“This vivid portrait of a family unraveling is perfect for book clubs.”
—People, (★★★★ four out of four stars)
“Tinderbox will certainly be compared to Jonathan Franzen’s acclaimed The Corrections. And it should be, since Gornick creates a world of characters every bit as complex and flawed—and as real—as Franzen’s subjects.”
–“Pick of the Week” Jewish Book Council Book Club
Myra is a Manhattan psychotherapist. A quick study and an excellent judge of character, she thinks she knows what she’s getting when she hires a nanny—it’s her job, after all, to analyze people. Her phobia-addled son has just moved back in with his wife and child, and the new nanny, Eva, seems like a perfect addition: she cleans like a demon and irons like a dream, and she forms an immediate bond with Myra’s grandson.
But as Eva, a Peruvian immigrant, reveals more of herself, what seemed a felicitous arrangement turns ominous. She racks the household with screams from a night terror. She spits in her hands to ward off evil spirits. Then, one afternoon, she settles into Myra’s patient chair and begins to expose the secrets of her past. Their relationship slowly and inexorably becomes too close, too dependent, and, ultimately, terrifyingly destructive. As events spiral out of Myra’s control, she learns that even a family as close-knit as her own can have plenty to hide.
In the rich tradition of Lionel Shriver, Jane Hamilton, and Anne Tyler, the psychoanalyst and novelist Lisa Gornick tells us a story about the tragedy of good intentions. Tinderbox spins a suspenseful mystery of hidden traumas. It’s a searingly perceptive, deeply honest novel about families and secrets, and power, and love.
Praise & Reviews
I loved this novel—it is deeply intelligent and shot through with suspense The light that it shines on family life—from lethal traumas to daily love to misguided intentions—has a rare sort of rightness. An extraordinary book, written for adults
–Joan Silber, winner of the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 2018 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction
Tinderbox is a brilliant gem of a novel: a page-turner that reminds us that, while we are never without the weight of our past, we also choose how we carry it. Lisa Gornick mines her characters’ hidden histories and ignites our interest from page one. Absolutely riveting
–Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train
I clung to every page of Tinderbox…Gornick has translated the very real and tender chaos of family into a novel that’s expertly constructed and engaging.
Of Franzen’s work Entertainment Weekly wrote, his “domestic drama teaches that, yes, you can go home again. But you might not want to.” And while the same lesson can be taken from Tinderbox, Gornick also presents us with the hope of redemption
–Juli Berwald, Jewish Book Council
Lisa Gornick is both a writer and a psychoanalyst. Her gifts for seeing beyond the surface, for appreciating and depicting the consequences of unrealized love and psychic pain, for observing with unblinking honesty the dynamics of family life and human foibles, come together in this novel, which starts off like a brush fire and then engulfs and burns with fury
—The Huffington Post
A fiery, tender novel about the smoldering secrets that can destroy a family. Lisa Gornick is a psychoanalyst as well as a novelist, and the training serves her well. She exposes her characters with a skilled therapist’s blend of gentility and intensity. She knows just when to hang back—and when to light the match.
–Lisa Zeidner, author of Love Bomb and Layover
“Pick of the Week” Jewish Book Council Book
What a smart, compassionate novel Lisa Gornick has written! In the first line of Tinderbox, Myra says yes when she should say no, allowing her maternal instincts to trump her wisdom as a therapist. That tension—the tug of war between the advice we give others and the life we actually live—pulls the reader through this wonderful book of family turmoil. Getting to know these characters truly, madly, deeply is as gut-wrenching and joyful as life itself.
–Mary Kay Zuravleff, author of Man Alive! and The Bowl is Already Broken
Tinderbox explores the entanglement of human lives and the stunning result when lightness and darkness meet. Without a doubt, Tinderbox is corporeal, and a beating product of Gornick’s experiences.
I was gripped from the first line of Lisa Gornick’s ingenious novel to the last. Using a polished prose to scratch hard and deep through the surface of a pristine upper-middle-class Upper West Side family’s life, Gornick’s incisive narrative explores the creepy underbelly of privilege and self-satisfaction.
— Jenny McPhee, author of A Man of No Moon
Tinderbox is the story of a family undergoing seismic changes brought on by a stranger who unwittingly forces her hosts to face themselves. A masterly and dramatic group portrait, drawn with intelligence, precision, and deep feeling.
–Daniel Menaker, author of The Treatment
Tinderbox tells the story of a family knocked off balance with war assurance. Turning the pages is a pleasure