“Long-suffering Hattie Campbell and her irascible husband, Abel, are in their 80s and still manipulating, enabling, and worrying about their four adult children, all of whom suffer, to some degree or other, from addiction, jealousy, and neediness. The sun around which they circle is Billy, the youngest of the siblings, who is both the most likable and most damaged. As Abel's health declines and Billy deteriorates, the remaining siblings compete to win their parents' favor. Peery's long-awaited follow-up to her National Book Award-finalist The River Beyond the World is a sympathetic portrait of a dysfunctional, complex, and often funny clan who, although they try, can't slip the family ties that bind.”
— Cindy Pauldine, The River's End Bookstore, Oswego, NY
Winner of the Library of Virginia's Emyl Jenkins Sexton Literary Award for Fiction!
"A brilliantly moving and unforgettable novel." - Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life
Janet Peery’s first novel, The River Beyond the World, was a National Book Award finalist in 1996. Acclaimed for her gorgeous writing and clear-eyed gaze into the hearts of people, Peery now returns with her second novel, The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs.
On a summer evening in the blue-collar town of Amicus, Kansas, the Campbell family gathers for a birthday dinner for their ailing patriarch, retired judge Abel Campbell, prepared and hosted by their still-hale mother Hattie. But when Billy, the youngest sibling—with a history of addiction, grand ideas, and misdemeanors—passes out in his devil’s food cake, the family takes up the unfinished business of Billy’s sobriety.
Billy’s wayward adventures have too long consumed their lives, in particular Hattie’s, who has enabled his transgressions while trying to save him from Abel’s disappointment. As the older children—Doro, Jesse, ClairBell, and Gideon—contend with their own troubles, they compete for the approval of the elderly parents they adore, but can’t quite forgive.
With knowing humor and sure-handed storytelling, Janet Peery reveals a family at its best and worst, with old wounds and new, its fractures and feuds, and yet its unbreakable bonds.
About the Author
Janet Peery is the author of Alligator Dance (stories), What the Thunder Said (a novella and stories), and the novel The River Beyond the World, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. She has received numerous honors for her fiction including the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Whiting Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. She lives in Cape Charles, Virginia.
"Peery's insightful writing turns a happily-ever-after conclusion into appreciation for the serenity of acceptance and steadfastness." - Booklist
"A tender - if not altogether surprising - family portrait with generous heart. Ultimately satisfying, a quiet novel with lingering warmth." - Kirkus
"A powerful new novel...Potent and memorable." - Publishers Weekly
"An honest portrait of a complicated family...The author deftly reveals the innermost thoughts of seven separate characters [with] pitch-perfect prose." - Washington Independent Review of Books
"It's rare to find a book that so mercilessly, and beautifully, and honestly concerns itself with middle-aged life. With the tender, enduring, fraught relationships among aging siblings and their even more aged parents. Janet Peery is a magnificent sentence-maker and a faithful reporter of the human condition as it regards this large and flawed and recognizable -- so recognizable -- midwestern family. I will gift everyone I know with a copy of The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs, just because it has such important confirmation to bestow upon us." --Antonya Nelson, author of Talking in Bed and Funny Once
"Never have the highs and lows of love and sacrifice—of addiction and enabling—and the inevitable passage of time, been so eloquently rendered in the moments and memories of everyday life. Janet Peery has masterfully connected all the points of one family’s complex constellation and emerged with a brilliantly moving and unforgettable novel." --Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life
"Piercingly observant of the minutia that make life meaningful, Janet Peery paints a portrait in The Exact Nature of our Wrongs of a family both unmistakably familiar and unforgettably unique, one that will stay with you for a while. This is a richly accomplished, novel by a writer as wryly funny as she is wise." --Josh Weil, author of The Great Glass Sea and The New Valley
"A masterpiece. One of the wisest, most nuanced evocations of the hopeless quandary of family relations--the trying to understand, to get along, the failure and the suffering--and yet the grace of it, too." --Blake Bailey, author of Cheever: A Life