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Publisher's Summary

A virtuosic, singular and very funny portrait of a woman seeking sanity and purpose in a world gone mad.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“Riddled with insights into aging, womanhood, and discontent, Wayward is as elegant as it is raw, and almost as funny as it is sad.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

“A comic, vital new novel.” (The New Yorker)

A “furious and addictive new novel” (The New York Times) about mothers and daughters, and one woman's midlife reckoning as she flees her suburban life.

On the heels of the election of 2016, Samantha Raymond's life begins to come apart: her mother is ill, her teenage daughter is increasingly remote, and at fifty-two she finds herself staring into "the Mids" - that hour of supreme wakefulness between three and four in the morning in which women of a certain age suddenly find themselves contemplating motherhood, mortality, and, in this case, the state of our unraveling nation.

When she falls in love with a beautiful, decrepit house in a hardscrabble neighborhood in Syracuse, she buys it on a whim and flees her suburban life - and her family - as she grapples with how to be a wife, a mother, and a daughter, in a country that is coming apart at the seams.

Dana Spiotta's Wayward is a stunning novel about aging, about the female body, and about female complexity in contemporary America. Probing and provocative, brainy and sensual, it is a testament to our weird times, to reforms and resistance and utopian wishes, and to the beauty of ruins.

©2021 Dana Spiotta (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

A Best Book of the Summer: USA Today, Town & Country, The Philadelphia Inquirer, BuzzFeed, Real Simple, The Millions, and more 

“Furious and addictive.... Sam [is] an ideal guide, rash, funny, searching, entirely unpredictable, appalled at her own entitlement and ineffectuality - drawn with a kind of skeptical fondness.... So much contemporary fiction swims about in its own theories; what a pleasure to encounter not just ideas about the thing, but the thing itself - descriptions that irradiate the pleasure centers of the brain, a protagonist so densely, exuberantly imagined, she feels like a visitation.” (Parul Sehgal, The New York Times

“Dana Spiotta is one of the most alert, ambitious, nuanced, and, yes, smartest of our contemporary novelists.... Spiotta’s novels, always rich with ideas and atmosphere, often focus on the arts.... Here, architecture connects to Wayward’s larger meditations about impermanence and decay - human, structural and even national.” (Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air)

“Thrilling...Spiotta’s novels are unfailingly dense with life - the textures, digressions, and details thereof - and Wayward is no exception. The novel is at once satirical and earnest: Sam asks what she can do to atone for her thoughtless privilege, what role she might play as an agent of change. There’s much comedy in the asking, but the novel makes clear that the answers aren’t straightforward. Spiotta offers grand themes and beautiful peripheral incidents...she writes with sly humor and utter seriousness; a rare articulation of midlife now. For this reader, there is uncommon pleasure in the paradoxes of this climacteric tale.” (Claire Messud, Harper’s Magazine

What listeners say about Wayward

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Pathetic story -- Save your credit

As a woman of a certain age, I waited for this novel and I was sadly let down. The main character is Sam, a woman in her 50's that never completed her education, lives to mother and smother, and is ungrateful for all she has. So to remedy her menopause, she goes and buys a decrepit house 'as is' without the funds and/or knowledge, as to how renovate it. Yeah, great idea. Nevertheless, I wanted to hear more about this project, and how she would enrich and change her life. Instead, we are subjected to learning about her entitled, mean and stupid daughter that is engaging in sending older men child porn without any thought of the consequences. It just goes on and on. Blah, blah, blah. Adding in detailed sex scenes doesn't help the story either.
In a nutshell, the beginning is okay, but nothing happens in the middle or end. I had to return the book.
Don't waste your time reading about Sam eating dessert and not thinking about what most people think about: How will I pay for this?

6 people found this helpful

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Boring and Obnoxious Characters

I had to force myself to finish this book. The main character, Sam, is so self-centered and critical of everyone. The story alternates with chapters about her and chapters about her daughter. In the middle of the book, I stopped reading Sam chapters because the character was negative and critical most of the time and I could never understand why she bought a house and then left her family behind. This book was a total waste of my time and left me in a very negative mood. My advice: don't purchase it.

3 people found this helpful

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Interesting

If you are from Syracuse, you will love the many references to the city. I do wish the narrator had pronounced Nedrow and Colvin correctly. The mispronounced words were like chalk on a chalkboard to me. I did find the protagonist a bit grating. I felt like she was a bit spoiled and wanted to tell her to get a life. The book did keep my interest, however

2 people found this helpful

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Sadness in Mid-Life

Skillfully written, the author, Dana Spiotta, presents the story of a woman of 53 who decides to leave her husband and teenage daughter. She buys an old house with internal beauty in a less than desirable neighborhood where she lives in Syracuse, NY. The house is another character in the novel along with Samantha, her daughter Ally, husband Matt and mother Lily. The time is the year president Trump was elected. It almost seems Ms. Spiotta wants to present a sad story of America in parallel with Sam's story of her life. Be ready for tears along with a little transcendent happiness. The writing is superb. Focused listening is required.

1 person found this helpful

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Even better than I expected

I heard the author interviewed on NPR, and I was curious. I thought the book would be at least solid, and maybe even good.

But it was more. It really drew me in, very subtly. I was freaked out at first about the main character buying a house on impulse. What!?! Who DOES that? I didn’t quite trust the author to bring it all together. But she does!

One small moment of dissonance—the voices of two characters who are temperamentally very different sound almost identical in some places.

It is beautifully performed. The narrator’s voice is a perfect fit.

Yay team!
You produced something really beautiful.

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Refreshing and interesting

This is a true modern-day novel, with fresh but not cryptic or hard-to-follow descriptions and surprisingly unique characters. A lesson also in how to write with two protagonists. Lots of references to real life tech - relatable, real and a bit sad. I definitely recommend.

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Watching paint dry would be more interesting

So poorly written…I couldn’t tell you what it’s about other than whiney women. The narrator made it so much worse. Very Kristin Chenoweth. Please oh please don’t waste your time.

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Strangely satisfying and comforting

The book unfolds beautifully, and the protagonist, Sam, is a complex (if sometimes pathetic) character. I found the narrator quite good, and the pace excellent. I think of this as a coming-of-age book for a middle aged woman, coming to terms with her changing body, thoughts, and experiences. I heartily recommend.

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Unusual, personal and powerful

A story that changes direction several times, about a mother entering menopause and her adolescent daughter coming into her sexuality. Draws you in gradually and beautifully. Narration most very good. Sometimes not perfect on the male voices but it is 90% female. Sweet, sharp and poignant.
I first heard about this book through NYTimes book review podcast.

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Political commentary, Bias opinions

Had to give up on this early due to the author's bias and political commentary. NO ONE cares how you feel, everyone can vote they way the choose!