Love All (Wright)

Love All 
Callie Wright, 2013
Henry Holt and Co.
272 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780805096972

An addictive and moving debut about love, fidelity, sports, and growing up when you least expect it, told through the irresistible voices of three generations

It’s the spring of 1994 in Cooperstown, New York, and Joanie Cole, the beloved matriarch of the Obermeyer family, has unexpectedly died in her sleep. Now, for the first time, three generations are living together under one roof and are quickly encroaching on one another’s fragile orbits. Eighty-six-year-old Bob Cole is adrift in his daughter’s house without his wife. Anne Obermeyer is increasingly suspicious of her husband, Hugh’s, late nights and missed dinners, and Hugh, principal of the town’s preschool, is terrified that a scandal at school will erupt and devastate his life. Fifteen-year-old tennis-team hopeful Julia is caught in a love triangle with Sam and Carl, her would-be teammates and two best friends, while her brother, Teddy, the star pitcher of Cooperstown High, will soon catch sight of something that will change his family forever.

At the heart of the Obermeyers’ present-day tremors is the scandal of The Sex Cure, a thinly veiled roman à clef from the 1960s, which shook the small village of Cooperstown to the core. When Anne discovers a battered copy underneath her parents’ old mattress, the Obermeyers cannot escape the family secrets that come rushing to the surface. With its heartbreaking insight into the messy imperfections of family, love, and growing up, Love All is an irresistible comic story of coming-of-age—at any age. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1977-1978
Raised—Cooperstown, New York, USA
Education—B.A., Yale; M.F.A., University
   of Virginia
Awards—Glimmer Train Short Story Award
Currently—lives in Brooklyn, New York City

Callie Wright is a reporter–researcher at Vanity Fair. She graduated from Yale and earned her MFA at the University of Virginia, where she was a Poe/Faulkner Fellow in Creative Writing and won a Raven Society Fellowship. She is the recipient of a Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers and her short fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and The Southern Review. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
[A] winsome debut novel… Wright is a sure-handed writer who's at her strongest when describing the vicissitudes of marriage, which she does with great heart and originality… Love All is a study in intimacy—how we create it, how we bungle it; and, most of all, how we yearn for and require it, no matter how small or large our daily geography.

The problem with most first novels is that they read like first novels. Callie Wright’s debut, Love All, reads like the work of a writer in mid-career… [Wright] has a feel for life among the small-town gentry reminiscent of Updike.
Vanity Fair

[A] fetching debut novel.
Elle Magazine

A generation after a salacious roman à clef airs an entire town’s dirty laundry, the tell-all book resurfaces in the same house it originally wreaked havoc on, forcing one family to ask if history will repeat itself… [LOVE ALL’s] storyline will launch any kind of gossip session or book club discussion.
Marie Claire

In this winning first novel, three generations of a Cooperstown, New York, clan find their lives upended by a long-buried copy of The Sex Cure—a real-life roman a clef from 1962 that scandalized town residents.
AARP Magazine

Three generations of a family in transition are at the center of Wright’s touching character-driven tale. Octogenarian grandfather Bob Cole is grieving the death of his wife.... But the Obermeyers have their own problems.... And The Sex Cure, a novel that was published in the 1960s—a thinly veiled expose of the town’s scandalous inhabitants—resurfaces, painfully connecting the generations. Wright’s greatest asset, her ability to switch voices as family members narrate in turn, is also the novel’s greatest weakness, skimming each story without gaining emotional resonance or tying together themes. But the prose is effortless, and the characters are accessible and genuine, making this a promising debut.
Publishers Weekly

[T]hree generations of the same family see their settled lives begin to splinter. Sex, marriage vows and teenage angst seam Wright's first novel, set in the small community of Cooperstown, made famous in the 1960s when a notorious novel, The Sex Cure, exposed the thinly veiled affairs of its citizens.... Narrated from multiple perspectives, some more compelling than others, and larded with themes, Wright's novel is overfreighted yet capable and humane. Inhabiting an appealing if familiar scenario, this is a novel long on empathy but missing the spark of animation.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. Each chapter of Love All is told from the point of view of one of the five family members living at 59 Susquehanna, but only Julia’s chapters are in the first person. What is the significance of this? How does isolating the points of view from chapter to chapter affect the way the narrative comes together and how you felt about each character? Which Obermeyer did you connect to the most and why?

2. The power of secrets is a recurring theme in Love All. What are some of the secrets each character holds, and how do they impact the characters’ development? Do you think it is better to keep a damaging secret hidden, or is it better to reveal it, no matter the consequences?

3. The Sex Cure was a real novel published in the 1960s. How is the scandal of The Sex Cure reflected in the lives of the characters in the novel? Why do you think the author chose to use this as the foundation of her novel?

4. Each Obermeyer possesses certain unfulfilled desires or dreams that get in the way of their ideal happiness. How do the characters deal with their discontent as their plans go astray? What holds each of them back and do the reasons overlap? Do any of the characters resolve their inner conflicts?

5. Would things have turned out differently if Anne and Hugh had communicated their feelings to one another after the Valentine’s Day party back when their relationship was new? What attracted them to each other in the first place, and what changed in their relationship? Do you believe that their marriage could have been saved? When have you regretted a misstep in a relationship and what, if anything, would you have done differently?

6. How much does the unique setting of Cooperstown defi ne this story? How does the town act as a source of comfort, but also a crutch to its inhabitants?

7. Anne seems to place great importance on the way she is perceived. In what ways does her external posture differ from her internal self? Why does she become fascinated by The Sex Cure as a young girl? Why does she vandalize the author’s home? Why do you think she never shows Hugh the will she writes when she’s upset?

8. Why is Teddy so afraid to leave Cooperstown? What is the significance of the Ted Williams card and why do you think Teddy destroys it? What changes in Teddy after he finds out about his dad’s affair?

9. Hugh gains a new sense of power and resolve after the accident at his school and the onset of his affair overcoming the inertia that began with the death of his brother. What stirs this emotion in him? Do you sympathize with Hugh or do you think he is selfi sh as a husband and a father?

10. Bob never finds out if his wife knew about his ongoing affairs throughout their marriage. He says that he doesn’t care to look forward or back in life, but his past continues to haunt him even after the death of his wife. Do you think that it is possible to strictly live in the moment, or is your present state a constant blend of past, present, and future?

11. Julia says, “the only people who could really hurt us were the people we love.” Do you think this is true? Why does Julia write the letter about Carl? How is this manifested in the other relationships in the novel? Is it inevitable to hurt those we love the most? Why or why not?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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