The Center of Winter
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The Center of Winter

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  856 ratings  ·  88 reviews
At the center of winter, in Motley, Minnesota, Arnold Schiller gives in to the oppressive season that reigns outside and also to his own inner demons -- he commits suicide, leaving a devastated family in his wake.

Claire Schiller, wife and mother, takes shelter from the emotional storm with her husband's parents but must ultimately emerge from her grief and help her two you...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published February 1st 2005)
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This book has been near and dear to my heart. I am unhappy to have finished it. It both warms you and breaks your heart. Davey and Kate are six yrs old and the best of friends. Esau is Kate's twelve yr old brother who seems to have Bipolar Disorder. He has his "darks" and is hospitalized, institutionalized and eventually brought home and stabilizes. His mother says he has the "sick-sads" that he quite possibly inherited from his father who eventually kills himself. Kate and Davey are inseparable...more
The Center of Winter is the story of a father's suicide and the way it reverberates through his family for the next year. Told from the perspective of all the ones left behind (his wife, son, and young daughter), the novel is by turns excruciatingly sad, dull, painful, and joyful. It's the story of a family coming back to life after the unthinkable has happened, and not just surviving but eventually thriving.

I found myself falling in love with every character in the book, even the man who did th...more
Chelsey Clammer
Damn. This is such a well written novel and engaging story. It centers around a father's suicide-but thorugh her writing talent, Hornbacher makes the novel incredibly wonderful and not at all depressing. The story is told from 3 different viewpoints--the spunky 6-year-old daughter's, the mentally ill 12-year-old son's, and the widow's. The construction of the narratives moves the story along and makes you feel like you are a part of their family. It's the best novel I've read in a REALLY long ti...more
I'm not sure how much I really liked this book. I couldn't put it down, but I ended it feeling ambivalent. I think my expectations may have been unrealistically high since I liked Hornbacher's memoir so much. This book was interesting, and sometimes it was incredible, but it was also uncomfortably bleak at some points, and the writing was sometimes awkward and thick (there's no need for someone to shriek on every page) and a few of the characters got on my nerves. Despite those complaints, still...more
Kate Pittman
If you read Marya Horbacher, don't expect it to be all sunshine and roses. I adore her writing. She's a person who has experienced a lot of pain in her life through her battles with eating disorders, addiction, and mental illness. When she writes about these subjects, it comes from a place of true personal understanding and that brings so much more reality to her words.
The other two books of hers I have read are Wasted and Madness. Both are excellent memoirs. This is her first venture into ficti...more
Liz Filippone
Feb 26, 2008 Liz Filippone rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This was truely a beautiful story. There are sad times with this family, but brighter times as well. The author's description and comparison of winter and life is so on! Since it takes place in northern minnesota, you really feel the cold in the winter and heat in the summer. I loved how the mom, son and daughter narrated the story in different sections. It really told you from their point of view what was going on. I felt each section was in good length and I'm sure it was a hard thing to do fo...more
Lisa Heath
Jul 10, 2008 Lisa Heath rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who needs a little cry.
Recommended to Lisa by: I saw somewhere that my friend Valerie was reading it.
I haven't read "Wasted." I am glad. This was my first MH book.

I was ill-prepared for what the book centers around [death.] But once I started reading .... I put the other books I was reading away and focused on "The Center of Winter."

I cried. And cried. Cried.

Loved it. Was mad that I finished it so quickly. Because it was good. But I wasn't ready for it to endddd.

Thank god the ending didn't make me cry more. Couldn't have dealt with it.

Debra Delk
Not quite a 4 but definitely better than a 3. I liked the book but found it to be a bit too dark for my taste. For the most part, I liked the way it was written. There was a richness to way she describes mood with silence having a shape and absence filling a space. She forces you to feel the effect environment has on memories and behavior. Her descriptions of weather were also very good. You felt the warmth of a house when you walked in or the uncomfortable heat of the summer. However, I had som...more
Andrea Arbit
This book was hard to read because it captured grief so completely. Consequently, it took me more time to get through than a typical book, and it's taken me longer to getting around to this review. It's a heavy book. It's really, really good, but it's heavy.

