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Winner of the National Book Award
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Winner of the National Book Award

3.36 of 5 stars 3.36  ·  rating details  ·  1,568 ratings  ·  279 reviews
Set in Rhode Island, Winner of the National Book Award tells the story of twins who could not be more different. Abigail Mather is a woman of passionate sensual and sexual appetites, while her sister, the book-loving local librarian Dorcas, lives a quiet life of the mind. But when the sisters are sought out by the predatory and famous poet, Guy DeVilbiss, who introduces th ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 28th 2003 by St. Martin's Press (first published September 5th 2000)
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This afternoon I was getting ready to go to a dinner party up in Riverdale (for non–New Yorkers, that's about as far from Brooklyn as, say, Rhode Island). I was late, as I always am. And as I was about to dash out the door, I had a moment of honest-to-goodness panic when I realized that my purse was so light because it didn't have a book in it. That's right, I finished The Alcoholic this morning, and I had nothing particular picked out to read next, and there I was facing two hour-plus subway ri ...more
MJ Nicholls
In most twin-sister pairings, there is the one who rides down the motorhighway in a Cadillac with her pantaloons on her head, hoot-yelling ‘Born to Run’ while her rock-drummer husband shoots hot loot into his eyelids, and the one who stays indoors eating square sausage listening to the lovely Martin Jarvis read from AS Byatt’s latest novel. My own twin sisters are no different: Xanthippe likes nothing better than to roar along the Ayr-to-Coatbridge byroads in her Citroen 2CV screaming along to t ...more
Griffin Betz
"Winner" is a book that suffers from bad advertising. I was promised a black comedy. "Riotous. Hugely funny..." and "The funniest novel I have read, possibly ever" appear right there on the cover.

The book was certainly sarcastic. It was caustic and biting but there was very little in the book that I could laugh at in good conscience. (And honestly, during reading, I wasn't inclined to do so.) In many ways, it was more like a car wreck on the highway - horrific but engrossing - than anything else
Sep 01, 2008 Laura rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Myself. Silly me.
Perverse of me, I know, but I don't find gang rape, anorexia, and domestic violence to be the stuff of comedy--- and yet this book is trumpeted on its cover as " Riotous... hugely funny..., " [Janet Maslin], "The funniest novel I have read, possibly ever..." [Augusten Burroughs.] "Hilarious black comedy..." The Miami Herald. {From this we may deduce that blurbers don't really read the books they describe.) Oh, this book is black, all right, and it tries to be funny. It's a kind of Very Depressed ...more
Jim Coughenour
Jincy Willett, author of the short story collection Jenny and the Jaws of Life — which includes "Ask Betty," possibly the funniest short story ever written — published this novel in 2003.

Maybe I should be cautious about recommending this book. I suggested it to my sister, who in turn suggested it to her women's reading group — some of whom, after reading the first chapters, were ready to riot. And as you can see from the other reviews, it's not everyone's cup of tea.

So yes, it's "politically inc
Cindy C
Recommended from a list of "Best Books You've Never Heard Of" from the New York Times.

Whoever recommended this particular book for the list was way way off the mark.

This is also the book that made me realize that I should go to the library more often to avoid wasting money on horrible, pointless books. The author promises interesting, wicked characters, but only provides brief, shadowy outlines. This book has the plot of a Margaret Atwood or Oates novel without the layers of complexity or any
The inimitable narrator, Dorcas (Dork) of this…well, fable, really… says,
“[Many postmodern writers] have little respect for character. [They] carry on as though the human personality were some trivial thing, and it’s not, it’s not, it’s everything. It’s the great mystery…We can make predictions about our own behavior based on what we’ve done in the past, and how we feel about it now, and what niggling horrors we come awake to at three o’clock in the morning, but they’re only predictions.
We don’
Paradoxically, ironically, or just plain unfortunately, I actually found this book disappointing at first because of the TOTES OTT blurbs on the front of the book. "The funniest novel I have read, possibly ever," exuberates Augusten Burroughs. Well, Augusten needs to get out more—or, more accurately, stay in reading more.

