What We Lost
Based on a True Story
By Dale Peck
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618251285, 240pp.)
Publication Date: November 2003
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In the haunting new book by the acclaimed author of Now It's Time to Say Goodbye, a young man must choose between his troubled family and the new home he loves.
Dale Peck, Sr., grew up poor in rural Long Island in the 1950s, sharing a one-room house with seven brothers and sisters, an abusive mother, and an alcoholic father haunted by his past. When, at fourteen, Dale is more or less kidnapped by his father and taken to his uncle's farm in upstate New York, the change wrought by the move is remarkable. Thriving on the farm, Dale develops a loving relationship with his uncle Wallace, and for the first time he knows contentment. But when Dale's mother demands that he return, he is forced to choose between his broken family and the land and uncle he has come to love. It is a decision that will determine his future and the legacy he will pass on to his own son.
What We Lost is a coming-of-age story that startles in its immediacy and lack of sentimentality. Refracting his father's past through the prism of his own vivid imagination, the author Dale Peck forges a bridge between generations and reveals the dark secrets at the heart of family.
Winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Peck started writing fiction as a freshman at Drew, but really blossomed as a writer in his junior and senior years. He worked closely with several professors in the Drew English department to hone a writing style that would earn him the department's highest honor for his unpublished first novel, All the World, which was his senior honors thesis. All three of Peck's published novels reflect his love of stories and story-telling. Martin and John recounts a gay man's coming of age; The Law of Enclosures, recently made into a movie, shifts the focus to John's parents; and Now It's Time to Say Goodbye places characters from the first two novels on a larger stage, prompting the Los Angeles Times to write that Peck is "one of the few avant-garde writers of any age who is changing the rules for prose fiction." Peck also teaches writing, and does book reviews for publications such as the Village Voice Literary Supplement, London Review of Books, and the New York Times Book Review.
"Accomplished novelist Peck's account of his father's horrific 1950s Long Island childhood is reminiscent of Angela's Ashes." Publishers Weekly