An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that's the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe.
Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn't jump. Reconstructing Amelia is about secret first loves, old friendships, and an all-girls club steeped in tradition. But, most of all, it's the story of how far a mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she couldn't save. Enter a search term Clear search. Use the classic catalog. Summary In Reconstructing Amelia, the stunning debut novel from Kimberly McCreight, Kate's in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter's exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
But Kate had suffered her share of uncomfortable questions, quizzical looks, and thinly veiled disapproval over the years. Her own parents still seemed to regard her decision to carry her unplanned pregnancy to term while still in law school as an especially depraved form of criminal insanity. The decision had certainly been out of character. Her whole life, Kate had always done the right thing at the right time, at least in all respects other than with men. Keeping her baby had not been a decision Kate had made lightly, though, nor was it one she regretted.
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Pearl said. Woodhouse, the headmaster, can provide you with details when you arrive. Which will be when exactly? Pearl said, sounding as if she really wanted to say something far less accommodating. Twenty minutes had been a vast overstatement. Victor had balked, loudly, when Kate tried to end the meeting early.
And she did hate leaving. I have to go pick her up. He ran a hand over his prematurely silver hair.
He was tall and handsome and, as usual, looked elegant in his pink-striped shirt. They blame first, ask questions later. And just like that, Kate felt a little better. That was Jeremy, always with the perfect empathetic aside.
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It came across as genuine, too, even for Kate, who should have known better. You go take care of Amelia. Kate opted for the subway to avoid Midtown traffic, but she was still forty-five minutes late when the number 2 train lurched to an unexplained halt just before Nevins Street. If she was lucky. Surely the school would take it as a sign of her poor parenting.
Mother late, derelict child. It was an exceedingly direct line.
And the more Kate thought about it, the more she was convinced that whatever Amelia was accused of doing must have been bad. Grace Hall prided itself on being liberal, open-minded, student-driven. Founded two hundred years earlier by a group of New York City intellectuals—playwrights, artists, and politicians—the school was revered for its excellent academics and unparalleled arts program.
While it was often spoken about alongside the old vanguard of Manhattan private schools—Dalton, Collegiate, Trinity—Grace Hall was in Brooklyn, and so came with a more bohemian pedigree. As such, the school shunned textbooks and standardized tests alike, in favor of experiential learning. Suddenly, the train hissed and sputtered forward a few feet, before jerking again to a halt.
Kate checked her watch. One hour and five minutes late, at least. Still four stops away. She was always late, for everything. She stood up and went to hover near the subway door, doubt creeping up on her. Recently, Amelia had seemed distracted, even a little moody. She was fifteen, and moods were a part of being a teenager, but it did seem like more than just that.
Amelia had been leaning with her arms crossed against the kitchen counter in their narrow brownstone. With her long blond hair falling in waves over her shoulders and her miraculous eyes—one blue, one hazel—glinting in the warm morning light, Amelia had looked so much older, and taller, than she had only the day before.
Sexy now, too, in her low-rise jeans and fitted tank top. Thankfully, she was also still a bit of a tomboy. Kate ran a hand over her hair as Amelia stared at her. And Paris is so far away.
A Modern Thriller: “Reconstructing Amelia” By Kimberly McCreight
It was hard not to see it as intentional that Amelia was insisting on having this conversation when she knew Kate was already running late. She said yes to a lot of things—late nights out, sleepovers, parties—because Amelia asked when Kate was stressed or in a rush. But a semester in Europe was a different story. But it would have been. Much, much easier. Kate had always assumed—hoped maybe was a better word—that it was because having a single mother with a demanding career was the only life her daughter had ever known.
But Kate was always bracing herself to discover that her daughter still felt the holes, despite her frantic efforts to cram them full of love. And a semester abroad is for college, not high school. There was none. She was completely serious. Can we please talk more about it tonight, when I get home? Just like that. This is it , Kate had thought. The worst part about their argument was that Kate had then ended up getting home the night before too late—late again, late always—to talk about the semester abroad.
Kate had planned to apologize for not being home more, too, especially lately. But their weekend adventures had been in much shorter supply. Ever since Amelia was little, Kate had always tried to be sure they took at least one field trip together every weekend—a Broadway show, an exhibit at the Met, the cherry blossom festival at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, or the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island.
