Reviews for Halfway House
Noel's stunning debut novel moves us through painfully believable human relationships tested, repaired, and transformed by time and experience. This is suburban angst in the tradition of John Cheever and Rick Moody, told with a rare and honest sympathy that rings true by an author to watch.
--Library Journal (starred review)
In her emotionally intense, beautifully crafted debut, Noel sheds new light on the old story about tragedy tearing a family apart. Here a star student has a psychotic break during a swim meet, and lives are shattered.
-- People Magazine
Halfway House, Katharine Noel's triumphant debut, does far more than expose the highs and lows of battling mental illness; rather, it leaves readers with a sense of longing that transcends the subject matter. Told from the perspective of five family members, Noel expertly captures each character's essence with unapologetic honesty, creating sympathies that would falter under a less gifted writer. The result is a profound look at how a crisis can both destroy and reinvent a seemingly typical family.
Katharine Noel's arresting debut novel, a sharp but ethereal chronicle of a New Hampshire family's struggle with mental illness, is an eloquent literary performance in part because it is not centered on the spectacle of 17-year-old Angie Voorster's psychosis or on the potentially mawkish details of her decline from a straight A, Yale-bound champion swimmer to a lithium-bloated body, lying confused and alone in the bed of a homeless shelter. ``Halfway House" is a richly imagined and deeply felt portrait of four people and the life they lead as a family and as human beings who yearn for connection.
-- Boston Globe
Noel's moving debut considers the ways manic depression touches each member of an afflicted family, and what distinguishes her novel from others in this subgenre is her uncanny ability to convey the rigors of the disease as experienced by the patient. Noel, who has worked with mentally ill adults, takes the reader step by agonizing step through Angie's manic and depressive episodes in fiction realistic enough to make the reader cringe, creating a potent, informative, and compassionate novel.
A stay-up-all-night read if ever there was one, Katharine Noel's haunting debut novel, Halfway House, tracks the effects of one member's mental illness on an entire family. While on paper this may sound too grim to make for great reading, Noel's gift for bringing every character on the page to complex, contradictory life pulls the reader in from the outset, and draws us ever deeper as we follow father Pieter, mom Jordana, son Luke, and daughter Angie on their often surprising and always absorbing journeys (both individual and collective) over the course of close to a decade.
A New Hampshire family is transformed by mental illness in Noel's first novel. As Angie moves through hospitals and outpatient centers, the author depicts places where madness is contained with rules and bureaucracy. Noel's representation of mental illness is sympathetic, but never romantic. The sicker Angie becomes, the smaller and more exhausting her world seems, her disease circumscribing her relatives' lives. Noel's handling of mental illness is compassionate and clear-eyed, but her tale is about more than Angie's disorder. It explores the mystery of family and its inexplicable, irresistible resilience in the face of affliction-whether mental illness, addiction, a disease of the body or some other pathology too subtle and rare to have a name. Graceful and quietly assured.