Hershon, Joanna (Brett)
HERSHON, Joanna (Brett)
PERSONAL: Daughter of Stuart J. (an orthopedic surgeon) and Judith (an attorney) Hershon; married George Derek Buckner (an artist), July 24, 1999. Education: Graduate of University of Michigan; Columbia University, M.A. (fiction writing).
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Ballantine Books/Random House, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
Swimming (novel), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2001.
The Outside of August (novel), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including One Story.
SIDELIGHTS: In Joanna Hershon's debut novel, Swimming, Vivian Silver is a free spirit who settled down in the 1960s with the staid Jeb Wheeler on his New Hampshire acreage. Here their lives and the lives of their children become closely linked to their hand-built house and a nearby pond, a murky pool that witnesses the darkest of family secrets.
The tension that has always existed between the successful and handsome Aaron and his volatile younger brother, Jack, reaches the breaking point when Aaron brings his girlfriend, Suzanne, home from college. Late one night after a party, Jack and Suzanne go swimming alone, and when Jack comes back to shore naked, Aaron is waiting for him. Their confrontation ends in tragedy, a Cain and Able tale that results in Aaron leaving home. The story then moves forward ten years, and Lila, who adored her older brothers, is now teaching English in New York City. She sees their faces everywhere as she searches for Aaron, the brother who disappeared from her life, and the truth about what happened on that fateful weekend. "Hershon's carefully worked prose aspires to hothouse perfection," said a Publishers Weekly contributor. And Library Journal critic Yvette Olson said Hershon "has an eye for place, an ear for dialog, and true feeling for character." Kristine Huntley concluded in a Booklist review that Swimming "is an engrossing tale of love, redemption, and second chances."
Hershon's second novel, The Outside of August, is also the story of an unhappy family. Marie Hashima Lofton commented in a review for Bookreporter.com that it is "written in a very descriptive style" and said that Hershon "successfully creates a mood and atmosphere throughout the book that matches the story line." In this story, Alan and Charlotte Green are a professor of neurobiology and artist, respectively, who have raised their two children, August and Alice, on Long Island. Charlotte is emotionally and physically unavailable to her children much of the time because she takes unannounced and extended trips that last up to several months at a time. Alan is physically present but absorbed by long hours of work. As teens, August becomes rebellious, and when their mother dies in a fire, August, who now has a rich, orphaned girlfriend named Cady, leaves home to travel around the world. Alice, who narrates the story, cares for her widower father until his death; then she travels to Baja, where August is living as a surfer. When she finds him and attempts to learn what he is hiding from her, a family secret surfaces that explains her mother's absences and August's anger. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found the characters of Alice and Cady "particularly satisfying," while Library Journal contributor Reba Leiding felt that Charlotte "is by far the most compelling character, charming one moment, disconsolate and self-destructive the next."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2000, Kristine Huntley, review of Swimming, p. 621.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2003, review of The Outside of August, p. 824.
Library Journal, December, 2000, Yvette Olson, review of Swimming, p. 188; March 15, 2003, Reba Leiding, review of The Outside of August, p. 114.
Publishers Weekly, February 5, 2001, review of Swimming, p. 69; April 21, 2003, review of The Outside of August, p. 35.
Washington Post Book World, March 12, 2001, Chris Bohjalian, "Finding Her Stroke," p. C02.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (November 8, 2004), Marie Hashima Lofton, review of The Outside of August.