Despite this lackluster start, as I got into the novel I liked it better and better. Dorcas and Abigail are the classic Gothic characters, Merricat and Constance if they were in
Truly excellent novel! I'm baffled that I have never heard of Jincy Willett before now. I shall quote another reviewer who wrote, "This book is spectacularly wonderful, luridly wonderful, gaspingly wonderful, too wonderful, maybe, to even review." I, too, have no idea how to describe what is wonderful about this novel without taking away from its wonderfulness.*

*My only complaint was that the ending was no fun and felt somewhat contrived, but I confess that I am rarely satisfied with the endings
If you pick this up to read it--read it with a sense of wry humor!
It's hyperbolic, sarcastic, and is meant to make fun of some of the very books that win the book awards.
Why didn't I give it more stars? Well, although I think I understand the 'poking-fun-at-a-genre humor', I didn't think it did the best job at it. Too many people read it who didn't get the sarcasm (me included at first) and so I don't think Willett did the novel she must have meant to.
It had some interesting parts and I could relate to the librarian's love of books, but overall I REALLY didn't like it. I was pleased by the intersting writing as it started. Soon into it, I got to a chapter all about someone's sexual perversions and I knew it was a mistake, but I had to see how it ended -my shortcoming when it comes to fiction- so I read the rest of the book- skimming and reading.

My advice: just don't start it.
Ken Montville
I really should have put this in the "I stopped reading" category but I hated it so much that I felt I needed to write a review.

It is one of the most depressing books I've read, in memory. First, it revolves around a plot of massive domestic violence. Sad, in it's own right, Sadder when it is the main plot device for a supposed satire or comedy of manners of a New England "Yankee" town and family.

This book fails, utterly, at being the least bit funny or even satirical (and I will admit to not b
Brittany Larson
I have many thoughts about this book. Here are some of them, in no particular order:

1. I ended up liking this book a lot more than I thought I would. In fact, it wasn't until about two-thirds of the way through that it really started to strike a note with me. Then it became, in a way, brilliant.

2. Many people have categorized this book as "humor." That is absolutely baffling to me. Sure, there are some funny moments, but I would in no way classify this book as humorous. It is at LEAST just a tra
Winner of the National Book Award, is blurbed as “scabrously funny” and as a “sharp original satire.” I have to agree that the book is clever and bitingly witty – it tells the story of twin sisters, Dorcus and Abigail Mather, and of Abigail’s disastrous marriage – which led to murder (no spoilers – this is all in the first few pages). Dorcus, the dry and controlled librarian spinster to Abigail's fierce libido, tells the story and cuts down everything in her path. She has no patience for anyone’ ...more
I think people should ignore every blurb that's on the cover of this book. It is emphatically not the funniest novel I've ever read, or even close -- Augusten Burroughs and I have different ideas of what "funny" means, maybe? -- but I nonetheless thought it was very good.

I also don't know why people call this a dark comedy, either. There's a particular person's death foreshadowed throughout, but that death in and of itself isn't much of a joke. I actually was a little bit glad of the death; ther
Tarin Towers
I'm not sure what to say about this book except that it has one of the most original characters, speaking in one of the most original voices, that I have ever read. I loved "Dork" and her skewering of everyone and everything. Nothing is sacred -- except, everything is. Or something. The ridiculousness of the sublime, would be one way to put it.

Some of the characters in this book are completely hateful, and to some folks that could include Dorcas, our trusty narrator, and her twin sister, Abigai
The funniest thing about this book was its title. As one of the other commenters said, it really suffered from bad advertising -- if it had been billed as "biting" or "incredibly sarcastic" rather than "hilarious," maybe my expectations would have been different.

But as it stood, this story about the stereotypical brilliant spinster librarian was just so very meh. I liked Dorcas' character and clearly felt her revulsion for her twin sister, I liked the structure running parallel to the biography,
People either love this book or they hate it. They either read it between hoots of laughter or with a quizzical look and a "I don't get it."

I admit I like dark humor, sardonic wit, disdainful eavesdropping and solitude, so I completely got prudish and prim Dorcus Mather's dry, caustic observations about New Englanders, relationships, books and her mympho twin sister. Jincy Willet has done for Rhode Island what Fannie Flagg and Florence King did for the South -- obsreved, recorded and poked at i
Merry Lee
I would have given this one less than a star if it were possible.