These days, it seemed she was always headed off somewhere, too. Now, of course, that sudden change of heart seemed suspect. Kate checked her watch again. One hour and ten minutes late. She was a terrible, terrible mother. It was too much, juggling her job and parenting by herself.
She had no margin for error. There were other law jobs that would have allowed her more flexibility—less money, too, though she and Amelia could have made do with much less. She liked her job, and she was good at it, and that made her feel capable and secure. Success—first academic, later professional—had always made her feel that way: safe. And that was no small matter given that there was no knight in shining armor on the horizon.
Not that Kate was in the market for a rescue. Friends had often insisted on setting her up, too. But Kate had never had good luck with relationships, not in high school, not in college, and not in law school. In fact, her healthiest relationship had been with Seth, whose biggest takeaway from Kate was that he was actually gay. Before Seth, Kate had had other boyfriends, usually the emotionally distant type.
At least she was old enough now to recognize that her poor taste in partners had everything to do with her upbringing, though that did not mean it was something she could change. Regardless, nothing—no one—had ever stuck. And life had almost seemed easier that way. By the time the train was finally pulling into Grand Army Plaza, Kate was one hour and fifteen minutes late. She sprang off when the train doors finally hissed open, her heart picking up speed as she jogged for the station steps. Up on the sidewalk, she blinked back the brightness.
Shielding her eyes with a hand, she walked briskly, turning onto Prospect Park West.
“Reconstructing Amelia” Kimberly McCreight (Simon and Schuster) – novel review | Emma Lee's Blog
The park, with its brightly hued, late October maples, was across the street on her left. After fifteen years in Park Slope, Kate still felt more at home in her office than on her own Brooklyn block. She had wanted a cozy, neighborly, open-minded place to raise Amelia, and Park Slope was certainly all of those things. Up ahead, Kate watched two quintessential Park Slope moms, attractive and urban without being overtly hip, chatting as they came out of the park. Each pushed a sleek jogging stroller, a small child gripped in their one free hand, an eco-friendly water bottle in their cup holders.
They were laughing as they walked on, unbothered by the little ones tugging at their hands. Kate had always planned on having a family. At least two children, maybe even three. Kate had also assumed that— however many children she did one day have—they would come later. Much, much later. Kate was going to focus on her career first, make some headway as her mother, Gretchen—professor emeritus of neurology at the University of Chicago School of Medicine—had drilled into her.
Career first, kids only if there was time. But her life had taken a different turn. Instead, Kate took her pregnancy as a sign, one that she would ignore at her peril. And also as a chance for something more. Motherhood, of course, had been hard, especially single motherhood at the age of twenty-four while still attending law school. But she—they—had survived. Amelia had been insisting since last fall that she was too old for a nanny, and Kate had finally lacked the fortitude to fight her anymore. They both missed Leelah, though: Amelia more than she would admit; Kate more than she could sometimes bear.
Kate paused as the two women with their strollers crossed the street in front of her, then followed them as they headed across Garfield. She watched their narrow hips in their yoga pants, their high, matching ponytails swishing right, then left. It must be a false alarm. Kate looked toward the fire trucks blocking half of Garfield Street. Several police cars were in front of the adjacent Grace Hall Lower School, two brownstones that had been overtaken long ago and refurbished in a similar style. The firemen were loitering around the sidewalk, chatting in groups, leaning against their trucks.
There was also an ambulance sitting there with its lights off, doors closed. If there had been an actual fire or some other emergency, it was over now. Or maybe it had been a false alarm. No, only juvenile delinquents did things like pull fire alarms. Kate took a deep breath and exhaled loudly, which caused the taller mother standing in front of her to startle and spin around. She tugged her cherub-faced little girl in the puffy pink vest closer. Kate smiled awkwardly as she stepped around them. She tried to see past the ambulance.
There, on the side, was a uniformed officer talking to an older, gray-haired woman in a long brown sweater. She was walking a tiny, shivering dog and was hugging herself, hard. Kate looked up at the classroom windows. And where were all the kids? The ones whose faces should have been pressed up against the glass, investigating the commotion? Kate found herself moving closer. When she peered after them, she could finally see that that was where the real action was. At least a dozen police officers were gathered in a large pack.