A resonant debut novel about retreating from the world after losing everything—and the connections that force you to rejoin it.
Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn’t survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.
Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.
About the Author
Amy McNamara has an MFA in poetry from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. Lovely, Dark and Deep is her first novel and an ABC New Voices Pick. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her at AmyMcNamara.com.
Read an Excerpt
Lovely, Dark and Deep wells’
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.
I had things I didn’t want, and then I lost them. One minute I was breaking up with my boyfriend, Patrick, the next I was the only one left standing. Empty-handed. A ghost of who I’d been. Broken in a way you can’t see when you meet me.
My name is Mamie, but my dad calls me Wren. My parents never agreed on anything when they were married, so I answer to both names. I like having a spare. Especially now. Besides, it drives my mother nuts. She thinks my dad calls me Wren to bug her. She says she named me Mamie because it means “wished-for child” and she had to try so hard to have me. Like she conjured me out of sheer will. Which she probably did. That’s the kind of person she is. But I looked it up, and it also means “bitter.” Either way, Mamie died on the side of a road somewhere back in my old life, and I moved away. Now I’m Wren full time, in a house on the Edge of the Known World, upper East Coast, with my dad, who spends his days in his studio. Perfect for us both.
I came here because it’s pine-dark and the ocean is wild. The kind of quiet-noise you need when there’s too much going on in your head. Like the water and the woods are doing all the feeling, and I can hang out, quiet as a headstone, in a between place. A blank I can bear. I wake up in the morning, get into clothes and out on my bike before I can think about anything. It’s a place that could swallow me if I need it to.
So that’s what I’m doing, music on full blast, trying to think about nothing, crunching over brittle twigs and sticks in the woods along a road I never see anyone use, when a Jeep comes flying around a bend, right at me. Before I can think, I swerve off the road and into a huge tree. My front tire crumples when I hit. Dust and pine needles lift into a cloud as the car skids to a stop.
The driver door whips open and a guy gets out. A couple years older than me.
“Are you all right?”
He looks totally rattled, and maybe even a little annoyed, like I’m the one who messed up somehow.
I sit up, untangle myself from the bike, and wipe sticky needles from my palms. The fall knocked the wind out of me. Takes me a second before I can make air come in and out again normally. The front wheel of my bike is bent like an angry giant grabbed it and gave it a twist. For a second I think it looks kind of beautiful. Like something my dad might like. Something that used to make me wish I had my camera. I stare at the ruined rim.
“Are you all right? Can you talk?”
He’s looking at me wildly, like he thinks I might be really hurt or something.
I can breathe again, but I’ve kept quiet for so long, I’m out of practice—I can’t think of a single thing to say.
He turns away and I hear the engine clunk off. Grabs his phone.
“Wait,” I say, finding my voice. “I’m fine. See?” I stand. “I was just shocked.”
He tosses his cell back onto the passenger seat and runs a shaking hand through his hair. After a deep breath, he says, “I didn’t see you. There’s never anyone along this road.”
I’m trying to think if I’ve seen him around. The town’s pretty small, but I haven’t exactly been hanging out anywhere. And he doesn’t look small-town. Charcoal-gray shirt; thick, dark hair falling into his eyes; long, straight nose. Something faraway inside me rings like a little wakeup bell in a long-abandoned cavern.
He’s still kind of scanning me, a slightly frantic up-and-down, like he might spot something broken, like I’m a miracle for not being flattened into the ground.
“God. I could have killed you.” His eyes go to the bent tire. “I wrecked your bike.”
I can’t find anything to say. When you’ve been quiet as long as I have, words leave you.
“I’m fine,” I manage, again. “I had my music on loud. I didn’t hear your car.” I reach up to my hair and pull some leaves and sticky needles out of it.
“Did you hit your head?”
“No, it’s just tree stuff, in my hair.” I blush.
He stares at me for a second. I look at the sky. Like maybe I could somehow slip out of this situation. Fly up and away.
“Are you John Wells’ daughter?” He’s starting to sound relieved. Runs another shaking hand through his hair. “I thought I heard you’d come up here.”
I nod. God knows what he’s heard. I’m sure I made the news last May. The Telegraph doesn’t miss a chance to print stories on my dad. Their adopted famous son. Never mind that his work leaves them scratching their heads and laughing at what people will pay good money for and call “art.”
I look at my hands. Both palms are torn up and pitch-sticky. I pick a small piece of rock out of one. The knee of my jeans is torn. Like I’m an eight-year-old and just wiped out on my bike in the park.
