The Fourth Child

The Fourth Child


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The author of Break in Case of Emergency follows up her the “extraordinary debut” (The Guardian) with a moving novel about motherhood and marriage, adolescence and bodily autonomy, family and love, religion and sexuality, and the delicate balance between the purity of faith and the messy reality of life.

Book-smart, devoutly Catholic, and painfully unsure of herself, Jane becomes pregnant in high school; by her early twenties, she is raising three children in the suburbs of western New York State. In the fall of 1991, as her children are growing older and more independent, Jane is overcome by a spiritual and intellectual restlessness that leads her to become involved with a local pro-life group. Following the tenets of her beliefs, she also adopts a little girl from Eastern Europe. But Mirela is a difficult child. Deprived of a loving caregiver in infancy, she remains unattached to her new parents, no matter how much love Jane shows her. As Jane becomes consumed with chasing therapies that might help Mirela, her relationships with her family, especially her older daughter, Lauren, begin to fray. 

Feeling estranged from her mother and unsettled in her new high school, Lauren begins to discover the power of her own burgeoning creativity and sexuality—a journey that both echoes and departs from her mother’s own adolescent experiences. But when Lauren is confronted with the limits of her youth and independence, Jane is thrown into an emotional crisis, forced to reconcile her principles and faith with her determination to keep her daughters safe. The Fourth Child is a piercing love story and a haunting portrayal of how love can shatter—or strengthen—our beliefs.

“A beautifully observed and thrillingly honest novel about the dark corners of family life and the long, complicated search for understanding and grace.”
—Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation and Weather

Title:The Fourth Child
Edition Language:English
Format Type:

    The Fourth Child Reviews

  • Alaina

    I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.The Fourth Child was an interesting story for me to dive into. I will admit that this had a ton of family drama that will take ...

  • Rose

    One of the many deep divides in American life is between those who are pro-choice and those who are anti. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the heads of the people who picket abortion clinics ...

  • Keshia

    The Fourth Child is a winding story through a generation of family dealing with everything normal yet not normal at all. Jane, devoutly catholic grows up in her peculiar way of self punishment and alm...

  • Lindsay

    This book was so hard for me to get through! The writing wasn't terrible. The author's use of detail was great. But this book just seemed to drag on forever!...

  • LoneStarWords Deb Coco

    Their conflicts and their resentments were weather. Nothing could be so trite as to talk about the weather.The Fourth ChildJessica Winter•The Fourth Child is a very unique family saga based on a fam...

  • Susan

    The book started and ended well but the middle is a muddle with missed opportunities. Too often, the author limited attention to key transitions or "cut points," as described by protagonist and mother...

  • Leslie

    A family drama that takes us inside a family and its trials and tribulations when mental illness is not talked about or treated. Jane, a devoutly religious young woman finds herself pregnant in high s...

  • Lynn

    A very engaging novel about a Catholic woman who becomes pregnant just before college and has to drop out and marry. She has 3 children and a good marriage. In the 1990s, she has a miscarriage. After ...

  • Paul

    Yes, the title as an homage to Doris Lessing, as the author acknowledges in the epigraph. In fact, the entire book seems inspired by Lessing, whom I've never understood but always liked. The duality i...

  • Salty Swift

    I really wanted to love this book, a novel that centers around a mother who has three kids by the time she's in her early 20's. As Jane's kids get a bit older, she becomes involved in a pro-life group...