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Halfway House

3.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  662 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
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 tha ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 8th 2007 by Grove Press (first published February 6th 2006)
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H: Books, characters, authors, etc
230th out of 239 books — 9 voters
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116th out of 218 books — 22 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,195)
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Adrienne Kiser
Mar 10, 2011 Adrienne Kiser rated it really liked it
Because of my own diagnosis of bipolar disorder, it is very hard for me to read books dealing with the issue and not be judgmental of the depictions. The result is that I had a hard time separating the fiction of the story from the actual reality of mental illness. If something is depicted in a way I don't feel is "right", it's extremely difficult for me to look past it. Unfortunately for me, there IS no objective reality when it comes to mental illness so I can't claim to be definitively right ...more
Sally Whitehead
Sep 04, 2011 Sally Whitehead rated it it was amazing
An incredibly assured debut, "Halfway House" isn't, to my mind at least, the story of a teenage girl being diagnosed with bi-polar, as many reviewers have suggested. This to me utterly reduces this brilliantly observed chronicle of middle class suburban American family life.

It takes a very talented writer to be able to so acutely recognise and depict the minutae of relationships in such a real and compelling way.

One of Noel's greatest strengths is that she DOESN'T focus solely on the mental hea
...more
Aaron
Oct 29, 2008 Aaron rated it really liked it
The Voorsters are a typical American family. The patriarch, Pieter, is an immigrant from The Netherlands, but he found his home here while studying cello in college. Pieter never made it as a professional cello player, but he did manage to find true love with his professor's daughter Jordana, a beautiful woman fourteen years his junior. Together, they have two children. The youngest Luke is wandering, somewhat unsure of what he wants to do with his life. The oldest Angie is a talented Olympic-le ...more
Jessica
Dec 03, 2007 Jessica rated it liked it
Recommends it for: the diagnosed, the diagnosers, and various other involved third parties
This is not the kind of book I normally read unless I have to, and this was no exception (it was assigned -- incidentally -- by a person with severe psychological problems, but that's really not the point here).

Anyway, this was a surprisingly solid little (well, biggish) family drama, which begins when an overachieving teenager experiences a manic episode culminationg in in an apparent psychotic break in the middle of her swim meet. The oldest daughter of a mother who works at an abortion clinic
...more
Carla
Nov 13, 2008 Carla rated it it was amazing
I'm surprised to see so many negative reviews of this book. While many people deemed it "too depressing," I didn't think so at all; to me, it was very real. It's the story of how a teenage daughter's mental illness affects her family. Told from a third-person point of view from each of the four family memebers, the writing is so full of intricate, nearly poetic details that I was saddened to leave these characters. To me, the story's focus was that no relationship is perfect--brother/sister, mot ...more
Marnie
Jul 07, 2011 Marnie rated it liked it
This book started out with such great promise. I even commented to some one that it made me feel the overwhelming sense of mania with the words rushing and colliding to get out. But then it started to drag a little and it took me a while to finish. It wasn't a book I'd stay up all night to read. Plus, it was an advance reading copy and uncorrected proof marked nit for resale (I guess that is why it was on clearance). There were a lot of spelling errors that stopped the flow if writing. Since I o ...more
Mistydawn Thrash


I am well aware of the statistics and numbers of homeless people that suffer from mental illness. I'm well aware of the percentage of patients in the state hospitals and jails that are mentally unstable. I'm versed enough in life to know that medications don't cure everything and that life is sometimes very cruel. Reading this book did not enlighten me to the injustices of the imbalance of mind but, then, I never felt as if that was the purpose. Many books that delve into this subject (fiction o
...more
Mom
Apr 08, 2008 Mom rated it really liked it
Shelves: must-reads
Novel about how a teenage girl struggles with her mental illness (bipolar) and the effects it has on her family as well as her hopes and dreams for a sane life.
Lulu
Jan 22, 2015 Lulu rated it it was amazing


Beautiful character development. The Voorster family is laid out in splendid detail. You feel like you are there with them as Angie, the high school senior, takes a dive (literally and figuratively) at a swim meet. Angie is brilliant and a master swimmer unlike her brother who is very good but sort of flies under the radar.

