Mitchard, Jacquelyn: The Deep End of the Ocean
(researched by Jamie Mercer)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Jacquelyn Mitchard. The Deep End of the Ocean. New York, New York: Viking Penguin, 1996. First published in 1996 by Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc. Copyright: Jacquelyn Mitchard, 1996. No parallel first editions.

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

The first edition is published as a hardcover with a dust jacket. The cover itself is board with a glossy finish and is blue-green.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

224 leaves, [endpaper] pp. [i-vii] viii [4] [1] 2-8 [9-11] 12-27 [28-29] 30-45 [46-47] 48-60 [61] 62-70 [71] 72-81 [82-83] 84-93 [94-95] 96-105 [106-107] 108-118 [119] 120-128 [129] 130-144 [145] 146-155 [156-157] 158-171 [172-173] 174-181 [182-183] 184-189 [190-191] 192-204 [205] 206-215 [216-217] 218-225 [226-227] 228-235 [236-239] 240-246 [247] 248-253 [254-255] 256-263 [264-265] 266-273 [274-275] 276-282 [283] 284-292 [293] 294-300 [301] 302-309 [310-311] 312-317 [318-319] 320-342 [343] 344-360 [361] 362-372 [373] 374-387 [388-389] 390-398 [399] 400-413 [414-415] 416-426 [427] 428-434 [2] [endpaper] The book is divided into relatively short chapters, and each chapter page is unnumbered. Chapter page numbers are inferred as part of the numerical sequence, and appear in brackets. Each chapter page is on the right side of the book. Therefore, if one chapter ends on a right page, the left page following it is left blank and unnumbered as well. Page numbers appear italicized in the top outer corners of the pages.

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

The book is neither edited nor introduced.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

There are no illustrations.

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

Readability: Excellentódouble spacing, sufficient margins Margin size: Sides 11 mm., Top 14 mm., Bottom 18 mm. Page size: 96 mm. wide by 144 mm. long. Type size: 70R Type style: Serif Font: Pan (as identified by Running headlines appear throughout the book, with the authorís name justified left on the left pages, and the bookís title justified right on the right pages. The book is divided into a prologue and two parts. Part one consists of chapters 1 through 18, and part two consists of chapters 19 through 35. The chapters are indicated a quarter of the way down the page, italicized (e.g. ìChapter 1î). Chapter pages only have about half a page of text that starts about halfway down the page. The bottom of the chapter page is taken up by a swirled, wavy design (indicating ocean waves, going along with the title of the book). In some cases, a date (e.g. ìJune 1985î) appears justified right and in italics above the text to indicate the passage of time. When the narration of the story changes, the name of the character is indicated at the top of the chapter page, justified right and in a swirly, decorative script (e.g. ìBethî).

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The quality of the paper is good. Pages are thick and durable, and are off-white in color. They are smooth, but not glossy. This book is in excellent conditionóit appears to be brand new, and there is no damage or staining to any of the pages. Pages are creamy and evenly cut (not deckled). The publication information page states that the book is printed on acid-free paper.

11 Description of binding(s)

The pages are stitched together in 14 smaller sections and glued to the board cover. The binding is 1.2 inches wide. The cover is board with a glossy, contact paper-like finish. It is blue-green in color with darker swirls of green (indicating the ocean). All information on the front cover and spine is engraved/imprinted into the book. Endpapers are thick and light green. Transcription of front cover: THE | DEEP END | OF THE | OCEAN (justified right) | JACQUELYN MITCHARD | (justified center, bottom of cover) Transcription of spine: JACQUELYN | MITCHARD | THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN | VIKING (author and title imprinted vertically, Viking horizontally) The dust jacket is white and translucent with a green wave pattern. The title and authorís name appear in the same layout as the transcription of the cover. An illustration of a child standing next to a toy box filled with the image of the ocean is justified right underneath the title. To the left in small red print reads ìA NOVEL.î On the inside flap of the dust jacket is a summary of the novel, a photograph of the author, and a brief author bio. The back of the dust jacket consists of three reviews of the book.

12 Transcription of title page

The title page spans two pages, the second and third unnumbered pages. Left page: Jacquelyn Mitchard | VIKING Right page: The | Deep End | of the | Ocean About the bottom third of the title pages is taken up by the same swirly wave pattern that appears on the chapter pages. The authorís name is italicized and justified center on the left page. The title is justified right near the top of the right page and is in a more decorative, script-like font than the rest of the book.