His eyes follow mine. “You’re hurt.” He winces. “Let me take you into town. Dr. Williams can check you out, clean you up.”
“No, no. That’s okay. I’m okay.” I don’t want to go anywhere, see anyone. Certainly not to the clinic. Or anywhere remotely like a hospital.
“I’m fine,” I say more assertively. “Really, I’ll just go home and wash up. It’s no big deal.”
“Let me give you a ride home, at least,” he says, getting in the car, reaching across the front seat, and pushing open the passenger door.
I start to pick up my bike but my palms are a wreck. I stop a second, wipe them a little on my thighs.
“Leave it,” he says, watching me. “Please. You’re bleeding. I’ll come back for it later.”
I lift the frame a little more, lean it against the tree. A bird is loud overhead. A hawk maybe, hunting. That strange raspy screeching sound.
I wasn’t even close to the end of my ride. I need to be out, alone. But he’s not going to let me walk home, that’s obvious. I kick around in the needles to find my iPhone, buy myself another few seconds to get it together, calm down a little. I look at my bike one last time and walk around to the waiting car door.
A pair of metal crutches lean against the passenger seat. He moves them over a bit and I slide in. He watches me look at them.
“Break an ankle?” I ask. I always say the right thing.
His turn to blush. Shakes his head. “I’m sick.” Looks away. “Buckle up.”
I’m thrumming from adrenaline. Takes me a minute to get the buckle in the right place.
He backs the car into the woods a bit, whips a U-turn, heads for my dad’s.
What People are Saying About This
“LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP earns each one of its title’s adjectives. Wren is one of the most compelling narrators I've ever come across. Her heart is large, her voice is convincing, and her journey matters...I'll keep this book on my shelf, and return to its riches again and again.”
“The story of Wren’s overwhelming grief and fragile new love is truthful, poetic and unflinchingly raw. An emotional and deeply insightful read.”
“In achingly beautiful prose, Amy McNamara has written a story of grief and bravery and hope that has the power to both haunt and heal. LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP is a masterful debut.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I absolutely LOVED this . I read it in a day.
Debut author, Amy McNamra’s, stunning portrait of a young woman’s grief in the most extreme stage shall touch the heart of every reader. Lovely, Dark, and Deep’s Wren Wells may be a pseudo-recluse living in a secluded area in Maine with her father, but she lays her pain on the table for any who bother to see. The death of Wren’s boyfriend, Patrick, and the many factors that surround his death, sends her life off-course. Living with her sculpting father, Wren hopes to get herself straightened out and back to pursuing her carefully laid out goals. Her time spent out of touch with society: friends, work, and passion, leave her parents worried and her mind close to shutting down. The aspect of living in the small town that Wren didn’t count on, was finding a reason to emerge from the darkness in which she’s shrouded herself. Wren is strong, even when she feels like hiding away from the world, but she knows that her misery is something that’s physically and mentally holding her back. Characters that are, at least, partially aware of themselves in such a manner are fascinating to read about. Wren walks herself towards moving on from a tragic accident, though not without help, but she pushes readers toward encouraging her, backtracks toward pitying her, then comes full circle to hopefulness that she’ll finally make real progress. Cal Owens flows into the novel like a knight in shining armor, almost. He has his own story that I wish McNamara could have explained in more detail, because I wasn’t too familiar with the source of his troubles, but overall he added to the path of hope Wren could choose to ignore or follow. Wren and Cal are drawn together by their similarities and differences when it comes to dealing with grief. Wren draws into herself, vowing to remain silent until she can sort through her issues, while Cal pretends his situation isn’t as grave as it really is. His quick temper contradicts the calm he radiates for Cal, molding him into one of the most realistic characterizations of a love interest I’ve seen in young adult fiction. McNamara’s style of writing is easygoing, yet packs a wallop of emotion. The writing excellently portrays Wren’s flow of consciousness through a variety of sentence length and structure. The dialogue is straightforward, even when a moment of profundity surrounds the speaking character. Knowing that the characters are saying more with fewer words lends the reader a sense of time. It never feels as though a scene is unnaturally long, or that a person in real life would never say so much at one time. Lovely, Dark, and Deep sends a riot of emotions through me when I just think about Wren’s story. Reading her story is a comfort and an experience, because it is such a possibility. This is truly a universal story that will not only entertain readers who love a sad story that pushes its protagonist toward happiness, but also speaks to the many people affected by grief and other strong emotions. *ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review* Also posted on Lovey Dovey Books
I actually read a hard copy of this book and i was amazed by how fast i was getting into to.i enjoyed the authors dialect and the way she pieces things together.when i was reading i had the pkot in my head and how i thought it would turn out,next thing i know it changes and always kept me on my feet wanting more.i felt i could relate ti this book alot due to my struggles have been some wat similiar in a way and how i handle things just like Wren.
