Press & Reviews

A Barnes & Noble Fall 2014 Selection, Discover Great New Writers Program

Lay It on My Heart Synopsis
Press & Reviews
Excerpt

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Lay it On My Heart by Angela Pneuman

2014 • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
288 pages • ISBN: 9780151012589

“Pneuman’s treatment of the “reality,” or lack thereof, of divine communication is lovely and not in the least bit condescending.”
—Kansas City Star

“Biting yet optimistic, this first novel will knock you sideways with its Southern charm and quiet humanity.”
O, The Oprah Magazine

“One of six dazzling new beach reads!”
Oprah.com

“[A] marvelous dark and comic debut novel…Pneuman is a master of dark comedy, and the grimmer the material, the funnier it becomes in her twisted but capable hands. Like her literary ancestor, Flannery O’Connor, she shows how myopic allegedly religious people can be, but she doesn’t take cheap shots at religion either.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Charmaine Peake is struggling: with her mentally ill father, her difficult mother, the boy on the bus, her homemade purse and her relationship with God. Pneuman captures the voice of adolescence and the uncertainty of faith in this endearing novel.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“… an affecting coming-of-age… novel set in Kentucky… Pneuman’s sharp, insightful writing reveals the myriad challenges life can throw in a young girl’s path.”
San Jose Mercury News

“Pneuman’s evocation of Charmaine and her surroundings is absolute and gripping, and her novel will please any lover of good fiction, especially those with a religious background and a sense of humor.”
—Amber Peckham, Booklist

“Pneuman’s latest raises a tantalizing question about a 21st-century man of faith: How do you know if he’s a prophet of God or just in need of some lithium?… A compassionate and uncompromising coming-of-age tale.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Growing up with a mentally ill parent — even today, with improved treatment and greater awareness — often means living in a world of misguided protection, denial, shame, and even secrecy…[it] becomes part of who you are, how you learn to love…In this novel… the author eems to be saying that children and young adults sometimes manage to turn this kind of conflicted love into something very close to grace.”
Washington Independent Review of Books

“Pneuman uses potent prose in her intimate and intense debut novel about a most difficult month in the life of a 13-year-old girl in rural Kentucky… The author is very effective with her first-person narrative; readers will come to intimately inhabit Charmaine’s point of view.”
Publishers Weekly

“I can’t pay any work of fiction a higher compliment than to say that it reminds me of Flannery O’ Connor’s work…this is a gritty, powerful book.”
—Josh Corman, Book Riot

“Angela Pneuman has the voice I have been waiting for: sure and graceful, earthy and edgy, heartbreaking and hopeful. It is this wholly unique voice, bolstered by wicked humor and a keen sense of character, that drives so deep into Flannery O’Connor’s Christ-haunted South. I feel nothing short of evangelical about this powerful debut; you’ll want Lay It on My Heart on your ‘keep forever’ shelf.”
—Joshilyn Jackson, bestselling author of Gods in Alabama, and Someone Else’s Love Story



“I know the voices of southern girls, and when they sing true, my heart expands. Angela Pneuman is a flute. She’s let the Big Breath blow through her to create a force of nature named Charmaine Peake, who then lets the spirit blow through her to tell a story about mothers and daughters and fathers, and how we all get lost, and how we might get found—or found-out, and how, ultimately, it’s the courage to bear one another’s vulnerability that can save us. When I finished this book, I wanted to fold the narrator and the novelist into my arms, and tell them: what stellar gifts you are!”
—Rebecca Wells, #1 New York Times best-selling author, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood



Lay It On My Heart is a lovely book fully steeped in the quirks and growing pains of the changing South. With the biting humor of Flannery O’Connor and the empathic ear of Ellen Gilchrist, Pneuman creates characters who come alive off the page to fully pull you into their lives. A subtle, absorbing, funny portrait of the faith it takes to come of age and to love with grace from a masterful young writer.”
—Katie Crouch, bestselling author of Girls in Trucks and Abroad



“I loved Lay It on My Heart. Angela Pneuman has written a funny and moving coming-of-age novel that explores the mysteries of faith and family with uncommon grace and wry wisdom.”
—Tom Perrotta, bestselling author of The Leftovers



“At stake in this must-read novel is the sanity of a modern-day prophet, the state of his God-ordained marriage, and, most of all, the painful coming-of-age of his daughter—our wise, perceptive narrator—in the evangelical territory of the rural South. Angela Pneuman brings searing psychological insight to the conflicts that draw people to extreme faith, keep them there, or force them to emerge—dazed, blinking and giving thanks. A profoundly moving, deeply compassionate, wickedly funny book.”
—Adam Johnson, bestselling author of The Orphan Master’s Son

“You will stay up all night reading this brilliant and devastating novel the way you might have with a new best friend in junior high—one whose revelations thrilled and terrified you, and whose raw, hard-earned wisdom remade the way you saw the world. It evokes the genius of Angela Pneuman’s canonical progenitors: Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, Walker Percy. Lay It on My Heart is a gorgeous, riveting, and unforgettable book.”
—Julie Orringer, bestselling author of The Invisible Bridge and How to Breathe Underwater



“At the center of this stunning first novel is a family in crisis, a story that in Angela Pneuman’s incredibly capable hands is both utterly original and nearly mythic in its powerful universality. A girl on the brink of adolescence, the only child of evangelists living in a small Kentucky town, watches the unraveling of her father’s faith and her parents’ marriage and discovers, in her necessary efforts to escape the attentions of her troubled mother, the dangers and promises of the secular world.”
—Ann Packer, bestselling author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier