New York Times Book Review: “Winter is a genius… a writer in complete control of her talent”


By Mary Beth Keane for The New York Times Book Review

  • March 9, 2021

By Jessica Winter

“Jessica Winter’s intense second novel, “The Fourth Child,” centers on the adoption of one of Ceausescu’s children by an average, working-class mother of three from Buffalo. An ardent Catholic and member of a local activist group called Respect Life, Jane Brennan is so moved by the “20/20” coverage that she feels it her duty to go to Romania and bring one of these children home. The feeling Jane has is similar to what Catholics know as a “calling,” a moral imperative that comes directly from God (or, in this case, Barbara Walters); and, for Jane, is tied to feelings of guilt after a miscarriage, her husband’s subsequent vasectomy and her certainty that the child would have been a girl. In a way, Jane has been very consciously performing the role of a good Catholic since adolescence, where we meet her in the book’s opening pages. Adopting one of Ceausescu’s children is her ultimate act of devotion…

…Those who’ve read “Break in Case of Emergency,” Winter’s first novel, might wonder if “The Fourth Child” is a departure, but it really isn’t. It’s more a deepening of questions Winter was already asking when that novel came out in 2016. I enjoyed “Break in Case of Emergency,” found the observations sharp, but “The Fourth Child” is a less self-conscious, more ambitious book in every way.”

Read the full review at The New York Times

Jessica Winter

Jessica Winter author photo by Adrian Kinloch
Jessica Winter @ Adrian Kinloch

Jessica Winter is an editor at The New Yorker. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, The Guardian, Bookforum, The Believer, and many other publications. She lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn, with her family.

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