I love your writing !
Lovely, dark and deep centers on Wren who after going through a traumatic expierience struggles to be who she used to be and to figure out who she is. Filled with deep writing and slef identity lovely dark and deep makes you melt into the text an not want to escape. As Wren figures out who she is theough a romance she learns to lovw after death. Unsatisfied with the abrupt ending i would give this 8.5/10 stars. Recommended for any mature 7th through 12th graders.
"Lovely, Dark, and Deep" is about a young adult, Wren Wells (girl) who has suffered through a traumatic experience before the end of high school. She has closed off her family and friends and didn't continue to college after high school. She doesn't plan to get close to anyone until she meets a man, Cal, who wants to get closer to Wren. Wren struggles on dealing with her feelings for Cal. This book is really good. I just felt that towards the middle of the book she got a little too clingy. Overall, it is a great read and I highly recommend this to anyone. Hope that there is a second book to this about how life is for Wren and Cal.
This book is splendid and fresh and is wonderful.
(Source: I borrowed a copy of this book.) 18-year-old Wren (formerly Mamie) is having a rough time of it. She was in a car accident with her boyfriend Patrick, in which he died, but she didn’t. She wasn’t driving, but she still blames herself for the accident. Changing her name to Wren (something her dad always called her as a nick-name), she moves in with her dad in an isolated house overlooking the sea, and spends her days in solitude, running or sleeping, or simply watching her life go by. Her mother phones 3 times a day, but she doesn’t always answer, and she wants nothing more than to be simply left alone. One morning whilst on her bike rather than running, she is almost mowed down by a car, and the car’s driver – Cal, gives her a lift back to her father’s house. It seems that no one wants to leave her alone though, and Cal tries to strike up a friendship with her, which she finds incredibly difficult at first. Eventually, Cal and Wren’s relationship blossoms, and he feels like the only fresh air she can breathe, but while she continues to make poor decisions, her life isn’t her own, and everyone else will continue to invade her privacy. Can Wren find the light at the end of the tunnel? Is Cal the answer for her? And will her life ever go back to ‘normal’? This book was such a real life example of what depression is like, how it sucks you down and holds you fast, how you want nothing more than to curl up and die, or to simply disappear altogether. Wren is severely depressed during this story whether she admits that that is what is happening to her or not. She takes sleeping pills to get the world to shut up for a while, she ignores her phone ringing because she doesn’t want to talk to anybody, and she constantly goes out running to escape from what is going on in her head. Wren’s relationships with her family and friends are strained, mainly because there is nothing coming from Wren, no input from her side of the relationship. Wren is like a big black hole that just sucks all the love offered her inside and makes no impression. She’s just incapable of behaving normally due to how emotionally numb she feels, and she’s incapable of getting her life back on track when she feels this way. This book was beautifully written, and just sucked me in right from the start. I really felt for Wren and empathised with her and the awful way she felt, whilst at the same time struggling to see a way out for her. When I looked back at the storyline, at times it seemed that there wasn’t much happening, but I think the point was to just feel how Wren was feeling, and to understand things from her point of view. The other characters in the book were all important, but to Wren just seemed to nag at her, as they tried to pull her out of her pit of despair. The most annoying character for me was the psychiatrist that Wren’s mother convinced her to see, who came out with the annoying psychiatrist lines of ‘how did that make you feel?’ and ‘what did you hope to gain by doing that?’, and then asked if a certain thing that Wren did (can’t say what to avoid spoilers) was done on purpose because her mother and her hadn’t agreed on which college she should go to?! I really hated him in that moment – what a divot! I can’t say that I really liked Wren’s ex-best-friend either, who just didn’t have the capability to deal with what Wren was going through. I wasn’t 100% sure about the ending to this book, mainly because it seemed to come upon me very suddenly, and I felt there was still ground to be covered. The ending did give the vague impression that maybe Wren might find a way to think more positively, but just didn’t give me the closure I needed which was a shame. Overall; a realistic book about despair and depression, but the ending lacked something for me. 8 out of 10.