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The Reconstruction of Wilson Ryder

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Wilson Ryder is the compelling story of a physically disfigured artist's search for creative self-expression as he struggles for success in the New York art world and escape from the shadow of his mother, a now-famous painter who had abandoned him as a child.

292 pages, Paperback

First published January 15, 2013

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About the author

Michael R. French

26 books121 followers
#1 Amazon best selling author Michael French graduated from Stanford University and Northwestern University. He is a businessman and author who divides his time between Santa Barbara, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is an avid high-altitude mountain trekker, as well as a collector of first editions of twentieth-century fiction.

He has published twenty-four books, including fiction, young adult fiction, biographies, and art criticism. His novel, Abingdon’s, was a bestseller and a Literary Guild Alternate Selection. His young adult novel, Pursuit, was awarded the California Young Reader Medal.

The Reconstruction of Wilson Ryder was published January 2013.

Mountains Beyond Mountains was published April 2013.

Once Upon a Lie was published March 2016.

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5 stars
16 (43%)
4 stars
15 (40%)
3 stars
6 (16%)
2 stars
0 (0%)
1 star
0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews
Profile Image for Danielle Tremblay.
Author 71 books119 followers
April 17, 2017

What is beauty? What is ugliness? For someone like me, living with an artist, these are key questions, even existential issues. And how do you express what you feel? Is it best to tell it in words or in images? Doesn't we say: "One picture is worth a thousand words"? And an artist's universe isn't it one of struggle for acceptance, as Wilson Ryder's life is? To grow in this universe, doesn't it mean not to rely on everybody around you to know if you're beautiful or not, if your work is beautiful or not, but to assert by yourself your own choices, your own value and your own identity? These are all questions that this book make you ask to yourself.

The author's writing is very good. He succeeds to make you live inside his characters' minds, through their emotions and feelings. You feel like being one of their close friends. I let myself carried away by this story as one lets oneself carried by a boat to a strange island where all feels at once familiar and new.

I give this story 4½ stars rounded up to 5.
Profile Image for Christine.
68 reviews39 followers
March 17, 2013
Once I picked this book up I did not want to put it down. I found myself trying to sneak in an extra few pages of reading every chance I got. The Ryders seemed so alive and real to me. I felt a connection to the characters and cared about them so much that it was hard for me to stop reading.

As the mother of a child with cleft lip and palate I could relate to fierce protectiveness of Will’s father and sister. I understand that animal instinct that takes over when someone cruelly harms your child. I could also relate to the delicate balancing act of trying to protect them from the hurt you know the world will eventually inflict on them and allowing them the freedom to grow into all they can be.

As the book progresses we watch as Will grows from an isolated overprotected child to an confident up and coming artist. Though the three of them were very much in their own little world in the beginning Will and Hannah eventually assert their independence and leave the safety of their father’s nest. Through the years they drift further and further apart then come back together closer and stronger than ever.

Throughout the book Will is in a constant struggle for acceptance, desperately seeking the approval and acceptance of his distant mother. He also seeks to be accepted by society for who he is and not what he looks like. Inside himself he battles onwards towards self-acceptance.

This was the first Michael French book for me so I had no expectations. I was pleasantly surprised by what I read. Mr. French has a great gift for writing. He was not only able to keep me interested from the first page onward; he took me inside the book.

This was a complex family drama with multiple layers of emotion and trauma that revealed themselves throughout. I was so deeply moved by this story that I did not want it to end. This book has left a mark on me. I will carry it with me for a long time to come.

Add this to your reading list. You will not be disappointed. It’s definitely a must read book.

FYI- I received an advance copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.
Profile Image for Antimidas.
59 reviews1 follower
March 8, 2013
This book ranks right up there with To Kill a Mockingbird. Has this yet been nominated for any literary awards such as the Pulitzer or Booker Prize?

I received this book for free from a Goodreads giveaway. I have not been compensated for this review.

Oh my God! I want to read this book over and over and over again! The only other book I feel the same way about is Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird."

A touch of Holden Caulfield, a smidge of Phillip Pirrip and a dash of Jean Louise "Scout" Finch. And let's not forget to throw in Miss Havisham as the distant mother figure. If I can be so egomaniacal to assume that the author snuck into my life and wrote a novel based on my self-perception, he could not have done better than this book. This is truly a masterpiece of character development.

READ THIS BOOK! If you can only read a limited number of books this year, this one should be at the top of your list. By page four, I was thoroughly invested in the characters. I normally have to give a book until page fifty to see if I will stick with it.