When the patriarch of a family commits suicide in his small, cold, Minnesota town, it naturally effects the lives of his wife, 12-year-old son, and 6-year-old daughter. We get to read each of their perspectives.

Claire, the widow, feels respo...more
I was most impressed by the author's ability to make me really know these characters on a very in depth level. Wonderful character development, moved me to tears on a few occasions, and explored mental illness in a very honest manner. I really enjoyed reading this!
Marya Hornbacher has broken away from non-fiction and created a world that completely draws you in from the very first sentence. This book is heartbreaking, but leaves you sad to finish it as well. I highly recommend it.
This is not the book to read if you’re looking for a happy story. Which isn’t to say that it doesn’t end well, but it’s not going to leave you feeling uplifted and light.

Set in small town Minnesota, this is the story of a family. A mother who never quite wanted to be, a father who can’t quite get it right, and isn’t happy enough with what he has, a son who gets lost inside himself, and a daughter just trying to keep up. The story is told from ever side, each looking a little different.

Claire spe...more
As a Hornbacher fan, I read The 'Centre of Winter' because I loved Hornbacher's memoirs 'Wasted' and 'Madness'. The novel shows Hornbacher's continued brilliance in describing events and characters so you feel as though you are there. The pace of the novel is much slower than that of the memoirs and includes a lot of dialogue. Characters in her own life seem to emerge as fictional characters in the novel. I wonder whether the two children Kate and Esau represent the two sides of Hornbacher as a...more
Oh, this is hard. First of all, I went into this book biased by Wasted. When someone's autobiography is that uncomfortable, and I come out the end kind of not liking her a whole lot, but just maybe, still a bit fascinated, that's a tough place to be in when reading a debut novel. I'm deeply ambivalent about Marya Hornbacher, and I'm equally deeply ambivalent about The Center of Winter.

I'm a total sucker for precocious kids in tough situations. And I did love the children, the ultra-precocious si...more
This is a story about how one family copes with death and grief within the family. Told from the mother, the daughter, and the sons' point of view.

I thought it was a little boring at times...


"When you're six, you don't know about what happens at the end. Because the world revolves around you when you're six, you assume the end must be catastrophic, because it would be catastrophic to you. The end would be dramatic and loud.
But what really happens at the end is that you sit down and have...more
Aliki Barnstone
This book is pitch-perfect and utterly charming. The novel is narrated in the voices of the children and wife of a suicide, which would seem like a dismal subject. But Marya Hornbacher is a master story-teller, who has great insight into family dynamics and who is more interested in the internal lives of her characters and the redemptive power of love than she is in judgement. She finds the the good, the beautiful, the loving, and the comic in every scene, no matter how dire the circumstances. I...more
I've read two of Hornbacher's non-fiction books and enjoyed both, so I've been looking forward to this fiction debut for awhile - I was not at all disappointed. Hornbacher sticks with what she knows and does well - mental illness and dysfunctional families (Hornbacher's two non-fiction books are about her struggles with eating disorders and mental health), and while I wasn't surprised at how well she captured the experiences of Esau, I loved that she did equally well in the sections narrated by...more
It's not that the author is a bad writer - it's more like she has never interacted with actual human beings. Not one conversation in this book felt authentic. I've never met six year olds who talk or behave like Kate and Davey. But it was a problem with every character in the book. It got so annoying and unsettling that I finally had to give up.
Missy Kavanaugh
After reading Hornbacher's Madness: A Bipolar Life, I couldn't wait to check out her fiction. It's exquisite.

The characters are delightful--especially 6-year-old Kate, who handles her family's quirky drama with forthright grace and humor. Hornbacker weaves her story through each character's POV in distinct voices; each character offering his or her outlook on the situation at hand. It's imaginative, honest and clever.

