With taut prose and a sharp eye for character, the book unfolds in alternating moments with the mother, father and brother of a young woman in the aftermath of her murder. Weeks of silent but collective anguish culminate in a fateful 30-hour period after a body is identified, leaving her Upper West Side family spiraling in different, dangerous directions: Her mother Carol, nearly comatose by day, becomes alive at night in a vigilante attempt to track down her daughter’s killer; her brother Ben, once “the good kid,” adopts her bad habits along with her former friends; and after failing to keep his family from fissuring, her Wall Street father Drew finally allows himself to crack.
I first read this novel on a plane ride, and remember a bit of high-altitude panic that we’d land before I could finish. (One of the only times I’ve sat patiently during disembarkment.) There are so many beautiful books about grief, but this may be the most suspenseful portrait I’ve read – and yet, a deep as the family’s darkness plunges, there’s a sweet and almost painful tenderness to each character, as if their love is just too much to hold intact.
Mauk is the author of the previous novels Spark and Orion’s Daughters, both published by Engine Books, and her short fiction and essays have appeared in The Literary Review, PANK, Wigleaf, Necessary Fiction, and Five Chapters, among other places. She studied creative writing at Oberlin College and received an MFA from Columbia University. She now lives on the Upper West Side with her husband and son.
Praise for THE SPECIAL POWER OF RESTORING LOST THINGS:
The Special Power of Restoring Lost Things is a compelling portrait of a family caught in a terrible limbo. Mauk draws her characters with insight and sensitivity, weaving a suspenseful tale of a young woman’s disappearance and the chaos and pain left in her wake. A chilling, beautiful novel.”—Cari Luna, author of The Revolution of Every Day
Can we ever let our children go? That’s the question that Courtney Elizabeth Mauk asks in her riveting novel The Special Power of Restoring Lost Things. Heartbreaking in its close observation of how each person’s grief is a world unto itself, Mauk’s novel plunges us into loss but also reveals—in tense, evocative prose—the ways grief connects us through its filaments of need. We learn what it’s like to miss something so intensely—through fragments of past conversations that mingle with the present and, in one exquisitely drawn scene, through the brushing of an absent daughter’s hair—that we can almost cross that thin, forbidden membrane that separates the living and the dead.”—Scott Blackwood, author of See How Small
A wise, moving, and suspenseful tale of a New York family struggling to cope in the aftermath of trauma, The Special Power of Restoring Lost Things reveals chilling complexities of maternal love and parental loss.”—Helen Klein Ross, author of What Was Mine
The Special Power of Restoring Lost Things deftly examines the emotional and psychological repercussions for a family left behind by a disappeared daughter. Courtney Elizabeth Mauk paints a powerful portrait of grief, dread, distrust, and—ultimately—redemption as mother, father, and brother try to make sense of a bereft world.”—Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, author of June and New York Times bestseller Bittersweet
Mauk writes in a smooth and stirring prose which brings the horror of grief and resentment acutely near…A sensitive portrayal—psychologically powerful but never overplayed, deftly conveying the human truth that not everything turns out OK.”—Kirkus Reviews
And join us at the New York City launch next Wednesday, October 5th, at the Dakota Bar.