Longlisted for the 2017 Women's Prize for Fiction
Ginger is forty-seven and a recovering alcoholic when she meets and marries Paul.
It's too late for her to have a baby of her own, so she tries to persuade him to consider adoption, but he already has a child and doesn't share her longing to be a parent. As a compromise, they sign up to an organisation that sends poor inner-city kids to stay with country families for a few weeks in the summer, so one hot July day Velveteen Vargas arrives in their lives, and Ginger is instantly besotted. Velvet is an eleven-year-old Dominican girl from one of Brooklyn's toughest neighbourhoods.
Bemused by her gentle middle-aged hosts, but deeply intuitive in the way of clever children, Velvet quickly senses the longing behind Ginger's affection for her. Although she can't reciprocate, the two of them do forge a bond, but when Ginger begins to entertain fantasies of adopting Velvet, things begin to get complicated.
Narrated in turn by Velvet and Ginger, Mary Gaitskill has created a devastating portrait of the unbridgeable gaps between people, and the way we long for fairytale endings even when we know they don't exist. Heartbreakingly honest and utterly convincing, it marks her triumphant return.