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

Information on holdings not available at this time.

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

Colophon on first unnumbered page bears the insignia of Viking publishing and the title, but no other information. Following the publication information is a dedication page that reads ìFor the two Dans, and for my father and my mother.î (5th unnuumbered page, implicitly numbered [v]) The dedication page is succeeded by an "acknowledgments" section written by the author. This consists of two pages of the author's thanks to various family members, friends, and organizations. (pages [vii] and viii) Following the acknowledgments is a page on which appears an eight-line passage from William Shakespeare's King John (justified right, near the top of the page). This passage is a perfect opening to the novel, as it is a passage describing the grief felt by the loss of a child, and novelís plot is that of a missing child case. (9th unnumbered page) This book was obtained by searching The copy was purchased through a transaction on

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

First published in 1996 by Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc. Penguin also released a 1st Signet paperback edition in 1996 and 1997, and an Oprah's Book Club Edition Paperback in October 1999. An audio version was released by Penguin Audiobooks: New York, N.Y., 1996. Read by Dana Ivey.

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

The first edition yielded 100,000 copies in print after 7 trips to the press. Hardcover: $23.95, 448 pages When Oprah selected the book as her first selection in her on-air book club in September 1996, total in print quickly climbed from 100,000 to 640,000.

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

England: Niagara/Ulverscroft Group Ltd. ; F.A. Thorpe Ltd., 1996. New York: Signet, 1997, 1999. London: HarperCollins, 1996, 1997, 1999. London: Flamingo (Special overseas ed.), 1998. Signet: Mass Market Paperback, 1999. Ulverscroft Large Print Books: Large Print Edition, 1996. Bt Bound: Library Binding Edition, October 2001.

6 Last date in print?

The Deep End of the Ocean is still in print as of October 2002 in several editions: Signet: Mass Market Paperback, February 1999. Penguin USA: Oprah's Book Club Edition Paperback, October 1999. Ulverscroft Large Print Books: Large Print Edition, October 1996. Bt Bound: Library Binding Edition, October 2001.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

As of October 2002, the most current figure available is a 1998 total of 2,749,677 copies, hardback and paperback combined.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

In the calendar year 1996, the book appeared as #11 on the Bestsellers Fiction List, having sold 840,263 copies. In the calendar year 1997, the book appeared on the Mass Market Paperbacks list under the category of 1+ million, having sold 1,904,414 copies.

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

A glowing review of The Deep End of the Ocean appeared in the April 1, 1996 edition of Publisher's Weekly. The forecast declared that the novel was a "rich, moving, and altogether stunning first novel," praising Jacquelyn Mitchard's "narrative structure and stylistic resources." Going on to summarize the "suspenseful plot," the review ended by complimenting Mitchard's "infallible ear for family conversation and a keen eye for domestic detail." The novel was deemed "compelling and heartbreaking...impossible to put down." Shortly after the novel's release, but before it hit the bestsellers list in September of 1996, an article appeared in the July 29, 1996 edition of Publisher's Weekly. Entitled "A Debut Making Waves," the article commended the novel, noting the achievement of a debut novel making its way to the bestsellers list.

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

In July of 1996, Jacquelyn Mitchard did a great deal of publicity for her debut novel, including an 8 city national tour and appearances on the NBC Today Show and CBS This Morning. Several signings were held in her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. 400 people attended a reading and signing at Harry Schwartz Booksellers in Milwaukee. Jacquelyn Mitchard also writes a column in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The book appeared on Publisher's Weekly's "Best Books of 1996." The Forecasts editors chose it as one of their favorite books of the year: "One of those books that defies classification (is it commercial literary fiction or literary commercial fiction?), Mitchard's first novel, the story of a family who lives in limbo for years after one of their sons is kidnapped, balances suspense, gut-wrenching emotions, and psychological truths about family relationships." The book appears on Publisher's Weekly's 1996 Longest Running Hardcover Bestsellers list on January 6, 1997. The first novel selected by Oprah Winfrey for her on-air book club in September 1996. Official website for the movie:

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

Movie: The Deep End of the Ocean: Based on the novel by Jacquelyn MItchard. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams, Whoopi Goldberg. Columbia Pictures/Presented by Mandalay Entertainment; a Via Rosa Production. Produced by Kate Guinzberg and Steve Nicolaides; screenplay by Stephen Schiff; directed by Ulu Grosbard. Director of photography, Stephen Goldblatt; editor, John Bloom; music, Elmer Bernstein. 1999, PG-13, 109 min. A wife and mother is faced with rebuilding her life, and her family, after they have been shockingly torn apart. When their son disappears, the pain of a lost child ravages the Cappadora family for nearly a decade. But when he suddenly returns, the entire family must come to a painful reunion of their own. To view a trailer for the movie, visit the following link:

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

Spanish: El lado profundo del mar. Jacquelyn Mitchard/Cristina PiÒa. Buenos Aires: Atl·ntida, 1997. Polish: Glebia oceanu. Jacquelyn Mitchard/Katarzyna Kasterka. Warszawa: PrÛszynski i S-ka, 1999. French: Aussi profond que l'ocÈan. Jacquelyn Mitchard. Paris: Calmann-LÈvy, 1998. Italian: Profondo come il mare. Jacquelyn Mitchard. Milano: Sperling & Kupfer Editori, 1998. Swedish: D?r havet slutar. Jacquelyn Mitchard. Sweden: Norstedts, 1997. Finnish: Syv? kuin meri. Jacquelyn Mitchard. Helsingiss?: Otava, 1997. Dutch: Diep als de zee. Jacquelyn Mitchard. Netherlands: Anthos, 1996. Hebrew: ha-Tsad he-ëamok shel ha-okyanos. Jacquelyn Mitchard/Vardah Yerushalmi. Or Yehudah: Hed artsi; Israel; 1999. Hungarian: Az Ûce·n mÈlye. Jacquelyn Mitchard. Budapest: Magyar K?nyvklub, 1999. Japanese: Aoku fukaku shizunde. Jacquelyn Mitchard/Kiyomi Nagano. Tokyo: Shinchosha, 1998. Danish: Hvor havet ender. Jacquelyn Mitchard. K¯benhaven: Egmont, 1998. German: Tief wie der Ozean. Jacquelyn Mitchard. M¸nchen: Limes, 1997. Portuguese: Nas profundezas do mar sem fim. Jacquelyn Mitchard. Rio de Janeiro: Rocco, 1998.

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A

The novel was not serialized.

15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A

There are no sequels/prequels to the novel.

Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Jacquelyn Mitchard was born on December 10, 1953 in Chicago, Illinois. She was the first of two daughters to parents Robert and Mary Dvorak. Upon receiving her B.A. in English Literature from Rockford College in 1973, Mitchard taught high school English and waited tables until her professional writing career took flight in 1976. Mitchard's writing career began not in bestseller fiction, but in journalism. Between 1976 and 1979, she was the managing editor and a reporter for the Pioneer Press in Chicago. Her next writing job was for Madison, Wisconsin's The Capital Times from 1979 to 1984, followed by reporting and column writing for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1984 to 1988. Her career seemed to take off from this point, when her column, "The Rest of Us," became nationally syndicated. Her column still appears in the paper's LifeStyle section. In 1989, her career path led her to the University of Wisconsin, where she became the speechwriter for Donna Shalala, the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at the time. Mitchard's writing has also been seen throughout her career in various magazines, including TV Guide, Self, Woman's Day, Glamour, and Parenting. Her first work outside of journalistic writing took the form of nonfiction, first in her 1985 book "Mother Less Child: The Love Story of a Family," and then in a 1991 biography of Jane Addams for teenagers. While working at her second newspaper job, the Capital Times in Wisconsin, Jacquelyn met and married Dan Allegretti, the paper's editor (1981). The marriage endured a great deal of strain and nearly failed due to the couple's strong desire yet inability to conceive a child. A nearly fatal tubal pregnancy and her subsequent infertility were the forces that drove Mitchard to write her first nonfiction book, "Mother Less Child." In 1993, Allegretti died of cancer, leaving Mitchard a single mother of five adopted children. With a mere eighty-seven cents in her checking account and a determination to write "everything for anybody to pay the bills," Mitchard had literally resorted to composing warning labels for spray paint cans. A fortunate twist of fate led Mitchard to attend a writer's camp, and she soon began work on her first novel, "The Deep End of the Ocean." In a 1996 interview, Mitchard confided that she had dreamed the story for her novel, stating, "I'd never written a novel before, but the dream was clear and astonishing. And I'm not much of a dreamer in the ordinary sense." Mitchard was met with immediate success, selling her first novel after writing only one hundred pages of it and signing a two-book contract worth five hundred thousand dollars. Her debut novel, published in 1996, achieved critical acclaim and graced the number one spot on Publisher's Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times bestseller lists. "The Deep End of the Ocean" soared even higher when selected by Oprah Winfrey as the first novel to be featured on "Oprah's Book Club." The book rights were soon sold to Mandalay Entertainment, and in 1999 a movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Whoopi Goldberg was created based on the book. During work on her second work of fiction, "The Most Wanted" (1998), a remarkably coincidental event occurred in Mitchard's life. In the plot of her novel, the main character falls in love with a carpenter who is several years younger than her. In the midst of the novel's publication, a handyman named Chris Sornberger, who was 13 years younger than Mitchard, showed up at her house to lay tile. As the two fell in love, Mitchard was struck by the parallel of her personal life with her literary work. Within weeks, she and Sornberger were married. "The Deep End of the Ocean" was certainly a successful transition to a career of fiction writing for Mitchard. Additional novels include "The Most Wanted" (1998), "A Ghost at Heart's Edge" (1999), "Twelve Times Blessed" (2000), "A Theory of Relativity" (2001), and "Baby Bat's Lullabye" (to be released in 2003). Her journalistic work transcended her book-writing career, first in a 1997 compilation of her essays and columns entitled "The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship", and next when her essays on adoption appeared in "Adoption Reader" (1995). Expanding to other media, Mitchard has also assisted TV Guide editor Amy Paulsen in the writing of two screenplays: "The Serpent's Egg" and "Typhoid Mary." Mitchard has been the recipient of an impressive number of awards throughout her career. In 1993 and 1994, she was awarded the Maggie Award for public service magazine journalism. The year following the release of "The Deep End of the Ocean" was a year of ongoing acclaim and recognition for Mitchard. In 1997, she received the Parenting Network Public Awareness Award, the Milwaukee Press Club Headliner Award in recognition of her exceptional service to her community, and the Anne Powers Award for fiction from the Council of Wisconsin Writers. She has also received three Ragdale residencies. Jacquelyn Mitchard's current residence (as of October 2002) is in Madison, Wisconsin with her second husband and six children, one of whom was adopted after her first husband's death. Her agent is Jane Gelfman, of Gelfman, Schneider Literary Agents, Inc. In a 1996 interview following the release of "The Deep End of the Ocean," Mitchard gave this advice to aspiring novelists: "Two pieces of advice, and they're in order of importance. One, read a lot more than you think you have time for. And two, never let anyone talk you out of your dreams."

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Published and released in 1996, Jacquelyn Mitchard's "The Deep End of the Ocean" was met with nearly unanimous critical acclaim. By September of 1996, the novel had graced the Publisher's Weekly Bestseller List, where it remained for 19 weeks, taking the top spot for 6 of those weeks. The success of the novel skyrocketed when it was selected by Oprah Winfrey in September 1996 as the first selection for her on-air book club. A story of the trauma endured by a family as a result of a child's kidnapping, the novel was praised not only for its immense success as a debut from a previously unknown author, but also for Mitchard's incredible ability to capture the very essence of family dynamics. Although it was deemed a "blockbuster read" (Publisher's Weekly), critics were at the same time adamant about the notion that "this is no check-out line thriller; it is a meticulous and finely structured study of emotions" (Book Review Digest). Critics often noted Mitchard's long-term history in journalism while discussing her traits as a fiction writer, commending her for her ability to make the transition so smoothly without completely surrendering her journalistic influence. "Mitchard is an easy read. Her years as a syndicated columnist make her dialogue sound familiar and the narrative flow" ( According to a review found on, Mitchard's relationship with reality due to her background allows for a painful, yet believable ending: "It would be easy for a writer to grant a happy ending to the Cappadora family, who have been through so much and none of it their fault. And yet instead we are left with something much more real, the side of a tragedy you won't catch on the six o'clock news. ?The Deep End of the Ocean' will make you catch your breath. It will make you thankful. It will make you think. It will make you feel." In a 1997 interview, Mitchard claimed, "You write about what obsesses you at your core, and it's obvious that domestic life is my turf." The quality of Mitchard's uncanny representation of domestic life was seldom ignored by any critical reviews. A glowing review in the April 1, 1996 edition of Publisher's Weekly read as follows: "Mitchard imbues her suspenseful plot with disturbingly candid psychological truths about motherhood and family relationships. Displaying an infallible ear for family conversation and a keen eye for domestic detail, she writes dialogue that vibrates with natural and unforced humor and acerbic repartee." Another instance of praise for Mitchard's unsettling yet admirable realism in her tale is found in an excerpt from the Toronto Sun: "The loss of a child and its effect on the whole extended family, relatives as well as the immediate family members, is conveyed with great insight and compassion by Mitchard. Her story makes for a painful reading but it's rich in understanding." Perhaps the most frequently invoked aspect of the novel by critics reviewing it was the undeniable element of extreme suspense. Deemed "a drama with the tension of a thriller" by People magazine, and a story that "possesses a white-water momentum nearly as dynamic as its emotional pull" by the Boston Globe, the critical consensus seems to fall to a commendation of her mastery of anticipation and apprehension. "Take a deep breath. . . . This riveting story won't let you come up for air." SOURCES USED: Book Review Digest 1997 Publisher's Weekly April 1, 1996 People Magazine (found on Boston Globe (found on US Magazine (found on Toronto Sun (found through Google search)

