A Trick of Nature


Greg Goodman is a very ordinary guy—a not very ambitious schooteacher and football coach who takes his attractive wife, Patty, their twin adolescent daughters, and the comfortable ease of their suburban routine for granted. Until lightning strikes—both literally and figuratively—as Greg runs a pattern with his junior varsity team during a muggy August practice and fifteen-year-old Timothy Phelps is struck directly. The crisis threatens to unravel all the strands anchoring Greg to his normal habits of being. When Timothy Phelps’s mother, a stripper and addict who abandoned him as a child, enters the mix, Greg discovers his own complicated and misguided longings.


W. W. Norton, 2000 (Hardcover), 287 pp., ISBN 0-393-04854-3

Ballantine, 2001 (Paperback), 287 pp., ISBN 0-345-44456-6

Order at Amazon or Barnes & Noble


“[An] eloquent second novel. . . Describing the sustenance derived from family is Matson’s metier, and she portrays it here in an especially tender, emotionally revealing way. She effortlessly shifts the narrative between Greg’s point of view and Patty’s, beautifully illuminating the inner lives of a family stubbornly held together by a persistent love.” —Publishers Weekly

“So skillfully does Matson describe the calm before the marital storm that it’s possible to be lulled right along with them into their own blind harmony.” —Boston Book Review

“A page-turner that sheds the facade of one family’s seemingly perfect existence as the reader rushes to its end.” —Booklist

“A compelling, unpredictable narrative that moves beyond its calm suburban setting into darker social and psychological territory. Suzanne Matson’s gripping second novel only confirms what readers of The Hunger Moon already know: she is a writer of uncommon wisdom and emotional depth.” —Tom Perrotta, author of Election

“A compassionate psychological portrait of one family’s slow unraveling—A Trick of Nature skillfully charts the often unpredictable aftershocks of tragedy.” —A. Manette Ansay, author of Vinegar Hill

“Like Ann Hood and Sue Miller, Suzanne Matson captures average people reeevaluating their once comfortable domesticity as middle age slowly approaches. In delivering the Goodmans’ stumbling marriage, A Trick of Nature plumbs the attractions and terrors of giving up the familiar for an uncertain freedom.” —Stewart O’Nan, author of A Prayer for the Dying

A Trick of Nature is a perceptive, unnerving account of the fault lines destabilizing contemporary family life. Patty and Greg Goodman seem to have it all: nice kids, nice jobs, nice marriage. Then a few bad choices transform them into people they hardly recognize. Suzanne Matson has written an absorbing, elegant novel that feels hauntingly familiar, but remains surprising to the end.” —Suzanne Berne, author of A Crime in the Neighborhood