This book had 10 short reviews, eight of which described the book as funny, even hilarious. So there's an expectation you'll laugh at least a couple times, right?

The only way I would use this book and the word funny in the same sentence would be to say "It's funny that this book was desecribed as humorous since it's doesn't even make the mildly amusing scale." Unless you enjoy making fun of the town slut or find women-hating men
Jun 09, 2007 Isaac rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: archetype-mongers, black humorists
Oh, man, did I ever get a kick out of this. It's incredibly funny and incredibly merciless -- academics and artists and men and women all come in for savage treatment, all within a narrative artfully constructed to let you sympathize with even the worst of the worst. Not dissimilar to "The Violent Bear It Away" in being heavy on the conceptual/archetypal in its characterization and descending towards inevitable catastrophe, but it's a hell of a lot more unpredictable on its way there. Rhode Isl ...more
I really wanted to see more of the depth of depravity of the relationship between the narrator's sister and her slimy, horrid husband. As it stands you never can quite see the justification for his eventual murder, and you feel like your were promised more. But the interplay between the sisters, and the structure; one lone librarian, sitting and reading her twin's juicy tell all in the midst of a RI hurricane is brilliant. The sexless, hardened, small but brought big by her thirst for books narr ...more
Thought it was hilarious at first. Then it became too perverse for me to stand.
It's hard to sum up my feelings about this book because it was simutaneously very funny and tragic. It was incredibly fluid which made it a quick read, and its bizarre characters, literary/intellectual satire, bawdy humor, and foreshadowing only added to the page-turning quality. Narrated by the hilariously caustic & inevitably flawed librarian/spinster twin sister of the town slut/glutton, the juxtaposition of their intimate beginning and subsequent divergence is quite entertaining.

There a
Dorcas and Abigail are twins; Abigail is kind of a free-spirited slut and Dorcas the sterotypical uptight librarian. Abigail kills her husband and Dorcas spends a novel telling us about the events leading up to his demise. Mildly humourous.
I loved this book--funny, literate, highly entertaining and just a little dark. It concerns a book written about one of a pair of twin sisters (and her husband), and the reaction to the book by the other sister. I couldn't put it down.
Julia Jones
While I loved Amy Falls Down, and was excited to read another book by same author, I was very disappointed in this book. None of the characters are likeable or have depth.
I love this woman's books! How she can be funny and serious at the same time is beyond me, but it works. No wonder David Sedaris says she's one of his favorites.
Andrea Arbit
Meh. Maybe I'm just not a satire-book person. (I didn't like Where'd You Go Bernadette much either.)

I like satire on TV and on the Internet just fine (I watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report, and articles on The Onion) - but maybe I wouldn't if they droned on and on about the same subject for the length of a book. Commentary on relationships and fat-shaming and misogynist jerks can only be funny for so long; after awhile, it just gets unsettling, or depressing, or mind-numbingly dull.

Aug 06, 2014 Lizzie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lizzie by: Borrowed from Andrea.
(What cute names these authors I'm reading this month are having. I may have picked this up on purpose so that I could follow a Jandy with a Jincy.)

I think it's a little bit silly that I liked this so much, but that doesn't bother me.

What really put it over the mark for me was just simply the language. It was just right for me. It reminds me of the way I like to talk, but if the way I talked were written by an outstanding author. The word choices and description and pace of this writing drives h
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from the author's website: "An aging, bitter, unpleasant woman living in Escondido, California, who spends her days parsing the sentences of total strangers and her nights teaching and writing. Sometimes, late at night, in the dark, she laughs inappropriately."
More about Jincy Willett...
The Writing Class Amy Falls Down Jenny and the Jaws of Life: Short Stories Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules

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“Reading was not an escape for her, any more than it is for me. It was an aspect of direct experience. She distinguished, of course, between the fictional world and the real one, in which she had to prepare dinners and so on. Still, for us, the fictional world was an extension of the real, and in no way a substitute for it, or refuge from it. Any more than sleeping is a substitute for waking." (Jincy Willett)” 8 likes
“I spent my next hour reshelving, and the next thirty minutes straightening out the Mc's and Mac's. Nobody on God's earth understands the Mc/Mac principle anymore. In order to do that, you have to be willing to think about something other than your genitals for a full minute.” 2 likes
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