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Child of My Heart

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  2,350 Ratings  ·  308 Reviews
A young girl's astonishing, poignant first look into the turbulent heart of things

"I had in my care that summer four dogs, three cats, the Moran kids, Daisy, my eight-year-old cousin, and Flora, the toddler child of a local artist. There was also, for a while, a litter of wild rabbits, three of them, that had been left under our back steps.... "

Alice McDermott's haunting a
Audio CD, 5 pages
Published November 23rd 2002 by Macmillan Audio (first published 1984)
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Feb 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It isn’t uncommon for a teenage girl to experience an intense friendship with a younger child; to have an overwhelming affection for a living doll. This relationship is based on companionship, mothering and anxiety about growing up. This type of relationship is the basis of Child of My Heart by Alice McDermott.

Theresa is a parent approved Pied Piper in her 1960’s Hampton neighborhood. Her working class parents moved to this affluent area when Theresa was a child in hopes that access to a more c
Jun 21, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really 2 and 1/2 stars. A woman recalls the summer she was fifteen and babysitting neighborhood children in Long Island. Her eight year old cousin Daisy comes to spend a few weeks with her, helping out with the babysitting duties. Some lovely descriptions of carefree summer days, but not much plot until near the end of the book. Then two major things happen, but are rushed through too quickly. (One thing I was uncomfortable with, and doubt it would've ocurred in real life.) An OK read.
Mar 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: storytellers.
This book is superb, and no other word can even remotely describe how beautiful it was. I have never met a character who had the ability to tell stories as the girl did in Child of My Heart. She is truly wonderful.
snackywombat (v.m.)
Aug 18, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Alice McDermott fans only
Try as I might, Alice McDermott's writing often leaves me cold. I never love, love it but find the characters engaging and the prose really pretty. But then the novel ends and I'm always like, meh. If a good book were a sunset, it'd be the kind that lingers in the sky well past nighttime to give the horizon a purplish tinge. It stays with you. But the story of the perfectly beautiful, perfectly well-mannered and responsible Theresa, beloved by all the toddlers and pets of her small Hamptons town ...more
Sep 05, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mary Ronan Drew
Jan 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alice McDermott is a writer akin to Stewart O'Nan and Anita Brookner whose work is quiet and slow. McDermott won the National Book Award for Charming Billy and Child of My Heart is worthy of such recognition as well.

The narrator, a beautiful girl whose parents have moved to the Hamptons and encouraged her to care for the children of and to do pet sitting for rich and powerful summer visitors, hope that she will make a "good" marriage, something not quite as peculiar in the early 1960s as it seem
Ron Charles
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Call it "Reviving Ophelia - Again." In 1994, Mary Pipher galvanized the nation with her exposé of the poisonous social system girls enter when they become teenagers. This year, it's the novelists' turn, and their descriptions of adolescence are even more provocative than Pipher's psychological study.

Alice McDermott's "Child of My Heart" is the third stunningly well-written novel this year to show a teenage girl confront challenges no one should ever have to endure. Her book follows the wrenching
Jun 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars - might improve on another reading. Beautifully written - just found myself. It terribly engaged by characters. You know how's it's going to wind up miles before you get there - and it all seems very muted. As I said - could be me or my mood at the moment.
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been aware of Alice McDermott for several years but this is the first of her novels I've read. It is her fifth novel out of seven and I was entranced by it.

Theresa is an only child with older parents, who have moved from Queens to the smallest house in an upscale vacation town on the eastern end of Long Island. The parents decided to raise their daughter among the rich in the hopes that she will make a good marriage and improve her lot in the world. That, to me, is such an Irish feudal
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, audiblecom
Downloaded from

Narrator: Sheryl Bernstein
Publisher: Macmillan Audio, 2003
Length: 7 hours and 52 min.

Publisher's Summary
In Alice McDermott's new work of fiction a woman recalls her bittersweet 15th summer. The beautiful child of older parents, raised on the eastern end of Long Island among the summer houses of the rich, Theresa is the town's most sough-after babysitter - cheerful, poised, an effortless storyteller, a wonder with children and animals. Among her charges this fateful sum
Jul 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gorgeous, supple, deft work of fiction -- a cousin of the other McDermott novels I know, and yet utterly in its own world, brilliant in creating this world. What McDermott does so, so well is something so hard to do -- she creates a first person voice of a 15 year old girl who resists spilling all her thoughts. Always there's a careful holding back, so that a reader moves closer, closer, trying to listen even more carefully and to understand what's not being said. How this central character move ...more
Apr 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2008
I can't remember why I picked up this book (audibly speaking, that is) but I'm glad I did. It's not the kind of thing I normally read, but I really enjoyed it. The story is about a 15-year-old girl (Theresa) who is just coming into her womanhood, and her 8-year-old cousin who comes to visit for a summer. Unfortunately, the cousin (Daisy) has a fatal disease, and it is Theresa's love for her which causes this disease to be discovered too late. Because Theresa is determined to give Daisy a lovely ...more
Maya Lang
Apr 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A mesmerizing, hypnotic novel that plunges you into a teenage girl's summer with her younger charges. I felt I had lived this summer or perhaps dreamed it; Alice McDermott is so good at evoking characters and place that her novels seep into your brain, tricking you into thinking they are the product of your own imagination. Here is prose at its evocative best, conjuring a wistful, nostalgically tinged summer ripe with details and memorable characters. I will remember not only Daisy in her shoes ...more
Aug 11, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I could not reconcile the glowing reviews on this book's cover by Anna Quindlen, Margaret Atwood and the NY Times Book Review with my own experience of it. The plot was almost nonexistent: a teenager babysits for the summer. We are left with the development of relationships, but even those don't materialize. For example, I could've used a little more of an explanation about why the main character decided to lose her virginity to a philandering septagenarian. McDermott is an award-winning author, ...more
Apr 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Impeccably written, as expected. A coming-of-age/loss of innocence story of a young girl in charge of her cousin for the summer. It's sweet, yet rather haunting, with many layers beneath the seemingly mundane details of what turns out to be a deeply meaningful summer. A moving read.
Sandra Bašić
Više se ničeg ne sjećam, znači dosadno!
Feb 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Child of My Heart was an interesting book that captured my attention with its simplicity. The plot is direct. Teresa, a 15 year old girl, spends her summer babysitting several neighborhood children including her "poor" 8 year old cousin Daisy, who is the favorite child of Teresa's parents. Daisy is one of eight children and doesn't get much one on one attention and must compete for everything with her siblings. Her father is very rules-oriented and apparently, the home is run in a very strict, n ...more
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This subtle and sensuous coming-of-age novel has a slowly unfolding tragedy at its center. At crucial moments, the narrator seems to look away from her own memories, like the demure misdirection of the camera during a sex scene in an old-fashioned movie. The understatement is becoming, though as one of the characters in the novel itself states, "Understatement is a hard sell."
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was really entrancing - the writing style was so detailed and beautiful. Theresa, the main character, was so observant and articulate. This is one of those novels that really makes you think about the world and the people in it.

