Hyde, Catherine Ryan 1955- (Catherine R. Hyde)

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Hyde, Catherine Ryan 1955- (Catherine R. Hyde)


Born 1955, in Buffalo, NY; daughter of a part-time musician father and a writer mother.


Agent—Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary Agency, 1076 Eagle Dr., Salinas, CA 93905. E-mail—[email protected]


Novelist and short-story writer. Has worked as a dog trainer, pastry chef, auto mechanic, shopkeeper, and tour guide at Hearst Castle. Teacher of fiction workshops at Central Coast Writers Conference (formerly Cuesta College Writers' Conference), La Jolla Writers Conference and Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Santa Barbara Writers Conference, administrative staff. Member of fiction fellowship panel, Arizona Commission on the Arts, 1998. Pay It Forward Foundation, president and founder.


Raymond Carver Short Story Contest honor, 1994, for "Love Is Always Running Away," and 1996, for "Dante"; second-place award, Bellingham Review Tobias Wolff Award, 1997, for "Breakage"; numerous Pushcart Prize nominations; citation in Best American Short Stories, 1999, for "Castration Humor," and 2002, for "Bloodlines" and "The Man Who Found You in the Woods."


Funerals for Horses, Russian Hill Press (San Francisco, CA), 1997.

Earthquake Weather (short stories), Russian Hill Press (San Francisco, CA), 1998.

Pay It Forward, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.

Electric God, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.

Walter's Purple Heart, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.

Becoming Chloe, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2006.

Love in the Present Tense, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2006.

The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to anthologies, including Santa Barbara Stories, John Daniel & Co., 1998; California Shorts, Heyday Books, 1999; and Dog Is My Co-Pilot, Crown (New York, NY), 2003. Contributor to literary journals, including Antioch Review, Sun, Virginia Quarterly Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Manoa, Puerto del Sol, New Letters, and Amherst Review. Member of editorial board, Santa Barbara Review.


Pay It Forward was adapted as a film starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, Warner Bros., 2000. Electric God has been optioned for film by director Mark Pellington and Tapestry Films; Walter's Purple Heart has been optioned for film by American World Pictures.


Catherine Ryan Hyde published her first novel, Funerals for Horses, in 1997 with a small publishing house in San Francisco. She followed this work a year later with her collection of short fiction, Earthquake Weather. Hyde's second novel, Pay It Forward, rode the wave of good press generated by her debut work and was a subject of interest in the U.S. film industry before it was even published; that interest led to six-figure deals from both Warner Brothers studios and the publishing house of Simon & Schuster.

Funerals for Horses tells the story of Ella Ginsburg, a survivor of her sister's suicide at age eleven, her mother's sad journey into psychosis, and her father's imprisonment. Ella's brother Simon is her rock through all the turmoil of her childhood and adolescence; in young adulthood, Ella seeks therapy and through it "discovers the tragedy of her abnormal behavior," according to a Library Journal reviewer. But Simon, who to all appearances has it all with a contented family and a good career, disappears into the desert not long before his forty-third birthday, scattering his clothing and belongings at the side of a railroad track before he goes. Now it is Ella's turn to be the savior, as she tracks her brother through a Navajo reservation in Arizona on the back of a lame horse. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that her journey brings her back in touch with the sad past she and Simon share, and she comes to discover that "she—seemingly most damaged—has been the unacknowledged source of strength." Critics were impressed with Hyde's debut novel. Library Journal contributor David A. Berona credited Hyde with offering "a rich blend of metaphors and genuine characters that will touch the hearts of readers," while a Publishers Weekly critic concluded that the novel "movingly conveys the toll of years of emotional damage."

Over the course of the eighteen stories collected in Earthquake Weather, Hyde explores the souls of characters in transition and on the verge of experiences that motivate them to act, although not always for good. In "Paper Boy" the protagonist takes his own revenge on the womanizing lover of his favorite teacher by killing him. In "Alice Needs This" a pedophile convinces himself that his stalking of a young girl is necessary for both of them. These are characters at a crossroads; "they arrive in strange towns out West fresh from funerals or breakups, eager to avoid another broken heart," explained a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. The female protagonist of one story discovers that her recently dead lover has left his needy, vicious dog to her; another, who is trying to recover from addictions to Valium and sex, discovers a "guardian angel" who wants to help, but not sleep with her.

