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.
A profound, important novel about how love and family are shaped by race, class and privilege
Gaitskill's work feels more real than real life and reading her leads to a place that feels like a sacred space. Boston Globe Velvet is that most wonderful of fictional creations: a convincing child who manages to be a captivating and perceptive narrator. New Yorker Gaitskill's novel is not a children's book, but it is a book about what children long for, and how we long for the same thing many years after we've left childhood behind The New York Times