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Cover for The Beginners

The Beginners

Rebecca Wolff


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Theo and Raquel Motherwell are the only newcomers to the sleepy town of Wick in fifteen-year-old Ginger Pritt’s memory. Hampered by a lingering innocence while her best friend, Cherry, grows more and more embroiled with boys, Ginger is instantly attracted to the worldliness of this dashing couple. But as Ginger’s keen imagination takes up the seductive mystery of their past, she is only left with more questions. Who—or what—exactly, are the Motherwells? And what is it they want with her? Both a lyrical coming-of-age story and a spine-tingling tale of ghostly menace, The Beginners introduces Rebecca Wolff as an exciting new talent in fiction.

Praise For The Beginners

"A meticulous and pitch-perfect fever dream of adolescence, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson remixed by Mary Gaitskill."
-Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude and Chronic City

"Original, electric, and fearless . . . Every page of The Beginners shimmers with the intensity of language shaped around, aimed at, what can't be said or explained within the convention of a haunted New England town and its teenage antiheroine."
-Kate Christensen, author of The Great Man and Trouble

"What a marvel, what a wonder, is this novel. It made me think of Rilke in collaboration with Emily Brontë. . . . Ravishing."
-Peter Straub, author of Shadowland and A Dark Matter

Riverhead Books, 9781594485794, 304pp.

Publication Date: July 3, 2012

About the Author

Rebecca Wolff is an award-winning poet and the founding editor of Fence and Fence Books. She received an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and is the author of three books of poems. She has published in The Nation, The Paris Review, and A Public Space. Wolff lives in Athens, New York.

Conversation Starters from

The Beginners is filled with emotionally messy and seemingly prophetic dreams. Are these early dreams hints at what’s to come, or warnings? How do these dreams, especially those concerning death and friendship, play a role in the story?

How does the landscape help set a suitably brooding and haunted stage for the events of the book? How does the author transform an otherwise sleepy New England town into a gothic playground?

What alternate lifestyle do the Motherwells seem to offer Ginger? Why are these strangers so attractive to her?

Did you find yourself questioning which events in the book were real and which were imagined? If so, were there sections of the book that you questioned more than other? Which ones and why?

Why does Raquel feel bound and cursed by her family tree? How do the Salem Witch Trials and their events and accusations echo throughout the book?

The Beginners paints a bold portrait of the powers of budding sexuality and the curiosities of young adulthood. How does this stage of life make its narrator receptive to the Motherwells? Compare Ginger’s and Cherry’s experiences with this stage of their lives.

What role do Ginger and Cherry’s parents play in the story? Why do you think Ginger’s parents keep their distance and any suspicions of the Motherwells quiet?

Why was it so easy for Ginger to believe in the illusion of the Motherwells? What made her so vulnerable to the Motherwells influence and storys? Why does she remain faithful?

How does Jack, specifically his watchful presence, continue to influence Ginger’s life? How would you describe the kind of energy that he brings?

After Randy unexpectedly arrives to save her, the events and consequences of Ginger’s days with the Motherwells are reimagined, and an alternate story is told. Why does Ginger go along with this new truth?

The Beginners asks us throughout to consider what is evil—in action, thought, and one’s character. How would you define evil—and how does it take shape in this book?