Hyde also writes comic pieces, such as "Mrs. Mulvaney, the Grasshopper God," in which the protagonist tries to see life from a bug's perspective. After cutting her grass, she wonders whether the bugs "stand among the corpses and the rubble asking, ‘Why, god? Why?’" Although Library Journal contributor Charlotte L. Glover expressed disappointment with the stories, seeing their subjects as "straight from the tabloids," the Publishers Weekly reviewer found each piece gripping in its own right, a quality that "bodes well for future work." Similarly, San Jose Mercury News contributor Jill Wolfson complimented Hyde on producing a "strong, finely-wrought collection," and New Times critic Joan McCray Tucker called the writer "a master of characterization, of emotion and dialogue," noting that Hyde "makes us understand and even care for [characters] as only a talented wordsmith could."

On the strength of her first published works, Flatiron Films optioned Hyde's not-yet-published Pay It Forward, later selling the film option to Warner Brothers. Meanwhile, Simon & Schuster extended Hyde a large advance and a guaranteed publication date on her second novel, which has an intriguing premise. Given an extra-credit assignment by his social studies teacher to think of a plan that would change society, twelve-year-old Trevor McKinney conceives of a "good will chain." He will do something good for three people; he then asks them to "pay it forward" by doing good turns for three other people. One of Trevor's good acts is to try to bring his hard-working single mom, Arlene, together with his social studies teacher, Reuben St. Clair. The two seem to have little in common; she is white, pretty, and works two jobs while trying to recover from alcohol addiction; he is black, well-educated, and missing half his face from an explosion in Vietnam. Although the outlook on this romance looks dim at first, like Trevor's other good works it picks up steam before long. Trevor's extra-credit project soon escalates into a major movement through the work of journalist Chris Chandler, whose articles interweave throughout Hyde's fictional narrative.

Pay It Forward received a great deal of critical attention. Although Time contributor R.Z. Sheppard dubbed Trevor's project "an idealistic Ponzi scheme" and found the romantic aspects of the plotline "plodding," Booklist reviewer Carolyn Kubisz called the novel a "beautifully written, heartwarming story of one boy's belief in the goodness of humanity." The Chicago Tribune's Scott Eyman praised Hyde's "powerful narrative" as well as her ability to tell the story "with an easy, beneficent wisdom about the ways of the world." A Publishers Weekly contributor maintained that "Trevor's ultimate martyrdom, and the extraordinary worldwide success of his project, catapult the drama into the realm of myth, but Hyde's simple prose rarely turns preachy." Ultimately, commented San Francisco Chronicle reviewer David Field Sunday, Hyde's "fable speaks to the hunger so many of us feel for something to believe in that can give us hope for a future that looks increasingly bleak."

Like Pay It Forward, Hyde's 2000 novel Electric God also has a storyline grounded in themes of redemption. Fifty-year-old Hayden Reese has had a difficult life, and his repressed anger has forced him from an existence of relative solitude to a hospital room, engaged in a fight for his life after being shot by the husband of his former girlfriend. Hyde focuses on Hayden's efforts to come to terms with the God of the Bible, and in doing so creates "an exceptionally complex, unforgettable character," according to Library Journal contributor Michele Leber. "Hyde is inspiring and uplifting without sentimentality," added Carolyn Kubisz in Booklist, "and creates in Hayden a modern-day Job." A Publishers Weekly contributor had particular praise for Hyde's prose, and noted that "her clever, realistic dialogue; her sharp descriptions of hard-scrabble country; and her warm humor" keep the novel from becoming overly sentimental.

