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Unknown Caller

A Novel

Yellow Shoe Fiction

292 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations


  Paperback / 9780807164693 / August 2016

For as long Daniella has been married to Joel, they’ve received phone calls at odd hours, and late at night. Daniella knows the caller as Liesel, Joel’s first wife, a woman whose sudden departure devastated her husband. After years of disruptive, long-distance phone calls, Liesel rings to tell Joel she’s letting Idzia, the seventeen-year-old daughter he has never met, visit for the summer. Daniella and Joel prepare for Idzia’s arrival, but when Joel goes to pick her up from the airport, Idzia isn’t there. Back at home, the phone calls suddenly stop, and Joel and Daniella become haunted by the absence of someone who was never part of their life to begin with.

Debra Spark’s fourth novel, Unknown Caller, tells the story of a brief, failed marriage and its complicated aftermath. Leaping effortlessly across decades and continents, it works to uncover the reasons for Idzia and Liesel’s disappearance and the deeper puzzle of Liesel’s identity.

Spark’s candid, intricate novel highlights the near-impossibility of truly knowing another person, the pain in failing relationships, and the joy in successful ones.

Debra Spark is author of Coconuts for the Saint, The Ghost of Bridgetown, Good for the Jews, The Pretty Girl, and Curious Attractions: Essays on Fiction Writing. She is a professor at Colby College and teaches in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. She lives with her husband and son in North Yarmouth, Maine.

Praise for Unknown Caller

“A book of candor and complexity that captures human relations with heart-rending accuracy.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Just as you can never truly know everything about anyone -- even those you hold most dear -- you only think you know the who and why of Daniella, Joel, Liesel, and Idzia when you first meet them in Unknown Caller. In telling their stories, Debra Spark deftly demonstrates how shameful secrets, convenient lies of omission, and random coincidences can change lives forever. But every time you think, ‘Ah, now I see,’ the timeline dials back a notch and some new layer of backstory comes into view, revealing motivations you couldn’t have guessed at before. When I finished this book, I wanted to start over and see all the little clues I might have missed, but I was also jealous of my former self for getting to read it the first time.”—Mary Laura Philpott, bookseller, Parnassus Books in Nashville

“[Unknown Caller] elegantly combines a family drama and a suspense thriller.”—BookPage

Unknown Caller is a kaleidoscopic, wide-ranging novel about the fragility and durability of family and the near impossibility of knowing the truth about even the people closest to us. Moving unpredictably across the decades, Debra Spark illuminates the secret histories of her characters with uncommon insight and compassion.”—Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children

“Intricate, Pinteresque, and wholly compelling, Debra Spark's new novel spans countries and decades, messes with time, and continues to upend everything you thought you knew about the characters. It's masterful and I devoured it.”—Lily King, author of Euphoria

“Debra Spark’s Unknown Caller is a pageant of mysteries: the breathless mystery of its page-turning narrative, the deeper mystery of the affections that connect her far-flung characters, and the abiding mystery of how this virtuosic author has infused her story with such an embarrassment of emotional riches. It's the kind of book you'd rather be reading than doing whatever else you're doing. I enjoyed it immensely.”—Steve Stern, author of The Pinch

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