At just 15, Theresa is basically a mother to all of the neighborhood kids. Her parents see her blossoming beauty as a means to wealth and success, so they immediately set her up to work as a nanny for their rich neighbors. The story follows her as she goes from
Gwen Haaland
Oct 24, 2009 rated it liked it
This beautifully written book started out with so much potential and draws you in from the start. It is the story of a young gifted "super-nanny" with a magnetic personality, who truly cares about her little charges. Theresa brings some much-needed magic into childrens lives and also has exceptional abilities with animals; both children and animals are drawn to her. Many of her young charges are the children of eastern Long Island's wealthy summer residents, but some are paradoxically neglected ...more
Jun 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook, fiction
Had I been reading this book instead of listening to it, I might not have finished it. But listening to it slowed it down to a proper pace, made it much more consistent with the story.

The story: Set in East Hampton, Long Island in the 50s or 60s, the main character is a 15-year-old girl who is very self-contained and sure of herself. She's in great demand not only for her superb babysitting and petsitting skills, but because she is beautiful. Very aware of that fact, somewhat snobby about those
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 03, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a nice coming-of-age story. I particularly liked how McDermott developed the lead character; although she is an only child and also extraordinarily pretty, somehow her parents are able to raise her to be a good person.

I'm really curious as to why the story came about from the character's perspective. I imagine she's already an adult, possibly has a family and children of her own. Is she now part of the social circles her parents wanted her to ascend to? What made her reminisce about that
Even though each section (there were no defined chapter breaks) was basically the same thought over and over again, the author kind of pulled it off and had me hanging on enough to somehow make me want to keep reading. The main character, a teenager, is portrayed as the most sought-after babysitter and dog walker of all time - that's all she did, every single day. Common sense seemed to have eluded her - between not addressing the fact that her cousin very obviously needed medical attention and, ...more
Sep 21, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was ok - decent writing, but no real plot.
COMH is about a young teen named Theresa who spends her summer babysitting and dog walking in the hopes of one day snagging a rich husband. Her sickly cousin Daisy comes to visit her and the two spend the summer together. That's it. Seriously.
On a sentence level this was pretty good - nice turns of phrase and all that. But the plot was thin at best and the overall execution lacking - Theresa was a rather narrow character, her parents basically non e
May 29, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nannies who hated The Nanny Diaries
I want to call this one a beach book...but lechery is not your typical lounging on the beach book topic. So I'm at a loss. I love how McDermott treats children in this story. The babysitter character is almost magical, and I think it takes a certain kind of magic to reach kids on their level without patronizing them or feeling embarrassed for your self. So well done on that score. But a couple of beautiful lines and a passion for childhood innocence is not least not in this case. A d ...more
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love Alice McDermott, loved this book. Beautifully written. I felt like I was floating along on the words. You almost ache with the emotions that the setting and the character evoke. The pace is perfect - but talk about wanting more! I wish for 400 more pages so I can find out how the story really ends.

If you want to completely lose yourself in a book, this is the one. My fondness for coming-of-age stories aside, this story is mesmerizing. You'll fall in completely and live inside 1960s Long Is
Sep 19, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary_fiction
An odd book. I liked the narrator even when I couldn't relate to her--a fifteen-year-old girl who knows she's beautiful and enjoys the power she has over middle-aged and older men she babysits for. In some ways the book travels well-worn paths--teenage naivete, older men lusting after young, nubile girls, teenage girl who's wonderful with children and animals, very feminine, uses her charms, etc. On the other hand, the author's weaves themes of social class throughout the story quite effectively ...more
Denise Kruse
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A superb, moving story about a teen, Theresa, who spends a summer caring for the children and sometimes the pets of various adults in her vacation community in Long Island. It is through her thoughtful eyes that we experience the summer's events (which I am not going to try to tell because Alice McDermott does it way better). I love this writing.
Subtle. Sometimes hard for me to believe the voice of narrator as a young girl. Events of the book frightening--illness, death, seduction--but rendered almost untouchable by the narrator's innocent indifference.
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Alice McDermott (born June 27, 1953) is Johns Hopkins University's Writer-in-Residence. Born in Brooklyn, New York, McDermott attended St. Boniface School in Elmont, Long Island, NY [1967], Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead NY [1971], the State University of New York at Oswego, receiving her BA in 1975, and later received her MA from the University of New Hampshire in 1978.

She has taught at the UC
More about Alice McDermott...
“Scribble out the world since it was not to your liking and make up a new one, something better.” 0 likes
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