Vendor
Brandt & Hochman Agency
Published by
HarperCollins (2014-01-07)
Current material
2nd Pass Pages
Original language
English
Themas
Biography, Literature & Literary studies
BACK

WHAT I HAD BEFORE I HAD YOU

by Cornwell, Sarah

A woman must face the truth about her past in this luminous, evocative literary novel of parents and children, guilt and forgiveness, memory and magical thinking, set in the faded, gritty world of the New Jersey Shore.

Olivia was only fifteen the summer she left her hometown of Ocean Vista. Two decades later, on a visit with her children, her nine-year-old son Daniel, recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, disappears.
Searching for him sparks memories of that fateful summer when she met new friends, partied late, tasted love, and saw the ghosts of her twin sisters for the first time – a birthright inherited from her mother Myla, a beautiful and erratic psychic. When Myla dismisses the vision, Olivia sets out to find her sisters, a journey that takes her far from her fiercely loving, secretive mother and close to shattering truths about herself and her family. Set in the strange and gritty New Jersey shore and told in radiant prose, What I Had Before I Had You is a haunting story of parents and children, guilt and forgiveness, memory and magical thinking, that captures the joys and sorrow of growing up and learning to let go.

Sarah Cornwell holds an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James Michener Fellow in fiction and screenwriting. She was the recipient of a 2010 Pushcart Prize, the winner of the 2010 Humanitas Student Drama Fellowship and the 2008 Gulf Coast Fiction Prize, and a finalist for the 2009 Keene Prize for Literature. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in 2013 Pushcart Prize Anthology, The Missouri Review, Mid-American Review, Gulf Coast, Hunger Mountain,StoryQuarterly Online, Zahir, and 580 Split. She was the spring 2012 Writer-in-Residence at Interlochen Arts Academy and a 2011 Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow for Pennsylvania State. She has been awarded writing fellowships in fiction from the Millay Colony for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, and Norton Island Writers Colony. She currently lives in Los Angeles where she is pursuing screenwriting.

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Comments

Sarah Cornwell has a brilliant eye for the telling detail, and a wonderfully original way of embodying family history. I was captivated by her memorable characters and the perfectly paced revelations of their surprising relationships.

Quote: Andrea Barrett, author of Archangel and The Voyage of the Narwhal

What I had before I had you’ are hidden pasts, leaving indelible traces. Depth of insight, dreamy prose, and an engrossing storyline mark this wonderful debut.

Review: Publishers Weekly

Sarah Cornwell’s first novel is as unnerving and authoritative as Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black. This is a beautifully written book, bold and wounding. Read it and you will never look at the Jersey Shore in quite the same way again.

Quote: James Magnuson, author of Famous Writers I Have Known

Only a few writers can genuinely capture that stormy period between childhood and adulthood and Sarah Cornwell is one of them. Her narrator, Olivia, is a dangerous teenager and she becomes a fascinating and troubled adult…. An exhilarating, hurtling, unstoppable ride for the reader.

Quote: Margot Livesey

Cornwell’s debut novel is equal parts page-turner and dreamy meditation on the nature of mental illness. . . . An important exploration of the deepest philosophical inquiries into the nature of existence, family, and love. I highly recommend

Quote: Antonya Nelson, author of Bound

In chapters alternating between the puzzling, pressured present and the eerily predictive past, Cornwell works the novel’s double narrative with the deft touch of a magician and the sure hand of a confident writer to watch.

Review: Elle Magazine (January 2014, lead review)

Gorgeously crafted, Cornwell’s tale shimmers and shimmies with nimble dialogue and poignantly flawed characters…. Grafting magical thinking onto gimlet-eyed acceptance, Cornwell’s debut novel enchants.

Review: Kirkus

Brazil: Novo Conceito

Quote: client

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