What Is Left the Daughter
Howard Norman

Book cover image

Narrated By: Bronson Pinchot

Duration: 7 hours and 11 minutes

What to expect

Howard Norman, widely regarded as one of this country’s finest novelists, returns to the mesmerizing fictional terrain of his major books—The Bird Artist, The Museum Guard, and The Haunting of L—in this erotically charged and morally complex story.

Seventeen-year-old Wyatt Hillyer is suddenly orphaned when his parents, within hours of each other, jump off two different bridges—the result of their separate involvements with the same compelling neighbor, a Halifax switchboard operator and aspiring actress. The suicides cause Wyatt to move to small-town Middle Economy to live with his uncle, aunt, and ravishing cousin Tilda.

Setting in motion the novel’s chain of life-altering passions, and the wartime perfidy at its core, is the arrival of German student Hans Mohring, carrying only a satchel. Actual historical incidents—including a German U-boat’s sinking of the Nova Scotia–Newfoundland ferry Caribou, on which Aunt Constance Hillyer might or might not be traveling—lend intense narrative power to Norman’s uncannily layered story.

Wyatt’s account of the astonishing events leading up to his fathering of a beloved daughter spills out twenty-one years later. It’s a confession that speaks profoundly of the mysteries of human character in wartime and is directed, with both despair and hope, to an audience of one. An utterly stirring novel, this is Howard Norman at his celebrated best.

Genre

Historical fiction, Fiction: general and literary, Fiction: general and literary

Listen to a sample

“[What Is Left the Daughter] starts off with a bang—or, rather, a splash…Howard Norman is a gentle, deliberate writer, and his humor is smart and dry [in this] novel about the illogic of love and the violent chaos it leaves in its wake.”

New York Times Book Review

“[An] intricately beautiful story about love, jealousy, war, prejudice, survival, and a library.”

Wall Street Journal

“There is an archaic simplicity and precision, a narrow tonal register, to Norman’s prose. English is not usually written this way; it certainly is not spoken this way. Yet in Norman’s deft handling, the poetry of prose, although highly stylized, is exploited to full effect.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“Spellbinding…Norman renders wartime Nova Scotia so vividly, the salty damp seems to seep into your bones.”

People

“The latest from master of precision Howard Norman is again set in the gray majesty of Nova Scotia…In What Is Left the Daughter, Norman writes with spare elegance and dry humor, and the extraordinary emotional power of his slim new novel is earned with authentic grace.”

Entertainment Weekly

“An expertly crafted tale of love during wartime…Norman’s writing is effortless, and his plot is grand in scope but studded with moments of tenderness and intimacy that help crystallize the anxiety and weariness of life on the home front. That Norman is able to achieve so much in 250 pages is a testament to his mastery of the craft.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Bronson Pinchot bestows his performance of love and loss with an emotional yet guileless appeal. He believably produces German, Irish, and Canadian accents while also remaining true to Wyatt’s clear voice and naïve character. Beautifully performed with subtle grace, this distinctive interpretation of historical events unfolds a poignant wartime confession of despair and hope.”

AudioFile

“[In this] quiet but intensely affecting novel…Bronson Pinchot’s finely muted narration captures every nuance of Norman’s atmospheric, subtly shaped tale.”

BookPage

“Norman…scores again with this gripping account of a family ripped apart by obsession and murder…Norman has developed this brave, emotionally reticent man with great delicacy. It is extraordinary that a story which carries such a weight of sorrow is never depressing, but Norman the master craftsman pulls it off.”