I am cautious to say much, because I want the reader to experience the full story for the first time by reading it like I did. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
1 review2 followers
March 1, 2013
My cousin recommended The Reconstruction of Wilson Ryder to me. At first, I was hesitant to read it since my taste runs to suspense/mysteries. But I'm so glad I did pick up this character-rich page-turner. The author is a wonderful storyteller, and I found myself engaged by each member of the Ryder family. They will all stay in your mind long after you finish, particularly the narrator, Wilson, who sees the world in a very special way. The Reconstruction of Wilson Ryder by Michael French
2 reviews
January 23, 2013
Michael French's writing style pulls the reader in easily from the beginning. Each character is uniquely fascinating. Wilson Ryder is a talented young artist who explores the art world and the perspective of beauty from the viewpoint of someone disfigured by burns as a small child. New Mexico, Chicago, and New York City provide the perfect cultural settings for the unfolding story of this young artist and his family through personal challenges and complex relationships. It's a great read.
Profile Image for Brad.
Author 4 books111 followers
April 14, 2013
The Reconstruction of Wilson Ryder by Michael French is a well-written first-person narrative that chronicles the life of a physically and emotionally scarred boy from New Mexico who strives to make it in New York in the ultra-competitive world of fine-art painting. Wilson, the protagonist, is a survivor in every sense of the word. He has survived a devastating house fire that leaves his face permanently disfigured, forcing him to find his way as a pariah in a culture that values outward beauty more than substance and inward beauty. And he is a survivor of a troubled family of origin. His mother had abandoned him for New York and her own career in as a painter, most likely because she is repulsed by her own son's disfigurement. These circumstances leave him adrift and unsure of who he really is. Young Wilson overcomes many challenges in the process of reclaiming his identity. His life is, in essence, a testament to the ideas that we are all worthy of love, capable of love, and are, inside if not outside, beautiful. I suppose in a way, the novel is a modern rendition of the classic Beauty and the Beast story, but the Reconstruction of Wilson Ryder is, of course, considerably more complex and thought-provoking. Mr. French, who has written many books for both young adults and adults, is a skilled observer of detail and life's mystery, and he does a masterful job with the always-tricky first person point of view. He hits a home run by creating two distinct, believable worlds: the outer world and Wilson's tortured inner world. I highly recommend this book. For the sake of full disclosure, Mr. French is a friend of mine. But my opinion of the book would be just as high and my review equally positive were I not to know him. He is a fine writer who deserves to be widely read.
Profile Image for Susan.
16 reviews8 followers
March 23, 2013
This book is a first person narrative told from the point of view of one Will Ryder, a child and then a man physically and emotionally scarred from a young age, first by an accidental fire and then by the abrupt departure of his mother. Raised by his indulgent father and devoted sister Hannah, Will struggles to come to grips with his scars as he approaches adulthood. He eventually comes back into the orbit of his emotionally distant Mother, an acclaimed artist. She has sloughed off the responsibilities of Wife and Mother and also managed to avoid any other lasting emotional entanglements in her rise to fame. Will's attempts to regain her regard and to impress and please her are frequently frustrated by her inflexible facade and by his own ungoverned willfulness.

Some of the events in the book were painful to witness, while Will develops from a self-centered attention-seeking child, through an eventfully rocky adolescence to a more thoughtful and emotionally balanced adulthood. The way is never easy but Will exhibits great strength of character throughout. The ending is uplifting and hopeful.

This was the first book I have read by Michael French and I found it to be interesting, organized and very readable. It was hard to put the book down when I had to and I was glad to return to it when time allowed. I was always wanting find out what was going to happen next! I value that in an author.
Profile Image for Melody.
1,170 reviews331 followers
April 4, 2013
It's a struggle in the visual art world. Art should not just be about what looks beautiful. It is expressing a thought, feeling or emotion in a way that can't be expressed with just words. And those things are not always pretty. Some of the most interesting paintings don't fit the standard description of beautiful.

This is what Wilson's life is like. He has had a rich and full life. He is very smart and talented. Buy he also has been burned and his face and his soul both carry the ugly scars.

Wilson tries to reconstruct himself so that people will accept him despite his scarred face. He is also trying to reconstruct his relationship with his mother who is living with her own demons and is the one responsible for his disfigurement.

I thought this was a wonderful, complex story that could have been excellent except it had many gaps and missing pieces.
60 reviews1 follower
April 4, 2013
I found that every character involved with Will Ryder touched me. Each character
had their individual struggles yet found the strength to continue to move
forward. Will began at a very early age with the struggle of fitting in due to
his disfigurement. Many young adults find themselves feeling as outcasts and not
fitting in because society in general judges by appearance.

The vivid and colorful descriptions of the art world was an added bonus. While
Will Ryder no doubt had enormous talent he found solace in painting and studying
other great artists including his famous mother. Art therapy continues to be a
popular form of therapy for depression even today. The art descriptions inspired
me to want to see some of the paintings mentioned.
Profile Image for Tamara Anderson.
21 reviews2 followers
April 13, 2013
Michael really brings to life Wilson Ryder as you are reading it you tend to forget that its a fictional character you start to think that its a real biography. Its a book full of pain and heartache and how one man tries to understand and overcome.
Overall I liked this book however i thought that parts where drown out with lots of details and other parts that I would have liked more details. Definitely a thought provoking book making you double think how you view life and the world around you
Profile Image for Lynne.
201 reviews51 followers
July 30, 2013
3.5 stars, actually. Michael French's prose is clean, the story flows well, the characters are engaging--flawed, believable. I love how Will finds the artist in himself and emerges from adversity with his soul intact. I'm a sucker for stories about redemption through love and art, and this one didn't disappoint on that score.

So why 3.5 stars instead of 4?

The ending was just a little too pat for cynical, pessimistic me.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Emily Capeles.
58 reviews7 followers
June 14, 2013
I loved this goodreads giveaway book. The story of Wilson was full of surprises. I felt both the joys and sorrows that Wilson encountered. All in all this is a well written book that is a great read.
Profile Image for Stephen.
655 reviews14 followers
May 14, 2015
Very good novel by an author I'd never heard of. Thank you goodreads.com for introducing me to such great books and writers.
I won this book on goodreads!
Profile Image for Joy.
36 reviews5 followers
May 29, 2013
I really liked it. I've become so emotionally vested in the characters that I wish that the book had been longer.
Profile Image for R. Clark.
Author 5 books9 followers
August 22, 2013
If you like stories about family dynamics, modern art, overcoming obstacles and self-discovery, read this book! It's deftly imagined, artfully told and compelling to read.
Displaying 1 - 15 of 15 reviews

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