What if you could change your life? Would you do it? How would you do it?
Alma and her family live close to the land: they raise chickens and sheep, they make maple syrup. Every day Alma’s husband leaves for his job at a nearby college while she stays home with their young children, cleans, searches for secondhand goods online, and reads books by the women writers she adores. Then, one night, she abruptly leaves it all behind—speeding through the darkness, away from their Vermont homestead, bound for New York.
In a series of flashbacks, Alma reveals the circumstances and choices that led to this moment. The joys and claustrophobia of their remote life through the passing of each season. Her fears and uncertainties about motherhood. The painfully awkward faculty dinners. Her feelings of loneliness and failure. And her growing fascination with Celeste: the mysterious ceramicist and self-loving doppelgänger whose story begins as inspiration for Alma before turning into a powerful obsession.
A fable both blistering and surreal, The Shame is a propulsive, funny, and thought-provoking debut about a woman in isolation, whose mind—fueled by capitalism, motherhood, and the search for meaningful art—attempts to betray her.
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Praise and Prizes
“The Shame is a delicious, important moral corrective of a novel for our moment of performance, obsessive witnessing, and self-doubt, written in gripping and beautiful prose. Makenna Goodman draws a dark and suspenseful tale out of the feelings of envy women have for one another, fanned in this moment of high capitalism—a shame many of us know and feel, that reading this novel somehow helps disperse.”
“Makenna Goodman writes with blazing clarity and admirable wit about the joys and sorrows of raising children. Her depiction of the longing, self-loathing, and quiet rage that accompanies sidelined ambition is brilliantly complex.”
“Goodman riffs on middle-class motherhood angst in her probing debut. Those who feel like they’re losing themselves in the daily grind will appreciate Alma’s escape fantasy.”
“The Shame is a wickedly smart, wry, raw interrogation of one mother’s choices. In sentences packed with wit and insight, Makenna Goodman’s entrancing debut explores the envy and self-doubt that come with selecting one sort of life over another. The reader shares the narrator’s desperate curiosity about how her madcap adventure will end.”
“The Shame is a scarifying portrayal of a particular female madness. Keep your eye on Makenna Goodman—a writer of original voice and genuine talent.”
“The Shame impresses one with its intelligence and artistry. What goes on inside a woman remains the new frontier.”
“A haunting, unsettling story of motherhood, marriage, capitalism, making a life (and a living), and the nature of relationships.”
“We begin as Alma, our narrator, flees her two young children, husband, and pastoral life in the Vermont countryside, heading for New York City. From there, Makenna Goodman’s daring first novel examines what led up to this moment, and how even an existence that many people of my generation believe is the ‘Ideal Life’, of motherhood, of living off the land, of ethical consumption, a life of intention, is still not without its limitations. It’s necessary work, a novel that felt like a distant relative of the all-time great novel Revolutionary Road. The Shame is as exacting and defiant, and at times, as existentially gutting. I loved it.”
“Husbands beware: tigers sleep beside you in bed at night. House-cats by day, sultry and creeping by night—you don’t know the fantasies that keep their lips curled in pleasure . . . Goodman sustains a whipcrack of tension throughout until the unstoppable climax which has a surreptitious feel to it, as if the author is testing the reader: come on, you'd do it too. Neatly written and gilded with stunning lines, The Shame is an unblushing proposal of what lies beneath the observer and the observed, the nuclear family, the tranquil smile of a housewife’s face as she slowly gives pieces of herself away every day. A contemporary fairy tale with a warning.”
“The Shame is a brilliant look at what it means to be a woman in the world right now. In captivating, witty prose, Makenna Goodman writes of the beauty and challenges of rural living, how motherhood and art sometimes collide, and of the insidious ways that technology can infiltrate a life. I adored this fierce, impressive debut!”
“A novel about motherhood, marriage, and the shifting, elliptical nature of desire, The Shame considers the notion of escape in our modern age with exhilarating verve.”
“The blurbs from Sheila Heti, Jenny Offill, and Helen Phillips are perfect, because any fans of those writers will become a fan of Makenna Goodman after reading The Shame. Alma’s voice is clear [and] compelling, and the conflict between society’s expectations and her lived experience as a mother and wife will surely resonate.”
“The Shame is a unique and compelling novel about ambition and motherhood, set within pastoral Vermont. Goodman has written an impressive debut.”
“In Makena Goodman’s slim novel, the voice of Alma rings clear. She’s grappling with the insecurities faced when you find yourself taking stock of your life, seeing how you measure up, a pasttime indulged in by many a woman, many a mother. She wants to be the type of woman who makes the best pie, or teaches creative lessons to her children on walks through the woods, and to that end, she strives. The flow of consciousness style lends itself to her unraveling and winding back up.”