NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • The masterly debut novel from “an exquisitely astute writer” (The Boston Globe), about growing up in—and out of—the suffocating constraints of small-town America. LONGLISTED FOR THE PEN/JEAN STEIN BOOK AWARD • “Compact and beautiful . . . This novel bordering on a novella punches above its weight.”—The New York Times “Very Cold People reminded me of My Brilliant Friend.”—The New Yorker ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, NPR, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Good Housekeeping “My parents didn’t belong in Waitsfield, but they moved there anyway.”
For Ruthie, the frozen town of Waitsfield, Massachusetts, is all she has ever known. Once home to the country’s oldest and most illustrious families—the Cabots, the Lowells: the “first, best people”—by the tail end of the twentieth century, it is an unforgiving place awash with secrets.
Forged in this frigid landscape Ruthie has been dogged by feelings of inadequacy her whole life. Hers is no picturesque New England childhood but one of swap meets and factory seconds and powdered milk. Shame blankets her like the thick snow that regularly buries nearly everything in Waitsfield.
As she grows older, Ruthie slowly learns how the town’s prim facade conceals a deeper, darker history, and how silence often masks a legacy of harm—from the violence that runs down the family line to the horrors endured by her high school friends, each suffering a fate worse than the last. For Ruthie, Waitsfield is a place to be survived, and a girl like her would be lucky to get out alive. In her eagerly anticipated debut novel, Sarah Manguso has written, with characteristic precision, a masterwork on growing up in—and out of—the suffocating constraints of a very old, and very cold, small town. At once an ungilded portrait of girlhood at the crossroads of history and social class as well as a vital confrontation with an all-American whiteness where the ice of emotional restraint meets the embers of smoldering rage, Very Cold People is a haunted jewel of a novel from one of our most virtuosic literary writers.