We meet Pieter, the cellist who loves his wife, Jordana. They live in New Hampshire and all seems to be well until Angie falls down the well of mania which leads to repeated h
...more
Karen
Sep 20, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
This book captured my interest immediately. Overall, it was a very absorbing book that kept me captivated to ALMOST the end. The author chooses to focus on the brother at the end of the book - when I do not believe he became an important character until one third into the story. I did not feel I was brought to closure on the family as a whole. And while the story leaves the main character, Angie, in a good place in her life, I did not feel a sense of "full circle"; rather, I still felt that Ang ...more
Lynne
May 08, 2012 Lynne rated it liked it
Angie Voorster has everything going for her: great grades, star of the swim team, a senior perched on the edge of budding greatness. But then she has a psychotic episode, one that spins her life out of control and undoes the fragile threads holding her family together.

This book traces the effects of manic-depressive disorder on not only the one diagnosed, but on the family of the one suffering from the mental instability. Mostly from chapter to chapter, the point of view shifts focus, and we ge
...more
Jennifer
Jul 16, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it
This book is a story about a family with a member suffering from a mental illness. This story is not
convoluted. It is close to the real thing. My brother has a mental illness. The struggles are different but the story is the same. Mental illness affects everyone. This story just shows that we all can be committed if we have a tiny slip but most of us are able to get it together so it doesn't happen.
Theryn Fleming
Halfway House is the story of what happens to an "ordinary" family after the daughter develops a mental illness. (I say "ordinary," because I didn't find them that ordinary to begin with.) It's about how easily a seemingly perfect family unit can fall apart when one thing (albeit a big thing) changes. The writing is great; the descriptions are vivid and the characters do seem authentic. It felt like a world that had been percolating in someone's mind for a long time. Still... I never really foun ...more
Erica
Jun 21, 2014 Erica rated it really liked it
While this book was very simple in its telling, it was gripping all the same. The story of Angie Voorster's descent into bi-polar disorder was bolstered by the lives of her family and how her mental illness affected them. I really liked the author's writing style- I felt like I was in the book. Sad, moving and triumphant, this book is well worth the read.
Michael
Oct 24, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Angie Voorster is a smart charismatic, Ivy League bond, high school student, who resides in New Hampshire. Despite her bipolar personality, her family has stuck by you through the thick and thin and seeks her approval The members of her family responds differently to her : Pieter is preoccupied with his work as a cellist, oblivious to his wife affair Jordanna, with a younger man. Luke her brother is the only one she bonds with, though they argue about what is right for their life. The Voorsters ...more
Lori Weir
Jun 03, 2012 Lori Weir rated it really liked it
I decided to read this book when I saw a glowing review on the cover from Ann Packer (I am a big fan of Ann Packer). This novel did not disappoint.

