how love can shatter - or strengthen - our beliefs.
Jessica Winter is an editor at The New Yorker and the author of the novel Break in Case of Emergency. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Bookforum, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her family.
"A beautifully observed and thrillingly honest novel about the dark corners of family life and the long, complicated search for understanding and grace." -Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation and Weather
"Intense . . . a vivid portrait of female coming-of-age . . . Winter is a genius. . . . [Her] greatest accomplishment is that she takes on enormous, highly charged topicsfaith, the right to choose, female identity--and presents a story without one shred of moralizing. . . . A writer in complete control of her talent." - New York Times Book Review
"[Winter] deftly depicts an all-too-human inconsistency: we may hold deep convictions until reality hits close to home. Every page is absorbing; book clubs will love discussing this." - Booklist
"Magnificent . . . Winter gives us so much to chew on here--faith, adoption, sexuality, motherhood, abuse, autonomy--and the story warrants taking time to digest, to see how each moment informs and deepens another." - Buzzfeed
"Expansive stunner." - New York magazine
"This is a work of precise social realism, in which the intricate tableau of detail offers a backdrop for larger questions about morality, family, and obligation." - Vogue
"Jessica Winter's sophomore novel is Franzen-esque in its broad sweep of a Rust Belt family coming down off the highs of mid-century American capitalism. . . . She manages to elegantly and movingly write a novel about faith that doesn't proselytize or condemn." - Vulture
"Accomplished and rewarding . . . . Where The Fourth Child lives most vehemently is in the character of its problem child, Mirela. To her credit, Ms. Winter has done nothing to soften Mirela's broken edges, and her rages and demands seem somehow bigger and more real than the world that surrounds her." - Wall Street Journal
"In The Fourth Child by Jessica Winter, Jane becomes pregnant in high school, gets married, and is raising three children by the time most of her friends are finishing college. Years later, she falls in with a pro-life group and adopts a child just as her teenage daughter is coming of age. What happens next forces Jane--and readers--to ask big questions about how firmly held principles can affect a family." - Real Simple