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A New York Times Bestseller • A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, People, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, TIME, The A.V. Club, Buzzfeed, and PopSugar

"I can't believe how good this book is.... It's wholly original. It's also perfect.... Wilson writes with such a light touch.... The brilliance of the novel [is] that it distracts you with these weirdo characters and mesmerizing and funny sentences and then hits you in a way you didn't see coming. You're laughing so hard you don't even realize that you've suddenly caught fire." —Taffy Brodesser-Akner, author of Fleishman is in Trouble, New York Times Book Review

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Family Fang, a moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with a remarkable ability.

Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they've barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.

Madison's twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there's a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it's the truth.

Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison's buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn't this be the start of the amazing life she'd always hoped for?

With white-hot wit and a big, tender heart, Kevin Wilson has written his best book yet—a most unusual story of parental love.

A New York Times Bestseller • A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, People, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, TIME, The A.V. Club, Buzzfeed, and PopSugar

"I can't believe how good this book is.... It's wholly original. It's also perfect.... Wilson writes with such a light touch.... The brilliance of the novel [is] that it distracts you with these weirdo characters and mesmerizing and funny sentences and then hits you in a way you didn't see coming. You're laughing so hard you don't even realize that you've suddenly caught fire." —Taffy Brodesser-Akner, author of Fleishman is in Trouble, New York Times Book Review

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Family Fang, a moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with a remarkable ability.

Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they've barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.

Madison's twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there's a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it's the truth.

Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison's buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn't this be the start of the amazing life she'd always hoped for?

With white-hot wit and a big, tender heart, Kevin Wilson has written his best book yet—a most unusual story of parental love.

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About the Author-
  • Kevin Wilson is the author of the novels The Family Fang, a New York Times bestseller adapted into an acclaimed film starring Nicole Kidman, and Perfect Little World; as well as the story collections Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, winner of the Shirley Jackson Award, and Baby, You're Gonna Be Mine. He lives in Sewanee, Tennessee, with his wife and two sons.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    June 1, 2019

    Here's another weirdly wonderful Wilson work that should please fans of his New York Times best-selling The Family Fang, Shirley Jackson Award-winning Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, and Baby, You're Gonna Be Mine, an LJ Best Book. Once a scholarship student at a prestigious boarding school, Lillian has lost touch with rich, classy roomate Madison. Then Madison writes to ask if Lillian can serve as caretaker for her two new stepchildren--delightful creatures, no doubt, but they do have a tendency to burst into flames when they get upset. With a 150,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    September 1, 2019
    Decades after an unforgivable trespass, two childhood friends are reunited in a most unusual arrangement. Wilson is a remarkable writer for many different reasons, as demonstrated by his quirky novels, Perfect Little World (2017) and The Family Fang (2011), and tons of short stories. One of his greatest strengths is the ability to craft an everyday family drama and inject it with one odd element that turns the story on its head. He's done it again here, writing once more about family but with some most unusual children and a particularly charming narrator. Back in the day, Lillian and Madison were besties at an elite boarding school, the former a smart scholarship student and the latter a quirky but spoiled rich girl. But when Madison got into trouble, privilege reared its ugly head, and Lillian was the one kicked out of school. Now grown, she spends her days at her dead-end job and her off hours getting stoned. Out of the blue, Madison reappears, now mother to her darling boy, Timothy, and the wife of a U.S. senator and budding political star. But the family is in a quandary over what to do with the senator's twin children from a previous marriage, Bessie and Roland. Oh, and by the way, the twins spontaneously combust when they're angry or upset. No harm comes to them, but clothes, houses, and anything else in their orbit can go up in flames. Lillian is offered a job looking after the twins for the summer until the fam can figure out what to do with the little fireballs. To her own surprise, Lillian turns out to be a terrific guardian, despite her own doubts. "They were me, unloved and fucked over, and I was going to make sure they got what they needed," she affirms. The book's denouement is a bit predictable, but Lillian develops into an engaging parental proxy in Wilson's latest whimsical exploration of family. A funny and touching fable about love for kids, even the ones on fire.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 9, 2019
    Wilson (Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine) turns a bizarre premise into a beguiling novel about unexpected motherhood. When aimless, low-achieving 28-year-old Lillian Breaker receives a mysterious invitation from Madison Roberts, her former roommate at a prestigious high school, longtime correspondent, and now wife to a senator, she does not hesitate to travel to Franklin, Tenn. Madison offers her a job as a very discreet governess for the senator’s twin children from a prior marriage. Ten-year-olds Bessie and Roland sometimes burst into flames, and Madison is desperate to avoid a scandal upsetting the senator’s chances of becoming secretary of state. Lillian accepts and, with begrudging help from Carl, the senator’s shadowy right-hand man, guides the children through coping mechanisms in the guest house on the family’s lavish estate while Madison and Senator Roberts remain icy toward them. Their progress is upended, though, when the senator’s prospects rapidly change and Lillian has to decide where her loyalties are. Lillian’s deadpan observations zip from funny to heartbreaking while her hesitancy and messy love satisfyingly contrasts with Madison’s raw drive for power and tightly controlled affection. Wilson captures the wrenching emotions of caring for children in this exceptional, and exceptionally hilarious, novel. Agent: Julie Barer, the Book Group.