Noel describes the repeated roller coaster rides that define the life of manic/depressives realistically and without undue sentiment. It seems that the book would be depressive, but it is just the opposite. It is insightful and captures the compassion and anguish that this girls family feels as it struggles to cope with her illness. The entire Voorste
...more
Blaire
Aug 08, 2007 Blaire rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I expected to like this book better than I did. The subject is manic depression and the effect on a family when the daughter falls victim to it. I'm sure it is well-researched and a realistic depiction from the point of view of the person affected. The main character, Angie, was pretty well drawn, I thought. My problem with the book is that I found her family members and other supporting characters to be flat and uninteresting. Their circumstances changed over the course of the book, but they di ...more
Jennifer Boyer
Feb 19, 2014 Jennifer Boyer rated it it was amazing
I loved this. It was so good. Characters are all complicated and well developed.
Aeron
Jul 10, 2009 Aeron rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful novel of a family's struggle with bi-polar disorder. Katharine Noel captures such real, intimate moments in her fiction, without stretching things out of proportion. Her depiction of mental illness - both the highs and the lows - was realistic, but the story is so much more than just how a girl deals with bi-polar disorder. It's a coming of age story, a relationship story, and a story of a family growing up. Each of the characters is developed into a whole person that you can ...more
Kt
Jul 11, 2013 Kt rated it really liked it
I LOVED reading this book! The subject matter of psychological disorders and what it does to not only the patient but everyone who they interact with was portrayed flawlessly. The style of writing was beautiful, and I love a book that changes perspective with every chapter. The characters were so human and relateable, and I felt for every single one of them in some way. While there was no great climax in action, the interactions between characters is what really drove the story, and it was amazi ...more
Byethebays
Jan 01, 2016 Byethebays rated it it was amazing
Excellent. Family affected by bipolar daughter and sister
Judi
Feb 24, 2015 Judi rated it liked it
Good insights for bi-polar. Good characters
Elizabeth
Jul 18, 2008 Elizabeth rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult-fiction
Another random buy at Barnes & Noble. It starts out light enough, but quickly dives into the depths of despair. It’s the story of a 17-year-old girl who comes apart at the seams and is eventually diagnosed as highly bipolar with suggested schizophrenic tendencies. The story revolves around her and her family, and what her disorders do to their relationships. It’s always dark, always depressing, and while well-written and fairly engaging, I just wanted it to be over with so I could move on to ...more
Elaine
Jul 19, 2008 Elaine rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008, july
The strength of this book comes from the raw depictions of mental illness. The reader really gets a strong sense of not only how it feels to live with a mental illness but also how it feels to have a loved one suffering with a mental illness. On the down side, the time line of the story is hard to pin down, there is very little real resolution at the end, and some pieces of the story do not seem to be tied into the progression of the plot at all.
Danika Michelle Wilkes
Nov 28, 2015 Danika Michelle Wilkes rated it really liked it
This book really hit home.... Suffering from bi polar myself it was comforting to know I'm not the only one... I'm not alone
Lianne
Nov 15, 2009 Lianne rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2009
This book was a poignant, raw, and hopeful at a family coping with a daughter with a severe mental illness. There were moments where I could really feel what the characters were experiencing and I could see why the family was being ripped apart at the seams. Noel chose to tell the story from multiple perspectives, which I liked, but did want to have more from Angie's perspective in terms of what she was experiencing.
Monique Caton
Nov 29, 2012 Monique Caton rated it liked it
The first 2 parts of this novel were incredible! I felt like the struggles of the main characters were real and tangible... By the end of part 2 to part 3 I felt lost. There were parts randomly that I felt were unnecessary and a little weird. Had there been a resolution at the end of part 2 I would have been happy.. It dragged at the end.
Lisa
Dec 19, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it
Somewhat troubling....a young girl's struggle with bi-polar disorder and how it affects her family. Her illness takes a toll on each family member and they all cope in different ways and drift apart. I felt the characters were detailed and you felt like you knew them..I vacillated back and forth on which character I liked the best.
Tara Daly
Jun 06, 2007 Tara Daly rated it really liked it
Loved this novel and thought it was overall very well-written. I think anyone who is or knows someone with bipolar or manic tendencies would particularly like it, doubly so if you grew up in New England. Only drawback is that it got a little long and I think that some of the characters are over-developed in the wrong places.
Julia
Jul 13, 2008 Julia rated it really liked it
Although portions of this book were disturbing, they also rang true. The characters were flawed and therefore real. Noel's descriptions of the side effects of the drugs prescribed for mental illness helped me understand why so many mentally ill patients often stop taking their medication. I was fascinated.
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“Oh, she missed herself. It felt like she used to miss Abe, when he was at Harvard and then after they broke up. No, deeper than that: the way she sometimes missed her parents when she was a child and had slept over at a friend's. She was homesick for herself, a longing so deep and unanswerable that for a moment it took her breath away.” 1 likes
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