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Dear Zoe

About the Book

Dear Zoe

From Little Women to Huckleberry Finn, from A Member of the Wedding to The Catcher in the Rye, American authors have developed a remarkable body of literature about the challenges and exhilarations of growing up. This tradition is now further enriched by the publication of Dear Zoe, a sensitive and insightful coming-of-age novel by Pittsburgh attorney Philip Beard. Related as a series of letters from the main character to her deceased little sister Zoe, the novel reveals the mind, heart, and emotional struggles of fifteen-year-old Tess DeNunzio. At first, Tess writes simply to re-create a bond with her sister. As time goes by, however, her letters become a comprehensive and thoughtful chronicle of her efforts to understand herself, her family, and the world around her. Without a trace of literary pretension, Tess writes with both humor and eloquence. With pensive candor, she speaks not only for herself but also for anyone who has known the loneliness, fears, and frustrations of coming of age in contemporary America.

Although Tess's angst and insecurities will quickly resonate with the typical reader, her personal plight is anything but typical, and if she elicits sympathy, she neither claims it nor feels that she deserves it. To the contrary, her inner sufferings are rooted in almost unbearable self-condemnation.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Tess was entrusted with looking after three-year-old Zoe. Distracted by the horrible news blaring from her mother's television, Tess turned away from her task just long enough for Zoe's fatal accident to occur. Not able to feel at home with her grief-stricken mother, her emotionally enigmatic stepfather, and her surviving half sister, Tess abruptly moves across town to live with her hapless biological father. There, in a neighborhood rife with crime and drug use, she meets Jimmy Freeze, an amiable boy with a delinquent past. Jimmy has all the looks of someone who might make Tess's troubles even worse, but he may also be able to give her the support and perspective she needs to start living again.

Striking in its characterizations and brilliantly precise in its dissections of both adolescence and human nature, Dear Zoe deftly juxtaposes a national catastrophe with personal tragedy. While acknowledging mass suffering, it also reaffirms the need of individuals to give and receive love. In his precociously wise but profoundly vulnerable narrator, Philip Beard creates a character of superb nuance and unusual depth. Dear Zoe is both a realistic portrait of troubled youth and a work of artistic and philosophical significance.

Dear Zoe
by Philip Beard

  • Publication Date: April 25, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Plume
  • ISBN-10: 0452287405
  • ISBN-13: 9780452287402