The Spectacular

A Novel

by Zoe Whittall

On Sale: 08/24/2021

The Spectacular

Enlarge Book Cover

The Spectacular

A Novel

by Zoe Whittall

On Sale: 08/24/2021


About the Book

It's taboo to regret motherhood. But what would happen if you did? Shifting perspectives and time periods, The Spectacular is a multi-generational story exploring sexuality, gender and the weight of reproductive freedoms, from the author of The Best Kind of People.

It's 1997 and Missy's band has finally hit the big time as they tour across America. At twenty-two years old, Missy gets on stage every night and plays the song about her absent mother that made the band famous. Missy is the only girl in the band and she's determined to party just as hard as everyone else, loving and leaving someone in every town. But then a forgotten party favour strands her at the border.

Forty-something Carola is just surfacing from a sex scandal at the yoga centre where she has been living, when she sees her daughter, Missy, for the first time in ten years—on the cover of a music magazine.

Ruth is eighty-three and planning her return to the Turkish seaside village where she spent her childhood. But when her granddaughter Missy winds up crashing at her house, she decides it's time that the strong and stubborn women in her family find a way to understand each other again.

In her new book, by turns sharp and provocative, Zoe Whittall captures three generations of very different women who struggle to build an authentic life in the absence of traditional familial and marital structures. Definitions of family, romance, gender and love will radically change as they seek out lives that are nothing less than spectacular.

Critical Praise

“What an honor and privilege to read a book that so fiercely wants to be read. Zoe Whittall's The Spectacular is rangy and deft, weaving three character threads together in a dexterous series of twists that left me excited for more. I found myself deeply attached to the women of this book and their relationships with one another. Whittall addresses motherhood and autonomy in ways I've never seen done before. A fascinating stunner of a novel, The Spectacular is exactly that: spectacular!” - Kristen Arnett, author of With Teeth 

“Zoe Whittall's engrossing and epic novel paints an indelible portrait of three women, each of them navigating the complex constraints of their bodies, their families, their obligations, and their desires. A daring and beautiful examination of motherhood, The Spectacular left me breathless.”  - Robin Wasserman, author of Mother Daughter Widow Wife

“Both raw and refined, The Spectacular is an insightful, poignant exploration of family and relationships from one of my favorite writers working today. A multi-generational story that’s fully alive.” - Iain Reid, author of I’m Thinking of Ending Things

“Birth, identity, sex, what a woman wants, the vagaries of desire, love nibbling at the heart, independence, forfeiture of self, mother. Zoe Whittall carves at all of this with her pen and lays it out on the page in this fierce and tender novel.”  - David Bergen, author of Here the Dark

“Fearless, challenging, epic—these are all words I have been using to describe The Spectacular, Zoe Whittall’s latest novel about three generations of women who are tied together by family obligations and a crooked connection to motherhood. Ruth, Carola, and especially Missy crackle off the pages, sometimes prickly, often uncertain, but always searching for a happiness that is bound by the expectations of becoming a mother and the resentments that follow. Fiction often teaches us truths, and The Spectacular does just that, laying bare the ways in which women are defined and the ways in which women can define themselves.” - Jen Sookfong Lee, author of The Conjoined

“Zoe Whittall's The Spectacular is such a fun read. It sizzles with women's desire -- for success, fulfillment, distraction, drugs, sex, love, care. The worlds Whittall's characters inhabit - a former ashram, a commune, the indie rock scene of the 1990s - are alive with meaning. Witnessing the women in this novel connect, miss each other, and try to figure one another out is a joyful and tender experience. The Spectacular is... what can I say, spectacular!”  - Ilana Masad, All My Mother’s Lovers

"The Spectacular gives us three brilliantly distinct voices of women challenging the societal expectations of who they should be. This is a novel about how we learn to define who we are, about the courage to make decisions nobody will understand, and about the profound complexities of maternal ambivalence. Zoe Whittall has a gift for vividly capturing our human behaviours, and for dialogue that will grab your heart. Both expansive and intimate, wild and tender, I loved it."   - Ashley Audrain, author of The Push

"The Spectacular is a lush, sweeping novel that excavates the maternal layers of a family's genealogy to breathtaking, surprising ends. This book will leave you with a brilliant roar inside your chest -- Whittall's prose is afire with the most complex and daring forms of empathy." - Alissa Nutting, author of Made for Love

"Zoe Whittall has this incredible ability to go straight at the honest emotional heart of a story, and yet even with that ferocity, her writing is always graceful, a total joy to read. It makes it so easy to love her characters. In the best books characters feel like my friends, but with the mothers of The Spectacular, they came to feel like my family." - Torrey Peters, author of Detransition, Baby

“[A] totally absorbing contemporary epic with characters and social worlds that are Edith Wharton-level dimensional, but as relatable as your own uncannily recognizable self. . . . The Spectacular lets us fully inhabit the historical moment of the 90s by drawing exquisite threads forward and back in time, creating a broad, deep landscape - a matriarchal counter-history. As with all of her works, Zoe Whittall is, yet again and even more spectacularly, a consummate, generous novelist whose immensely assured prose is a gift to her readers.”   - Jordy Rosenberg, author of Confessions of the Fox

The Spectacular is a deeply thoughtful, deeply felt novel, ceaselessly questioning and genuinely empathetic to its characters’ actions. What should not be overlooked, however, is how fun it is, with moments (particularly in Missy’s storyline) of powerful joy and (mostly in Juniper’s sections) wicked, almost black humour . . . .Whittall . . . brings all of her talents to bear on her new novel, and the result is a singularly impressive piece of fiction.”  - Toronto Star

“[G]ritty, raw, and unapologetic, [Whittall] builds strong female protagonists who seem largely unconcerned with how others expect them to behave. There is a strong focus on sexuality, gender fluidity, and free love, but the book also explores themes of motherhood and family responsibility. . . . An entertaining story that is equal parts family saga and cultural indictment.” - Kirkus Reviews

"Whittall is excellent at writing the small, intimate details and sharp dialogue, as well as the mostly propulsive plot, while making no bones about opinions on gender inequities. Whittall is a great storyteller, and her latest does not disappoint." - Publishers Weekly

“A gorgeous, aching family saga that sweeps through decades, this book touches brilliantly on motherhood, womanhood, family, singledom, and every kind of aging.”  - Chatelaine

The Spectacular is an homage to womanhood, motherhood, sexuality and queerness as it chronicles the lives of three ferociously strong protagonists who are wildly different from one another.”  - Associated Press

“Read this book if you like stories with strong female leads. Read this book if you want a book about unconventional parenting. Read this book if you are interested in intergenerational relationships and the effect of past trauma. Whittall has delivered a compelling and engaging text which will leave you with the satisfaction only found in great storytelling.”  - Sherbrooke Record

"A competent and highly readable testament to the strength of the maternal bond." - New York Times

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9781443455237
  • ISBN 10: 1443455237
  • Imprint: HarperAvenue
  • On Sale: 08/24/2021
  • Pages: 368
  • List Price:32.99 CAD
  • BISAC1 : FICTION / Literary
  • BISAC2 : FICTION / Contemporary Women
  • BISAC3 : FICTION / LGBT / General

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