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New American Library

Paperback (reprint edition)
ISBN: 0451124995

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Second Heaven

I began this story, quickly painted myself into a corner with it, put it down and only picked it up again after Ordinary People was written and published. Now I had to produce a second novel (horrors!), and how was I supposed to do that when I hadn’t yet figured out how I wrote the first one? The curse of the second novel regularly gets trotted out in book reviews, and it is the writer’s job to ignore all such silly talk and simply get on with the job at hand. Unfortunately it took me seven years to figure that out. Or else I’m just a slow writer, and that’s the truth of it. (You should only know how long it took me to write up all of this!)

Back in the fifties The Detroit News had a one-page column called Experience, written by an advice columnist named Jane Lee. One day I happened to read a letter there, written by a young boy, telling of his frustration and sadness at never being able to please his strict and demanding father. Jane Lee advised him to talk to another adult about the abusive behavior that was going on in his home—a place where he was supposed to be safe—and she spelled out to him the ways in which he needed to protect himself. This got me thinking about the many children who are physically, mentally, and emotionally abused on a daily basis by those people in their lives who are supposed to love and protect them. How does a person survive this? What sorts of defensive behaviors are built up around the soul in order to survive it? I wrote Second Heaven in order to better understand the growing phenomenon of child abuse in our society. Gale Murray is a sixteen-year-old boy—smart, funny, strong-willed—who refuses to bend under the harsh treatment he receives from his father. But how can he know when it’s safe to trust another adult? And what if he’s unable to learn this?

This novel is also the story of Catherine Holzman, newly divorced and on her own after having spent twenty years married to a man who knew what was best for her at all times. And her divorce lawyer, Michael Atwood, who is drawn to her and yet wary of her involvement with this complicated, troubled teenager.

Critical Acclaim

“She makes us understand loneliness…rootlessness…pain, and the desperate need for love…she casts light on our own lives.” Chicago Tribune Book World

“Never once sliding into the sentimental, knowing just how to make her characters real, Guest has written a novel that makes her readers think and feel passionately, and that is no mean feat.” Publishers Weekly



Copyright © 2005 Judith Guest