Avalon: A novel (Hardcover)
Remembering childhood hours spent in her mother's garden, Jamaica Kincaid once wrote, "A person exists in the kingdom of children no matter how old they are." This is true of adults, but, conversely, also true of teenagers, and of the constrained feeling of that time in life. AVALON takes place in the world of plants and flowers, and of childhood. It is my kind of summer read: a book about adolescence which allows that stage of life to retain its complexities and complications. AVALON is nostalgic, yet not happy or simple; funny and strange, yet serious in execution. Pragmatic in its misery, ecstatic in its hopefulness. Nell Zink forever. -Alia
— From Alia
Bran’s Southern California upbringing is anything but traditional. After her mother joins a Buddhist colony, Bran is raised by her “common-law stepfather” on Bourdon Farms—a plant nursery that doubles as a cover for a biker gang. She spends her days tending plants, slogging through high school, and imagining what life could be if she had been born to a different family.
And then she meets Peter, a beautiful, troubled, and charming train wreck of a college student from the East Coast, who launches his teaching career by initiating her into the world of literature and aesthetics. As the two begin a volatile and ostensibly doomed long-distance relationship, Bran searches for meaning in her own surroundings—attending disastrous dance recitals, house-sitting for strangers, and writing scripts for student films. She knows how to survive, but her happiness depends on learning to call the shots.
Exceedingly rich, ecstatically dark, and delivered with masterful humor, Avalon is a poignant portrait of a young woman who, against all odds, is determined to find her place in the world and find clarity in its remote corners.
“Effulgent and clever . . . A zone of mirth and meaning. What fun.”
—Molly Young, The New York Times
“Well-observed, archly funny . . . Zink is a brilliant creator of character, setting and, for lack of a better word, vibe, and there is much pleasure to be found in the way she gets so many things so precisely right in this novel.”
—Samantha Schoech, San Francisco Chronicle
“Fun to read . . . Zink lovingly lampoons the way that teenagers bumble toward identity and character . . . A light-footed Cinderella story that documents a young woman's rise from a wretched existence in stylish, witty fashion”
—Patrick Condon, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Zink has a gift for crafting elegant sentences that reward rereading . . . The ending of the novel is Zink at her best: clever and biting, and refreshingly unforced.”
—Michael Schaub, The Boston Globe
“Avalon contains delights . . . [The novel’s] discussions [are] lively and entertaining . . . [Zink’s] customary lunacy is on display again in Avalon.”
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
“Incredibly pleasing to see a writer this intelligent keep the focus of her gaze this tight . . . There are also long stretches of satisfying narrative, of humanity and pain . . . The concrete descriptions of California are continually stunning and add a further layer of life . . . [Avalon] ended up, for me, feeling like art.”
—Lynn Steger Strong, Los Angeles Times
“Vivid and thorough—persistent, even, in its whimsy . . . Zink writes, in places, with almost cinematic vividness, and follows Bran’s evolution with an impressive commitment to realizing her experiences on the page.”
—Claire Messud, Harper’s
“Zink delves into class, art, and American culture in a characteristically witty bildungsroman . . . Even more impactful than the intellectual ballistics is the tortured romance story. The style is all Zink’s own, and she’s as brilliant as ever here.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred