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Cover image for A seahorse year
A seahorse year

Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
Physical Description:
360 pages ; 22 cm
An extended family living in San Francisco faces the approaching breakdown of a troubled adolescent boy and the tribulations caused by the difficulties of gay parenthood.


Call Number
D'Erasmo, S.

On Order



Stacey D'Erasmo's new novel, following the highly acclaimed Tea, is a powerful and beautiful book about a pivotal year in the life of a quintessentially modern family. In contemporary San Francisco, an extended family is transformed by the emerging breakdown of a troubled adolescent boy. The lives of those who love Christopher -- his mother, Nan; her lover, Marina; his gay father, Hal; and Christopher's loyal girlfriend, Tamara -- are pushed to the edge by something new in him that mystifies them all. When he runs away, far into the woods of nothern California, their assumptions about themselves and one another are sorely tested. They might not, they discover, be quite so modern as they once thought. Even the dried seahorses on Marina's windowpane rattle unnervingly as if to announce a time like no other.
In precise, lyrical language, A Seahorse Year explores love at the limits of bearability. It is wise about the things we do out of love that often have both redemptive and disastrous consequences. Difficult questions that have all the tough complexity of real life are asked; devastating truths are revealed in the answers.
Michael Cunningham described Tea as "pure and profound, a ravishing book." A Seahorse Year is an even richer, more luminous achievement.

Author Notes

Stacey D'Erasmo was an accomplished literary reviewer before making the crossover to novelist. She was Senior Editor at The Voice Literary Supplement for seven years and has written articles for Rolling Stone, The Nation, Details and New York Newsday. She won a Stegner Fellowship in Fiction based on the first forty pages of TEA and went on to become the first Fiction Editor for Artforum. She is currently a contributing writer for Out. She lives in New York.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

D'Erasmo's quiet, penetrating second novel (after Tea) follows a San Francisco family coping with a 16-year-old son's mental illness. Christopher's mom, Nan, is in a long-term relationship with girlfriend Marina, who's like another mom; his sperm donor dad, Hal, is gay, a dancer-turned-CPA. But despite the unconventional setup, his parents sometimes act with the confused stiffness of the most traditional of families. When Christopher runs away the first time, Nan is distraught; she explains that her son had "a freak-out, we think. He wouldn't wash, he was angry all the time, he was saying all sorts of strange stuff, and he just, he just wasn't Christopher." After Christopher is fetched home, he's diagnosed with schizophrenia; Nan, meanwhile, is grasping at connection, and Marina's sleeping with someone else. D'Erasmo portrays Christopher's strange thoughts with beauty and insight; his misguided girlfriend, Tamara, is also tenderly, convincingly rendered. The family's unsettled state adds to the complications, as Christopher nearly kills himself and then escapes, with Tamara's help, from a mental health facility. As D'Erasmo shifts between different points of view-distinct, but united by her lush prose-she paints a portrait of illness, but also of growth and change. 5-city author tour. Agent, Jennifer Carlson. (July 7) Forecast: The book's non-traditional family set-up and effortless prose will remind readers of Michael Cunningham's early novels, and should help build D'Erasmo's readership. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

A typically atypical San Francisco family (two gay mothers and a gay father) restructure their lives after their son is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Sixteen-year-old Chris's condition has just emerged. He's missing, and his biological mother Nan and father Hal are beside themselves. Behind her matter-of-fact exterior, Nan is a fragile soul whose unhappy, abused childhood has led her to a passionate need for family and home. Although Hal was literally a sperm donor--he and Nan never actually had sex together--he has been an intensely involved father. Rounding out the picture is Marina, the artist who lives with and deeply loves Nan but is currently having an affair with an art student. After the first harrowing scenes of his disappearance, Chris is found and diagnosed, but the emotional roller coaster ride has just begun. Hal, once a dancer in a group resembling the Coquettes of the '60s but now a CPA, pays for an expensive clinic that places Chris on a semi-experimental drug protocol that calms him. When he comes home, fat and docile, he resumes his relationship with his girlfriend Tamara, and the adults want to believe he's better. But after a nearly fatal disaster at the beach, he enters another facility, though Tamara, in a misguided act of obsessive adolescent love, helps him escape. Chris isn't able to cope, and another near disaster occurs before the teenagers are found. Meanwhile, Nan and Marina's relationship crumbles while Hal finds love with a corporate mediator (who happens to be black). Chris goes on to a group home, a job, a life, imperfect but his own. Second-novelist D'Erasmo (Tea, 2000) creates a fully realized world of politically correct yet complex characters and situations, but a tone of self-important seriousness that goes beyond the demands of the admittedly serious situation may well get on readers' nerves. Iris Murdoch-lite but without Murdoch's light touch. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Christopher, a 16-year-old San Franciscan, is missing, and his parents--Hal, an accountant, and Nan, a bookstore owner--are frantic. As is Marina, a painter and Nan's live-in lover. As this high-strung trio search their souls for clues to sweet Christopher's inexplicable disappearance, D'Erasmo reverses time to reveal that Nan and Hal, who is also gay, barely knew each other when she decided that she wanted to have a child. Neither could have predicted just how loving a father Hal would be, just as they never could have imagined that their son would end up suffering from the most diabolical of illnesses, schizophrenia. In her sterling debut, Tea (1999), D'Erasmo explored the repercussions of a mother's suicide. Here, in an even more refined and hard-hitting tale, she maps the ripple effect of a loved child's mental illness on adults already coping with complex emotional predicaments. Marina is unfaithful; Hal is lonely; and Nan is terrified, enraged, and heroic. Fluent in the subtlest of psychological states and gloriously visual in her resonant descriptions of everything from table settings to a redwood forest, D'Erasmo composes scenes of both high drama and grinding everydayness to form a supple yet piercing novel of obdurate individuality, inescapable aberration, and oceanic love. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Christopher's family life may be cutting edge-his mom has set up house with her lover, Marina, while his gay dad pursues loves of his own-but the adults are typically clueless when it comes to adolescent angst. Everyone was really high on D'Erasmo's Tea. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.