Walter's Purple Heart, published in 2002, was actually a novel that Hyde had written much earlier, but she had put it away. With her new success and maybe a better understanding of how to craft this novel, she rewrote it and submitted it to her publisher. The story begins with Michael Steeb, an aimless twenty-one-year-old who thinks he recalls someone else's memories. In an attempt to find answers to the strange thoughts he is experiencing, he turns to a Ouija board, and there he finds the voice of Walter, a young soldier killed in World War II. Later, Michael discovers that Walter is actually an earlier incarnation of himself, and the story unfolds as Michael tries to come to terms with the two aspects of himself. In Library Journal, Michele Leber stated that Walter's Purple Heart is "compelling enough that readers may find themselves finishing it at a single sitting." Leber praised Hyde as "a remarkable, insightful storyteller." Kelly Milner-Halls in the Denver Post noted: "In her latest remarkable novel, Walter's Purple Heart, Catherine Ryan Hyde … serves up 315 distinctive pages of reconciliation and hope." Milner-Halls stated: "Hyde subtly captures the most powerful elements of sentiment—qualities we all recognize and understand—and adds a dash of metaphysical hope."

Becoming Chloe, which a Publishers Weekly contributor called a "deeply affecting novel," is the story of the squalid life, and triumphant redemption, of two brutalized, deeply troubled teens. Seventeen-year-old Jordan has been forced to turn to prostitution to survive. When he told his parents he was gay, they threw him out of the house, but not before he was severely beaten by his homophobic father. While living in the bleak city cellar he has adopted as home, he hears a disturbance in the alley outside and realizes a girl is being raped. After he steps forward to save her, the two form a strong personal bond, with Jordan becoming her fierce and determined protector. Seemingly childlike, even simpleminded, Jordan calls the eighteen-year-old Chloe. She, too, has been forced to sell herself to survive. As they navigate their grim surroundings, however, Chloe becomes more trusting of Jordan and her emotional facade begins to crumble into depression. After a second violent incident involving the two, in which Jordan nearly commits murder to protect her, they decide that their best option is to leave New York, sparking a rough-and-tumble road trip across America. In their journeys, they discover a world they hardly knew existed, where beauty and kindness stand in bright counterpoint to gloom and despair. While growing closer as friends, they also realize that the world around them harbors both good and bad, and that "their mutual salvation has been in becoming more open to the world," observed Teresa Stores in the Lambda Book Report.

Becoming Chloe "is eloquent storytelling about how two troubled teens find redemption—through each other," commented the Publishers Weekly critic. A Kirkus Reviews writer called the work "tender, amazingly hopeful and only occasionally sentimental," concluding that the novel is "vibrant and heartbreaking." The story "reveals a somewhat darker side of the world for contemporary young adults, but the friendship that evolves between two homeless kids … is also redemptive," noted Stores. "The theme of looking around and looking deeply at all that is beautiful in the world," commented Kliatt reviewer Myrna Marler, "is good for both younger and older teens."

Pearl Sung, one of the three main protagonists of Love in the Present Tense, gets pregnant at age thirteen and gives birth to her son, Leonard. She also accidentally kills Leonard's father, a police officer who seduced her. She flees after the killing, moving from place to place to avoid police attention and raise her visually and physically impaired son. Pearl is ferociously protective of her son, shielding him from the world and his own tragic background. She tells him that, no matter what, they will always share a "forever love." When she is finally apprehended by the cops, she leaves Leonard with the only person she thinks she can trust, her twenty-five-year-old neighbor Mitch Devereaux. When Pearl fails to return, Mitch finds himself unexpectedly raising a young boy. Far from being a burden, however, he discovers that raising Leonard has been the best thing that ever happened to him. For his part, Leonard continues to feel the influence of his mother and the "forever love" she promised him. As the story unfolds in sections narrated by Pearl, Mitch, and Leonard, the characters examine the many facets of love, relationships, and bonds between disparate people. They discover how love manifests itself in both hurtful and empowering ways, and the many ways in which love and the strength of family will transcend the most difficult of circumstances.

"While somewhat predictable, this is a sweet story that will be a hit with readers," commented Kim Dare in the School Library Journal. Hyde "tells a rich and engaging story through the voices of three extraordinary people," remarked Carolyn Kubisz in Booklist. The novel is "sparked with humanity and a lively vernacular," stated a Kirkus Reviews contributor. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that "her story of a love that transcends time, place, and human weakness is a worthy successor" to Pay It Forward.

