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The Boy in the Field: A Novel (Hardcover)

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A People Book of the Week | An O Magazine Best Book of the Fall| A USA Today Book Not to Miss| A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

The New York Times bestselling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy delivers another “luminous, unforgettable, and perfectly rendered” (Dennis Lehane) novel—a poignant and probing psychological drama that follows the lives of three siblings in the wake of a violent crime.

One September afternoon in 1999, teenagers Matthew, Zoe, and Duncan Lang are walking home from school when they discover a boy lying in a field, bloody and unconscious. Thanks to their intervention, the boy’s life is saved. In the aftermath, all three siblings are irrevocably changed. 

Matthew, the oldest, becomes obsessed with tracking down the assailant, secretly searching the local town with the victim’s brother. Zoe wanders the streets of Oxford, looking at men, and one of them, a visiting American graduate student, looks back. Duncan, the youngest, who has seldom thought about being adopted, suddenly decides he wants to find his birth mother. Overshadowing all three is the awareness that something is amiss in their parents’ marriage. Over the course of the autumn, as each of the siblings confronts the complications and contradictions of their approaching adulthood, they find themselves at once drawn together and driven apart.

Written with the deceptive simplicity and power of a fable, The Boy in the Field showcases Margot Livesey’s unmatched ability to “tell her tale masterfully, with intelligence, tenderness, and a shrewd understanding of all our mercurial human impulses” (Lily King, author of Euphoria).

About the Author


Margot Livesey is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Flight of Gemma Hardy, The House on Fortune Street, Banishing Verona, Eva Moves the Furniture, The Missing World, Criminals, and Homework. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Vogue, and the Atlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. The House on Fortune Street won the 2009 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Born in Scotland, Livesey currently lives in the Boston area and is a professor of fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Praise For…


“In the broadest sense, Margot Livesey’s exquisite novel The Boy in the Field is a whodunit.… But the real mysteries lie elsewhere, specifically and most compellingly with the characters who are witnesses to the crime…. Livesey’s writing is quiet, observant and beautifully efficient — there’s not an extra word or scene in the entire book — and yet simultaneously so cinematic, you can hear the orchestral soundtrack as you tear through the pages.” 
New York Times Book Review

“An expertly crafted novel of family (and one almost magically good dog) filled with dazzling insights and beauty.”
People, Book of the Week

"Margot Livesey is a literary pointillist whose prose is both impressionistic and as precise as a geometry equation…. Tiny piece by tiny piece, Livesey builds an intimate universe that expands and expands “until it grows large enough, almost, to keep everything else at bay.”
O, the Oprah Magazine

“Luminous.... Livesey’s language is crystalline-clear and immersive.... Ultimately what keeps Livesey’s novel aloft is that it is full of kindnesses ... as well as Livesey’s precisely evocative words. At one point, Duncan tears a handful of his sketches in half, “enjoying the decisive sound of fibers parting.” Like so many other moments in this novel, that description nails the moment, the character, and the elemental aspect of the book in one fell, satisfactory swoop.”
Boston Globe

“A swift-moving mystery that expands into subtler sorts of narratives — the coming of age, the family in crisis — Margot Livesey’s ninth novel, The Boy in the Field, once more demonstrates how she’s the best sort of pro.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Here, everything and everyone feels real. Maybe because those most sensational details of incidents that would normally be the raison d’etre of a book like this one, with a crime at its center, receive the very welcome nuanced treatment from author Livesey, whose novels have, for a couple of decades now, been successful at making the rich subtext of feeling, memory, and difficult life decisions mulled over, the main event of her stories."

New York Journal of Books

“How lucky the world is that Margot Livesey has turned her usual keen and sympathetic writer’s eye to the Lang children as they struggle to make sense of a terrible crime and the sensitive, mysterious young victim who suffers in the aftermath. From its taut and frightening opening chapter to its final, mournful pages, The Boy in the Field  is a tender, deeply humane exploration of family, philosophy, and what it means to grow up, to keep secrets, to care for one another, and most importantly, what it means to hold another’s heart in yours, always, with tenderness and mercy.”
— Elizabeth Wetmore, author of Valentine

"I loved every single sentence of The Boy in the Field. This novel is so intricately woven, its world so vibrantly built, its characters so beautifully and empathically wrought. To experience the world as rendered by Margot Livesey is a singular, extraordinary delight."
— Claire Lombardo, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had

“Margot Livesey has the unique ability to find the hidden darkness beneath the surface of our lives, no matter how deeply buried. A deceptively simple story that explores the aftermath of a moment of violence, The Boy in the Field amazed me with its insight, and the subtlety of Livesey's beautiful, almost dreamlike prose. She speaks of a sensation -- "quick as a mousetrap, sharp as a thorn" -- and I can't think of a better description of her work. Quick and sharp.”
— Kevin Wilson, author of Nothing to See Here

“Written in elegant, spare prose, this story flies swiftly forwards from the transfixing opening pages. A charming, complicated family dynamic, a twist of eerie magic.”
— Tessa Hadley, author of Late in the Day

“Powerfully affecting.”
Kirkus, starred review

“Every character rings true; every observation and reaction feels real. Braiding three separate views of the same incident, Livesey weaves a masterful tapestry of emotion and action focused on the indelible impact of random events.”
Booklist, starred review

“A distinctive blend of literary fiction and psychological thriller.... Precise prose, cool observation, and tight pacing will keep readers turning the pages. This is a memorable twist on the coming-of-age tale.” 
Publishers Weekly

“Compelling in its simplicity and complexity. Each page is rich with understanding of how lives fit together and fall apart.”
— Bookreporter.com

“Written with psychological precision and empathy…. Explores the enduring and, in this case, elastic bonds of family love.”
BookPage

“A stunning novel of tenderness, interconnectedness, cause and effect.”
— Shelf Awareness
Product Details
ISBN: 9780062946393
ISBN-10: 0062946390
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: August 11th, 2020
Pages: 272
Language: English