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Halfway House

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3.47  ·  Rating Details ·  690 Ratings  ·  117 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 t ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Grove Press (first published February 6th 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Adrienne Kiser
Mar 10, 2011 Adrienne Kiser rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aaron
Oct 29, 2008 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Sally Whitehead
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
Carla
Sep 24, 2008 Carla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Mom
Apr 08, 2008 Mom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Erin Lindsay McCabe
I thought this was a lovely novel.
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
Lulu
Dec 11, 2014 Lulu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


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
Michelle
Dec 08, 2016 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I felt this was a very powerful book about mental illness and the effects it has on the average family. I really enjoyed each characters story and was moved by their own coming of age struggles. Very well-written and emotional.
Lynne
Jul 04, 2009 Lynne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Priscilla
Dec 09, 2013 Priscilla rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Halfway House is a drama that centers around a New England family, the Voorsters. Angie, a high school senior and swimming star, suffers something like a nervous breakdown. Angie turns out to be bipolar. Each family member gets more or less equal time in the story as they try to adjust to the way Angie's illness affects their lives. Meanwhile, Angie herself tries to cope with not just her illness, but the ways it changes her relationship to her family and friends.

I didn't experience this story
...more
Michael
Aug 22, 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
Blaire
Aug 04, 2007 Blaire rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Lori Weir
May 28, 2012 Lori Weir rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Karen
Sep 20, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Elizabeth
Jul 18, 2008 Elizabeth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aeron
Jul 10, 2009 Aeron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 30, 2013 Kt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Elaine
Jul 14, 2008 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lianne
Nov 15, 2009 Lianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jennifer
Jul 10, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Monique Caton
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.
Sherri
Nov 15, 2009 Sherri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a good read, but I was a bit disappointed in the ending - nothing was really resolved. I suppose it was trying to be realistic - things don't always end with everything tied up neatly, but still, if I invest the time to read a long book, I want to feel like I "got somewhere" by the end.
Erica
Jun 14, 2014 Erica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Megan Tuttle
Jul 28, 2011 Megan Tuttle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simply AMAZING! In a world where people who have mental illnesses are thought of like a lunatic out of some Hollywood psycho killer movie, this book put a real prospective on how mental illness effects the main character but also puts the spot light on how her family deals with it too. Highly recommend it!
Tara Daly
Jun 06, 2007 Tara Daly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Janet
Aug 26, 2007 Janet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The topic is a good one--what happens to a family when one of their children experiences a psychotic break and falls into mental illness. It seems like the story is told by what the family members do and say without specifying emotions. Pretty good book, but I think I will probably not remember it for long.
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Katharine Noel’s first novel, Halfway House, was a New York Times Editors' Choice and winner of a Ken/NAMI Award for "outstanding literary contributions to a better understanding of mental illness," and the 2006 Kate Chopin prize for fiction. Her second novel, Meantime, will be published in November 2016. She has been the Writer in Residence at Claremont McKenna College and the Jones Lecturer at S ...more
More about Katharine Noel...

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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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