The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance tells the story of thirteen-year-old Cynnie, who takes care of her young brother Bill in place of their alcoholic mother. Bill has Down's Syndrome, and Cynnie is devoted to caring for him. When her grandparents take Bill away from the family, Cynnie spirals downward, becoming an alcoholic like her mother. She eventually attempts to kidnap Bill, but is arrested and assigned to Alcoholics Anonymous, where she begins her slow road to recovery. A Kirkus Reviews contributor praised the novel, noting that Hyde "offers a gritty subject without making the story gritty." Myrna Marner of Kliatt also found the story to be a compelling portrait of a troubled youth, helping to explain why "someone who despises her mother's weaknesses might follow her lead."

While Hyde continues to be a meticulous editor of her own prose, and rewrites each of her stories several times before submitting it for publication, she refers to herself as a sporadic writer. "I've been known to write ten pages a day for 10 days running before I take a breath," she told a Publishers Weekly interviewer, but also admitted to taking breaks of over a month between work. "I'm one of those people who laughingly call themselves inspirational writers," Hyde added, "which basically means someone who has no control over their own creative process."



Booklist, December 15, 1999, Carolyn Kubisz, review of Pay It Forward, p. 757; November 15, 2000, Carolyn Kubisz, review of Electric God, p. 609; January 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Becoming Chloe, p. 84; April 1, 2006, Carolyn Kubisz, review of Love in the Present Tense, p. 19; March 1, 2007, Heather Booth, review of The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance, p. 74.

Chicago Tribune, March 3, 2000, Scott Eyman, "Capraesque Fable Fosters Inspirational Feeling."

Entertainment Weekly, June 2, 2006, Mandi Bierly, review of Love in the Present Tense, p. 91.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2006, review of Becoming Chloe, p. 86; March 15, 2006, review of Love in the Present Tense, p. 254; March 1, 2007, review of The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance, p. 223.

Kliatt, March, 2006, Myrna Marler, review of Becoming Chloe, p. 12; March, 2007, Myrna Marler, review of The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance, p. 18.

Lambda Book Report, fall, 2006, Teresa Stores, review of Becoming Chloe, p. 18.

Library Journal, August, 1997, David A. Berona, review of Funerals for Horses, p. 130; April 15, 1998, Charlotte L. Glover, review of Earthquake Weather, pp. 117-118; November 1, 2000, Michele Leber, review of Electric God, p. 134; April 1, 2002, Michele Leber, review of Walter's Purple Heart, p. 138.

New Times, April 30, 1998, Joan McCray Tucker, review of Earthquake Weather.

People, May 29, 2006, review of Becoming Chloe, p. 53.

Publishers Weekly, April 28, 1997, review of Funerals for Horses, p. 52; February 9, 1998, review of Earthquake Weather, p. 75; February 22, 1999, John F. Baker, "On the Map," p. 13; November 1, 1999, review of Pay It Forward, p. 72; October 16, 2000, review of Electric God, p. 47; December 4, 2000, "Catherine Ryan Hyde: Understanding All the People," p. 48; February 18, 2002, review of Walter's Purple Heart, p. 74; March 6, 2006, review of Love in the Present Tense, p. 46; April 10, 2006, review of Becoming Chloe, p. 74.

San Francisco Chronicle, February 6, 2000, David Field Sunday, "One Boy's Attempt to Change the World."

San Jose Mercury News, May 31, 1998, Jill Wolfson, review of Earthquake Weather.

San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, April 3, 1998, Michael Ray, review of Earthquake Weather.

School Library Journal, July, 2000, Claudia Moore, review of Pay It Forward, p. 127; December, 2000, review of Pay It Forward, p. 56; June, 2006, Hillias J. Martin, review of Becoming Chloe, p.159; October, 2006, Kim Dare, review of Love in the Present Tense, p. 187.

Time, February 14, 2000, R.Z. Sheppard, review of Pay It Forward, p. 86.


BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (March 10, 2007), "Meet the Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde."

Catherine Ryan Hyde Home Page,http://www.cryanhyde.com (March 10, 2007).

Denver Post,http://www.denverpost.com/ (April 7, 2002), Kelly Milner-Halls, review of Walter's Purple Heart.

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (March 10, 2007), filmography of Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Pay It Forward Foundation Web site,http://www.payitforwardfoundation.org/ (March 10, 2007).

Pay It Forward Movement Web site,http://www.payitforwardmovement.org/ (March 10, 2007).