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The Wasp Eater by William Lychack

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Review Excerpts

The Plain Dealer – December 31, 2005
“Through Daniel, this slim debut flawlessly shows a child's confusion and frustration. In devastating detail, the novel captures everything from the boy's silences to his uncalibrated destructive outbursts. At one point, Lychack describes Daniel feeling "as if he'd swallowed a bit of metal - a washer or a coin and someone was bringing it back up along his spine with a magnet." Readers might experience something similar witnessing this family's disintegration.”

New York Times Book Review – October 24, 2004
“In The Wasp Eater, William Lychack’s take on anguish of growing up, there’s no war, no murder, only a collection of small thefts and emotional betrayals. This spare, meticulous novel opens out like a poem, its deceptively casual images bearing a universe of weight... As Daniel learns, part of growing out of the hopelessness of childhood is learning to make choices that might hurt other people. Without risking that kind of hurt, no one is truly adult.”
-- Polly Shulman

Los Angeles Times – October 17, 2004
“[A] seductive novella… The Wasp Eater sounds more surreal than it is. At heart, it's a graceful and all-too-brief exploration of a family in crisis, of an uneasy father-son alliance and of a boy who finds himself on the cusp of adolescence with much more to digest than just an insect and a diamond ring.”
-- Mark Rozzo

Birmingham News – October 3, 2004
“How much betrayal is too much to bear? William Lychack, in his debut novel, The Wasp Eater, explores this question through the eyes of a young boy whose family is imploding … The Wasp Eater moves back and forth through generations... and in and out of an almost dreamy state of mind. It lays bare the extraordinary degrees of emotion that can color the most ordinary of lives. Ultimately, it makes for an exquisite, yet troubling book... beautifully and skillfully rendered.”
-- Susan Swagler

People Magazine (Three Stars) – September 20, 2004
“Lychack’s debut is an unpretentious, quiet-but-not whispery book that engages the reader through the eyes of 10-year-old Daniel, who suddenly discovers that his parents have split when his mother matter-of-factly announces that his father won’t be home for dinner… The simplicity and clarity of Lychack’s writing are effective in their precise portrayal of a child’s mind and the powerlessness of childhood. The writing is so vivid that the reader, stuck in Daniel’s thoughts, can sometimes feel as helpless and clueless as the boy. But…the book is very short, exactly right for this modest, well-executed tale.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune – September 19, 2004
“Sweet and poignant... In the end, the chips of Bob's infidelity and Anna's bitterness fall where they may, and their family's destiny is reshaped. The adult Daniel surely makes peace with his parents' fissure. But The Wasp Eater isn't about retrospective analysis and wisdom from experience. It's about being in the moment itself. With his sensory memories of childhood, Lychack drops us in Daniel's moment and lets us feel briefly like a lost and heartbroken little boy.”
-- Cherie Parker

San Diego Union Tribune – August 22, 2004
“Poignant... Lychack finds new ways to describe feelings too achingly familiar to anyone whose parents ever delivered similar news... Although Lychack enters the perspective of all three family members, he lets Daniel's story fill most of the pages... This simple story remains painful: Parents leave, a child is suspended between them, and no one will ever win, not even if you wait decades to tally up the final score.”
-- Seth Taylor

USA Today – August 19, 2004
“In The Wasp Eater, William Lychack's deeply moving first novel, we watch as a 10-year-old boy navigates the emotional minefield in which his family spends its last days together... In Lychack's hands, the Cusslers' plight is poignant and sad, but not depressing because of its very ordinariness; with small variations, it happens to many families. He has unwavering compassion for all of his characters… Most important, he portrays Daniel with such exquisite precision that the book succeeds not only as a story but also as a perfect window into a boy's troubled heart.
-- Anne Stephenson

San Francisco Chronicle – August 15, 2004
“In William Lychak's first novel, the child is witness. Daniel, a 10-year-old living in New England, sees everything, processes it, trying to grasp the mysterious, mistaken ways of adults: his mother, Anna; his father, Bob; and his grown cousin Joelyn... The point of view is omniscient, with access to everyone's mind. Even so, everything seems filtered through the child, as if he channels the whole family. Perhaps this is how it feels to be a son whose parents are unstable yet almost within reach, if only he can love them enough.”
-- Marianne Rogoff

BookPage – August 2004
“In William Lychack’s first novel, the protagonists are antagonists, wrestling each other for a shot at happiness, whatever that ambiguous descriptor might mean... Lychack writes with an eye for nuanced detail on multiple levels. Emotional trauma is mirroed by mundane predicaments, and spiritual scars are reflected by physical aberrations. More than a simple narrative on the breakdown of the family, The Wasp Eater is a powerful treatise on the devastation wrought when a person refuses to forgive, the bond that ties sons to fathers, and the life that sometimes comes through death.”
-- Mike Parker

Kirkus (Starred Review) – July 15, 2004
“A heart-stopping first novel... Anna is clear: Her 20 year-old-marriage to Bob is over, done, kaput... The sudden rupture leaves their only child, ten-year old Daniel, feeling miserably torn… It’s tempting to call this a small gem, except there is nothing small about a work that glows with such tenderness for its three leads.”

Library Journal (Starred Review) – June 15, 2004
“Just when the dysfunctional family drama seems entirely wrung out, along comes a book so freshly original that it seems to have invented the genre. What’s so remarkable here is the understatedness, the quietly intense writing carefully containing more emotion than many louder novels have to show. Original, too, is the impulse to heal rather than to break away--however mixed the outcome... The book itself is bitter-sweet, small-scale yet deeply affecting-not a symphony but rather a Beethoven quartet. Highly recommended.”
-- Barbara Hoffert

Booklist – June 1, 2004
“[A] beautifully understated, delicately crafted debut Lychack's theme of a broken family is a common one, but his photographic eye for detail sets this first novel apart… The small towns they visit, the stains on motel walls, the half-kidding, half-serious way Bob communicates with Daniel--all come alive with Lychack's deft telling.”

 

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