I savored every word.
KJ Lipkey
I have NO idea why it took me so long to read this book! It's gooooood. I suspect that it is one of those books that people either like or just flat out don't like as it seems as though all the books I feel this way about are in that polarizing catagory. I LOVED the characters! All of them had such personality and they all seemed to fit together well. There were just enough characters (not too many and not too few) that you got a sense of a community in the book - where you felt like you were in...more
Before I read this book, I saw a review stating that this book was a huge disappointment when compared to Hornbacher's first book, Wasted. The reviewer went so far as to say that she couldn't even get through this book. So based on that, my expectations weren't too high. And maybe because of that, I enjoyed this book and thought it was a quick read. But I do have to warn anyone reading this book that it's pretty heavy at times - it's about how the remaining members of a family deal with the fath...more
Di questa autrice ho letto, molti anni fa, Sprecata e ne conservo un bel ricordo, sebbene si tratti di un libro molto duro e spigoloso.
Al centro dell'inverno è il primo romanzo della Hornbacher e la prima impressione è quella di una donna che sa usare le parole, che sa descrivere il dolore nelle sue molteplici sfaccettature (e questo, secondo me, è un dono per uno scrittore). La storia è altamente drammatica da lasciare pochissimi spiragli di speranza. E' un racconto talmente triste da risultar...more
Thoroughly enjoyed this novel! Especially loved how the story is narrated by the three surviving family members; 6 year old Kate, wife Claire and Esau who also suffers from the "sad sickness" and demons of his own. the epilogue by Kate was so heartwarming that I wished the story would never end. :)
I thought this would be a long slog of a read, given the subject matter and the first two paragraphs describing the setting, but I finished it in a day. It's not a happy story, by any means, but it has cute moments and flows smoothly after a rocky start.
I picked this book up on a whim because I had read Wasted and enjoyed it; I'm glad I did. I always like books that have multiple narrators; I like being able to get different perspectives on the same story. The parts told through the eyes of the children, particularly 12-year-old Esau suffering from bi-polar, are the best. This is a fairly quick read but it definitely packs a bunch. Hornbacher does a great job of painting a picture of what small-town life in Minnesota is like.

If you liked Hornb...more
I thought this book was just okay. It started off faster and then just got slower and slower for me from then on. I felt like there wasn't any giant climax. Sure the Dad comitted suicide but we knew that from reading the back of the book. I also thought it was strange how Kate seemed to go from speaking from a child's perspective to an adults within a chapter. Kate and Davey seemed much more mature than 6 year olds as well. They didn't seem young enough or something. On a postivie note, I the wr...more
Flash--don't read this is you are feeling at all depressed or down in the dumps. It is a very heavy emotional read. As usual, hornbacher has a unique ability to cature the emotional components of human psyche. Not as descriptive as her first novel, which was one of the reasons I adore Wasted so much. Nonetheless, It is a quick read and worth the time, if only to explore the heavy side of life. I must note I am biased to the author, because Wasted was such an excellent, excellent book. Had I neve...more
yeah, I love Wasted and made a note to read this. I was afriad it might be a bit "heavy", but once I started it - I couldn't put it down. I have at a tendency to enjoy books about "crazy" people or those suffering from mental "disorders", so the depression and the "darks" that affect this family were of interest to me. It's a novel, not a memoir, though it kinda feels like it could be a memoir. The father kills himself, the son is instututionalized. The wife/mother and daughter/sister hang on. T...more
Jenna Mazur
sooo good this book came out of nowhere and it's sad and unpredictable and Esau is like my fave litereary character it's so tragic and beautiful ugh
Since the only other work Marya Hornbacher has put out has been along the memoir vein, I was very curious as to what her novel would be like. I was not disappointed. Though I was skeptical at first about the tsory having multiple narrators, my skepticism quickly faded. The characters are finely sculpted in terms of both personality and development. The setting is cast and retained remarkably well. Everything about this novel and how it unfolds is believable and brilliant.

I sincerely envy Hornba...more
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Marya Hornbacher published her first book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia (HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.), in 1998, when she was twenty-three. What started as a crazy idea suggested by a writer friend became the classic book that has been published in fourteen languages, is taught in universities and writing programs all over the world, and has, according to the thousands of letters Mar...more
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“We were at another funeral party. I wasn’t sure who had died this time, but it was a suicide, and upsetting because it was completely out of season. No on killed themselves in summertime. It was rude.” 9 likes
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