Within Arm’s Reach charts the emotional life of three generations of an Irish-Catholic family. Shaken reluctantly into self-examination by the unexpected pregnancy of its youngest member, the McLaughlin family is forced to confront ghosts of both past and present, and to re-appraise its values in a world of rapid change.
Narrated through six subjective first person accounts—the pregnant Gracie, her sister Lila, their parents, their matriarchal grandmother, and a family outsider with a curious connection—the novel dissects the markedly variant responses that such supposedly similar people can have to the same events.
An honest tale of interconnected lives, Within Arm’s Reach shows us that the ‘ties that bind’ are a source of both solace and of pain—at once a curse, a lifeline, an irritant, and a cure—they are ultimately unavoidable and indelible.
Within Arm’s Reach was published in the United States by Crown Publishing, in the United Kingdom by Time Warner Books/Virago, in Spain by Ediciones Salamandra, and in Germany by Verlagsgruppe Droemer Weltbild.
“In Napolitano’s wonderful first novel, deftly told from six points of view, a New Jersey family bears witness to the cycle of life. The matriarch of the Irish-American McLaughlin clan, Catharine, is living in a care facility, her “whole life [in] one room.” On the other end of the spectrum, Catharine’s unmarried granddaughter, Gracie, is pregnant by a man she doesn’t love… Napolitano gracefully and honestly charts the tensions as the various family members come together.”—Publisher’s Weekly
“Narrated in six different voices, this stunning first novel explores the multigenerational dynamics of one Irish American family and exposes misunderstandings and broken relationships… Although this exquisite, skillfully written gem addresses serious issues – e.g., guilt vs. loyalty, the past vs. the present – the narrative remains hopeful and includes ample doses of humor and wit.”—Library Journal (Starred Review)
“A fresh and exceptionally strong family portrait, mercifully free of sentimentality…”—Kirkus Review
“Funny, poignant novel…”—TIME OUT New York
“Within Arm’s Reach is a rich and multi-faceted character study. Each of its narrators has a unique voice and a memorable story to tell. As the McLaughlin family story unfolds, its tellers overlap (and sometimes contradict) viewpoints, giving their own accounts of events… the real treasure of this rich first novel is the depth to which we come to know these characters. Much like families in real life, these characters are often imperfect, sometimes maddening, and always fascinating.”—Bookreporter.com
“[Napolitano] gives us a story that spins like a prism… these people are capable of making some startling decisions, entering unlikely liaisons, even experiencing visions. Repressed as they are on the surface, their inner lives swirl deep.”—Hartford Courant
“Napolitano has created a fascinating family in crisis, concentrating most on its women, from a no-nonsense matriarch who is losing her grip, to her warring daughters, to two of her granddaughters, each troubled and tentative as they struggle to find their footing.”—Detroit Free Press
“Ann Napolitano tells her complicated story of three generations of an Irish-American Catholic family forced to confront their values by a surprise pregnancy through six different points of view. The result is a mosaic of the past intersecting with the present and a reminder that what we most love is what can do us the most damage.”—The Dallas Morning News
“[Within Arm’s Reach] shows the promise of a very talented writer…”—Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
“In this graceful and fluidly written debut, Napolitano breathes new life into that workhorse of women’s fiction, the family saga told from multiple points of view.”—Booklist
“Successfully skirting melodrama, Napolitano gives us a family drama that says even the most contentious can find a bit of happiness, if they are willing to take a chance on being hurt by the risky business of opening their hearts.”—Orlando Sentinel
“Ann Napolitano’s first novel, ‘Within Arm’s Reach’, explores this fertile territory… an Irish-American Catholic family living in New Jersey. We view this clan’s unfolding problems… without which family life – or at least family reunions – would be unbearably dull.”—New York Times Book Review