  • Booklist

    September 15, 2019
    Slighter in scale than Wilson's previous novels, this one is powered, like his strange and funny short stories, by an element of fantasy. It's about the children of a wealthy and powerful Tennessee politician who, when emotionally stressed, catch fire?literally. The pol's latest wife, Madison, a child of wealth herself, calls on her best friend from prep school, Lillian, for a big, well-remunerated favor: take care of the kids for the summer. Lillian, from way on the other side of the tracks, had accepted the expulsion from school Madison deserved and has foundered ever since. But her loving admiration of Madison still burns bright (and is not unrequited, entirely), and she agrees. Lillian tells the story, revealing immediately that she's another of Wilson's normal extraordinary protagonists, like Annie and Buster in The Family Fang (2011) and single mom Izzy Poole in Perfect Little World (2017). She fills the book with her wry humor and large, embracing heart as she ponders the love of friendship and the love of family and then acts on what she discovers.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal "I can't believe how good this book is. . . . Wholly original. It's also perfect. . . . Wilson writes with such a light touch. . . . That's the brilliance of the novel—that it distracts you with these weirdo characters and mesmerizing and funny sentences and then hits you in a way you didn't see coming."
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune "A peculiar, entertaining and insightful book about the hazards of child-rearing and the value of friends."
  • Boston Globe "[Wilson's] most perfect novel. Paradoxically light and melancholy, it hews to the border of fantasy but stays in the land of realism. . . . You can sense the real heat radiating off these pages. . . . This novel may seem slight and quirky, but don't be fooled. There's a lot to see here."
  • Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award winner "It's a giddily lunatic premise, one that author Kevin Wilson grounds with humor and deadpan matter-of-factness. . . . Wilson's observational humor is riotous in its specificity. . . . The writing dazzles. . . . But what dazzles most are the warmly rendered dynamics of an ad hoc, dysfunctional family that desperately wants to work."
  • Washington Post “There's hardly a sentence that feels like anything you've read before, that's how fresh his voice is. . . . Witty, confiding, breezily profane. . . . That the supernatural elements feel so right is a testament to Wilson's innate skill as a storyteller.”
  • Popsugar Darkly funny yet quietly devastating. . . . Wilson crafts a stunning portrait of the push and pull of parenthood.
  • USA Today "Funny and even eerily beautiful. . . . It's the sweetness of this novel that will melt you."
  • Taffy Brodesser-Akner, The New York Times Book Review Perennially weird and wonderful. . . . Wilson's portrayal of these fire children conveys more emotional truth about life with a difficult or neurodivergent kid than any of those parenting guides. . . . Funny and affecting.
  • Entertainment Weekly "[A] deadpan, hilarious modern fairy tale."
  • NPR.org “Wilson's latest is outlandish and laugh-out-loud funny.”
  • Parade "Weird, funny, but also unexpectedly moving. . . . An affecting reflection on the blithe cruelty of the rich and what it means to be a good parent."
  • People "Quirky and insightful, strange and delightful."
  • Newsday Kevin Wilson once again dazzles with a bizarre, comic, and heartbreaking tale. . . . A dryly comic, surreal phantasmagoria reminiscent of Kafka, Garcia-Marquez, and their heirs, from David Foster Wallace to Karen Russell.
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Wilson captures the wrenching emotions of caring for children in this exceptional, and exceptionally hilarious, novel."
  • Buzzfeed "Wilson is a remarkable writer.... A funny and touching fable about love for kids, even the ones on fire."
  • Chapter 16 "A love letter to the weirdness and difficulties of children and of parenting, with or without spontaneous human combustion. . . . [With] an easy, engaging voice, cynical and funny without being caustic. Like the author's The Family Fang, this is another story of a family that is as delightfully bizarre as it is heartfelt and true."
  • Kirkus Reviews "Lillian tells the story, revealing immediately that she's another of Wilson's normal extraordinary protagonists. . . . She fills the book with her wry humor and large, embracing heart."
  • Time "Laugh out loud funny. I love the way Kevin Wilson writes."
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