“A teenager’s psychotic break unhinges her family in this sure-footed first novel.” —The New York Times Book Review
A New York Times Editors’ Choice
Winner of the Kate Chopin Writing Award
Winner of the Ken/NAMI Award
One day, Angie Voorster—diligent student, all-star swimmer, and ivy-league bound high school senior—dives to the bottom of a pool and stays there. In that moment, everything the Voorster family believes they know about each other changes.
Katharine Noel’s extraordinary debut illuminates the fault lines in one family’s relationships, as well as the complex emotional ties that bind them together.
With grace and precision rarely seen in a first novel, Noel guides her reader through a world where love is imperfect, and where longing for an imagined ideal can both destroy one family’s happiness and offer them redemption. Halfway House introduces a powerful, eloquent new literary voice.
“An eloquent literary performance . . . [A] memorable first novel with a uniquely powerful grace.” —The Boston Globe
A New Hampshire family comes apart at the seams when Angie Voorster, an ostensibly perfect high school senior and swim team star falls off the edge of mental stability. Among those affected are Pieter, Angie's emotionally inarticulate father; her mother, Jordana, 15 years Pieter's junior and seeking solace in the arms of a younger man; and Angie's younger brother, Luke, who becomes his sister's keeper. Debut novelist Noel brings these characters to life, exposing every blemish and desire, and revealing them in all their messy humanness. Over the next several years, bipolar Angie struggles to adjust to life derailed by mental illness, ever-changing prescriptions and their side effects: "She couldn't even lay claim to her own thoughts. Was she the thoughts she had on meds, when her brain was as it should be? Or was she the thoughts she had off meds, her brain as it really was?" Noel unflinchingly constructs scenes with a cinematographer's eye and injects humor into a world of chronic insomnia and suicide attempts. She resists sensationalizing or romanticizing mental illness, and with sympathetic knowledge of the subject (she worked at a mental health home), her keen insights are spot-on.