Mislaid: A Novel

Category: Book
By (author): Zink, Nell
Subject:  FICTION / Gay
  FICTION / General
  FICTION / Humorous / General
  FICTION / Literary
Audience: general/trade
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: January 2016
Format: Book-paperback
Pages: 256
Size: 8.00in x 5.31in x 0.57in
Our Price:
$ 20.50
Available to order

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*

In 1960s Virginia, college freshman and ingénue Peggy falls for professor and poet Lee, and what begins as an ill-advised affair results in an unplanned pregnancy and marriage. Mismatched from the start-she's a lesbian; he's gay-Peggy eventually finds herself in crisis and runs away with their daughter, leaving their son behind.

Estranged from the rest of the family, Peggy and her daughter adopt African-American identities and live in near poverty to escape detection. Meanwhile, Lee and his son carry on, enjoying all the social privileges their gender, class, and whiteness afford them. Eventually the long-lost siblings meet, setting off a series of misunderstandings that culminate in a darkly comedic finale.

With an arch sense of humor and a witty satirical eye, Nell Zink upends the foundational categories of American life-race, class, gender, and sexuality-in a novel that is at once daring, envelope-pushing, and utterly hilarious, all the while tracing how a mother, daughter, father, and son figure out what it means to belong.

"The novel's charm and intelligence run deep. It's a provocative masquerade with heart, not just an exercise in role reversals, reminding us that the gaps and cracks between our insides and our outsides are the spaces where our spirits live."-The New York Times Book Review

"Zink is a comic writer par excellence, one whose particular gift is the capacity to keep a perfectly straight face."-The New Yorker

"Zink's life story and her fairy-tale path to publication have nothing on the antic sparks of her prose." -New York magazine

From The Publisher*


A sharply observed, mordantly funny, and startlingly original novel from an exciting, unconventional new voice-the author of the acclaimed The Wallcreeper-about the making and unmaking of the American family that lays bare all of our assumptions about race and racism, sexuality and desire.

Stillwater College in Virginia, 1966. Freshman Peggy, an ingénue with literary pretensions, falls under the spell of Lee, a blue-blooded poet and professor, and they begin an ill-advised affair that results in an unplanned pregnancy and marriage. The two are mismatched from the start-she's a lesbian, he's gay-but it takes a decade of emotional erosion before Peggy runs off with their three-year-old daughter, leaving their nine-year-old son behind.

Worried that Lee will have her committed for her erratic behavior, Peggy goes underground, adopting an African American persona for her and her daughter. They squat in a house in an African-American settlement, eventually moving to a housing project where no one questions their true racial identities. As Peggy and Lee's children grow up, they must contend with diverse emotional issues: Byrdie deals with his father's compulsive honesty; while Karen struggles with her mother's lies-she knows neither her real age, nor that she is "white," nor that she has any other family.

Years later, a minority scholarship lands Karen at the University of Virginia, where Byrdie is in his senior year. Eventually the long lost siblings will meet, setting off a series of misunderstandings and culminating in a comedic finale worthy of Shakespeare.

Review Quote*"There's nothing derivative about Nell Zink's hip, hilarious and unexpectedly moving novel Mislaid… Zink has a genius for making the bizarre seem natural… makes for one of the most satisfying happy endings in recent fiction."
Review Quote*"The novel's charm and intelligence run deep. It's a provocative masquerade with heart, not just an exercise in role reversals, reminding us that the gaps and cracks between our insides and our outsides are the spaces where our spirits live."
Review Quote*"A writer of extraordinary talent and range. Her work insistently raises the possibility that the world is larger and stranger than the world you think you know. You might not want to believe this, but her sentences and stories are so strong and convincing that you'll have no choice."
Review Quote*"Zink's capacity for inventions is immense… [Mislaid] zips along with a giddy, lunatic momentum. It's perverse wackiness is irresistible; unlike just about everything engineered to make you laugh out loud, Zink's novel actually does, over and over again… She knows how to let her freak flag fly."
Review Quote*"Crafting a zany story with outlandish characters doing the unexpected, Zink successfully creates a comedy of errors offering a happy ending for an impossible situation."
Review Quote*"Zink's energy pulses in narration. [She] is original, unsentimental, erudite, and something of a naturalist. Her vocabulary is tremendous [and] her sentences are penetrating and agile."
Review Quote*"[Zink] further proves her narrative chops as she spins a darkly satirical story … Zink's frankness on topics like gender, racial, socioeconomic, and sexual identity politics is refreshing and bold, but it is her strong writing and lucid sentences which truly reel readers in-and keep them there."
Review Quote*The bracing disconnect between sly, low-affect prose and Gothic strangeness recalls Flannery O'Connor and Jean Stafford--mid-century women you could imagine crossing paths with Peggy and shuddering."