First You Try Everything

first-you-try-everythingHarperCollins, 2012

An engrossing tale of a marriage that’s falling apart and a wife who will stop at nothing to keep it together.

From their early days in college, Evvie and Ben were drawn to each other by feelings of isolation stemming from their wounded childhoods, passionate idealism, and zeal for music. Sheltered by their love, they weathered the challenges and trials of the imperfect world around them. But as the years passed, they grew apart. Now Ben has his sights set on a completely different kind of future—alone, or with someone else.

Convinced that Ben cannot live without her, Evvie begins to unravel, as she obsessively devises ways to reclaim the love that she cannot let go of. She gambles on a spectacularly dangerous scheme, one that may ultimately have devastating consequences.

Jane McCafferty has written a highly original, utterly beguiling, and emotionally satisfying novel about marriage. Told from alternating viewpoints, this gripping, psychologically astute, and madcap novel illuminates the power of love to define and transform our lives, for better or for worse.


“Hallelujah! at last, there is a novel about contemporary divorce that eschews shallow revenge- fantasy clichés of dream jobs, boytoys and boob jobs in favor of a thoughtful, balanced and gently humorous representation of the end of a marriage. Local author Jane McCafferty laudably transcends melodrama in “First You Try Everything” to marvel with unaffected wonder at the mysteries of the human heart… It takes a deft hand to draw a line from divorce to divinity, and Ms. McCafferty, of CMU’s English department, deserves high praise indeed for transfiguring a tale of ordinary heartache into one of universal love.”
Sandra Levis, Pittsbrugh Quarterly

“[An] evocative read. . . . A gimlet-eyed story of divorce and love, which bristles with pain and beauty. . . . Set amid the gritty splendor of Pittsburgh, the novel masterfully conveys both the youthful love that Ben and Evvie once shared and why it has fizzled.”
Marie Claire

“With the plainspoken beauty of her prose and the convincing way the novel inhabits each protagonist’s consciousness…McCafferty has given us a story of shattered illusions, essential as long as humans have dreams from which they need to wake up.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer

“McCafferty maintains complete control, alternating points of view between the two parties with empathy and aplomb. Glowing with natural humor . . . as the story develops in McCafferty’s warm, steady voice, you stay enchanted to the bitter end.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“[A] life-stopping novel by Jane McCafferty (a crackerjack of a writer) . . . about heartbreak–as it happens to all of us. McCafferty’s gift is character, and she creates such singular, riveting personalities that you’re laughing and puzzling out whole new understandings of the world.”
O, the Oprah Magazine blog

“McCafferty’s second novel coins its own brand of heart-searing suspense. . . . Fans of Anne Tyler, Jacquelyn Mitchard, and other top-drawer domestic fiction writers will enjoy this unpredictable, offbeat novel.”
Library Journal

“[A] deeply moving portrait of the dissolution of a marriage . . . [with] heartrending scenes illuminating the pain of separation, both for the one leaving and the one left.”

“[A] sensitive, offbeat second novel. . . . [that] offers some nicely observed insights into guilt and despair . . . until heartbreak and delusion lead to an act of lunacy that will redefine the landscape. Everyday tragedy takes a surreal spin in this . . . soulful, idiosyncratic tale.”

“Jane McCafferty knows how marriage can go stale, how it can turn and curdle despite a couple’s best intentions and efforts. Wise, wry and surprising, First You Try Everything is about the mad things we do to hang on to lost love.”
— Stewart O’Nan, author of Emily, Alone and The Odds

“The tools in Jane McCafferty’s anatomy lab: big heart, big brain, jars of funny bones, twine of poetic prose. Under the microscope one finds expanding constellations, other times the minute dna of words combining beautifully with other words. Either way the reader sits back in charged happiness at the discoveries.”
— Nancy Zafris, author of Lucky Strike and The Metal Shredders

“Told in direct, plain-spoken language, Jane McCafferty’s first novel gathers genuine emotional depth and complexity as it follows the lives of two middle-aged sisters, Ivy and Gladys, and the 17-year-old girl, Raelene, who befriends them.”
— New York Times Book Review

“[This] first novel focuses on the life-altering effects of love, loss and abandonment… McCafferty gives readers a…view of the nature of personal transformation.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Ms. McCafferty maintains complete control, alternating points of view between the two parties with empathy and aplomb. Glowing with natural humor, she takes exquisite side trips to earnest peace marches or children’s modern dance performances where the audience is in a “collective parental stupor.” The hair-raising scheme that Evvie undertakes to win back Ben does seem far-fetched, but as the story develops in Ms. McCafferty’s warm, steady voice, you stay enchanted to the bitter end.”
John Allison, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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