The Birthdays

  • 2006 & 2007, W. W. Norton
  • ISBN 9780393061277
  • Hardcover, Paperback
  • Read an excerpt
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A BookSense Top 20 Pick & Borders Original Voices Selection

The Birthdays tells the story of a family on the brink of a new generation, and examines modern-day marriage, pregnancy, and parenthood.

On an island off the coast of Maine, the Miller family reunites to celebrate the father's seventy-fifth birthday. Each of the adult children is expecting his or her own first child. The eldest, Daniel, grapples with the fact that his wife had to be artificially inseminated. Jake, the middle child, discovers that his wife is carrying twins after many years of infertility treatments. Hilary—the free-spirited youngest daughter—arrives in Maine five months pregnant with no identifiable father in sight. Their coming together sets off a series of fireworks, and after the weekend, none of the Millers will emerge the same.

Praise for The Birthdays

"Just when you think there's nothing more to say about the madness and mystery of family life, along comes a book like Heidi Pitlor's first novel, The Birthdays. Boldly, lovingly, she takes the archetype of the weekend reunion and uses it to reveal the neverending growth pains of one ordinary yet fascinating family. Anyone who knows firsthand the modern-day struggles of veering into middle age alongside siblings, in-laws, and elderly parents (and isn't that most of us nowadays?) will find this book captivating, moving, painfully funny, and so very, very true." — Julia Glass

"Beautifully rounded, wonderfully balanced, The Birthdays offers a rare portrait of a family caught exactly at the moment when generations shift roles. Heidi Pitlor is a wonderful writer, and her characters come alive on the page." — Andrea Barrett

"In The Birthdays, Heidi Pitlor demonstrates a wonderful sense of setting, plot and occasion but what makes this novel so absorbing, and so masterful, is her sense of character. In some magical way, Pitlor manages to make us feel what it is like to be both a parent and a child, both old and young, both bitter and hopeful. An exhilarating debut." — Margot Livesey

"Heidi Pitlor's first novel—about family, pregnancy, sex, and loss—is always acute and elegant, at moments terribly sad, at other moments (and this surprises) extremely funny. She has an amazing ear for the heartbeat of family life, and I have no doubt but that in the future we'll be hearing more of what she hears. An auspicious debut." — David Leavitt

"I loved spending a weekend on Great Salt Island with the Miller family. Pitlor deftly introduces each member, drawing a reader into their knot of confusion and love. I didn't want the story to end, and dreaded the last ferry home." — Amanda Eyre Ward

Reviews

"Offers sharp insights into simmering resentments and misunderstandings among relatives." People

"The depiction of a family as a collective organism, a complex variety of parts, patterns and processes, is the novel's real achievement. And the constraints Pitlor visits on her characters pays off in her plotting." The Boston Phoenix

"[Pitlor] has a remarkable gift for delving into the complex feelings of siblings and parents... by the end, I was hoping there was a sequel in the works." Down East Magazine

"A character driven narrative with an impeccable plot." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Confronts some of the biggest questions of our daily lives... but refuses to rest on one single answer. Instead the questions overlap and wash over one another, somehow resulting in a kind of temporary acceptance and tranquility." Boston Magazine

"Pitlor demonstrates a remarkable understanding of family relationships and transitions in this uncertain age." Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Pitlor writes with a delicate hand to absorbing effect." Entertainment Weekly

"Pitlor's achievement is to give her characters individual fascination...This is a novel of quiet shifts of character and outlook rather than dramatic event, and it is all the more believable and stirring for that." The Guardian (UK)

"A novel of calm subtleties. Pitlor has an acute ear for the anxieties and regrets that proximity renders unspeakable in marriages and families... she comes close to the tender grace that define's Anne Tyler's writing." The Observer (UK)

"Absorbing...Pitlor has secured a place in literary fiction with this engrossing portrayal of ordinary people coping with life's calamities as they try not to hurt the ones they love." Library Journal

"Rich in symbolism and a strong sense of place, Pitlor's debut novel, with its overlapping narrative perspectives, creates a multilayered portrait of family in all its fragility and its strength." Publishers Weekly