A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR • A “furious and addictive new novel” (The New York Times) about mothers and daughters, and one woman's midlife reckoning as she flees her suburban life.
“A virtuosic, singular and very funny portrait of a woman seeking sanity and purpose in a world gone mad.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Riddled with insights into aging, womanhood, and discontent, Wayward is as elegant as it is raw, and almost as funny as it is sad.” —Philadelphia Inquirer
“A comic, vital new novel.” —The New Yorker
Samantha Raymond's life has begun to come apart: her mother is ill, her teenage daughter is increasingly remote, and at fifty-two 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, mortality, and, in this case, the state of our unraveling nation.
When she falls in love with a beautiful, decrepit house in a hardscrabble neighborhood in Syracuse, she buys it on a whim and flees her suburban life—and her family—as she grapples with how to be a wife, a mother, and a daughter, in a country that is coming apart at the seams.
Dana Spiotta's Wayward is a stunning novel about aging, about the female body, and about female complexity in contemporary America. Probing and provocative, brainy and sensual, it is a testament to our weird times, to reforms and resistance and utopian wishes, and to the beauty of ruins.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
If you’re looking for a novel that will somehow break your heart and mend it too, Wayward is for you. Dana Spiotta tells the story of Sam: a middle-aged woman who one day blows up her comfortable suburban life, purchasing a charming but dilapidated bungalow in downtown Syracuse and leaving the home she’s shared with her husband Matt and teenage daughter Ally. Sam is a hot mess, but she’s also extremely relatable, fretting about complicated topics like racial injustice, feminism, homelessness, and aging, and thirsting for a life full of purpose and connection. As she reckons with the silent treatment she receives from her daughter and confronts her fears about losing her own mother—a charming character who’s almost too good to be true—we’re treated to a journey that’s funny, moving, and surprising. A side story about a controversial suffragette who once inhabited the historical home where Sam works as a docent underlines the fact that domestic life has always been tricky for passionate and curious women. This book is a layered treat.
Spiotta (Innocence and Others) draws up a love letter to Syracuse, N.Y., in this wonderfully mischievous and witty story of a 53-year-old woman who flees the suburbs for the city. In 2017, Sam Raymond divides her time between working part-time at a historical house for fictional suffragette and Oneida Community member Claire Loomis, and her "bored-housewife pastime of attending open houses." After swooning over a run-down bungalow designed by a locally treasured architect, she buys the house and leaves her husband, Matt, and 16-year-old daughter, Ally, without much of an explanation. Matt assumes she's leaving as part of her distraught reaction to Trump being elected president; it's true that Sam's outrage has peaked, and she's been going to meetings with other enraged women, which Spiotta renders with ingenious complexity. When a pair of younger women confronts a gathering of older white feminists ("All I know is that people our age, queer people, people of color—we didn't elect him," one of the young women says), Sam's reaction is mixed, as she feels caught between two generations. Sam then meets a self-described "Half Hobo" from an online "Crones" group, who advises Sam to resign herself to the coming apocalypse. But Sam still wants her life to have meaning, and she wants to reconnect with Ally, whose story of a secret affair with a 29-year-old man emerges in a parallel narrative. As Sam reckons with how Syracuse's history is viewed by a younger generation ("let's salvage, not savage"), Spiotta pulls off a surprising dive into the Loomis story, which informs Sam's relationship with her own mother and with Ally while shading in Sam's interest in local lore. This is a knockout.