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Since this novel was published very recently, in 1996, subsequent reception was hard to come by. Most review was written near the time of publication, and was discussed in the previous section of this assignment. I was unable to locate any reviews from the years 2001 or 2002 that dealt exclusively with "The Deep End of the Ocean." However, I was able to find some references to it in recent reviews of Mitchard's most recent publication, "A Theory of Relativity" (2001). Whether in a positive or negative light, in comparison to the new literature or standing alone as a review of Mitchard's career, it seemed as if critics could not refrain from mentioning at least some aspect of Mitchard's prominently known first novel. In a positive review of Mitchard's newest novel, some critics illuminated the strengths of the work by stating that it had some of the same qualities of "The Deep End of the Ocean." Patti Kelly stated, "She wears her emotions on her sleeve, and that's what makes her books so real and her characters so rich and compelling." Jennifer Hershey agreed in her synopsis: "She writes about the truth of what happens in families in a way that really gets you in the gut. She captures the whole swath of human emotion, all the different things that go on at once in the middle of every situation." A review from the Richmond Times-Dispatch also invoked a comparison to "The Deep End of the Ocean" in describing "A Theory of Relativity." Elizabeth Dickie proclaims in her review that: "This story is no easier to read than ?Deep End,' but it is just as powerful?There is no denying that Ms. Mitchard knows how to tell a story and can tug every string on a reader's heart?She examines every aspect of the pain and loss of each of the characters at each turn of the story." As in the original acclaim for "The Deep End of the Ocean," these more recent reviews serve to reinforce critics' acknowledgment of Mitchard's compelling abilities as a storyteller and her admirable gift of presenting the realities of family dynamics and believable human behaviors and qualities. Mitchard received a bit more negative press in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch review of "A Theory of Relativity." This review depicts a more rarely expressed view of Mitchard's writing, acknowledging in the title that as "A Master of Emotion, Mitchard Fizzles at the End." This critic in particular praised some stylistic elements of Mitchard's writing, yet condemned her for being unable to sustain the momentum of her plot throughout her novels. She describes "A Theory of Relativity" as a novel that "fades after an impressive beginning," and continues with a comparison to "The Deep End of the Ocean": "Sustaining a novel-size story isn't Mitchard's strength. After that initial flash of brilliance, ?Ocean' lost its way in a messy tangle of plot threads, dead-ending as just a good book, not a great one." Another review found in the Toronto Star gave praise to "The Deep End of the Ocean," yet asserted a theory that ever since her first novel, the quality of Mitchard's work had declined. The author of the review, Lynn Crosbie, claimed that Mitchard's second novel, "The Most Wanted" was "a critical and financial disappointment. The author's excuses are predictable: she rushed the book, she had ?second-novel anxiety,' she was still recovering from ?the Oprahfication experience.'" Crosbie's theory was that Mitchard was so inspired and elated by her success after being chosen as the first book in Oprah's book club that she was "still writing to please Oprah," a clichéd aspiration that was not getting her anywhere. Deeming her latest novel "boring" and full of "loose, baggy monotony," Crosbie proclaims that the smashing success of Mitchard's first novel led her readers and critics to have extremely high standards for her subsequent work. In a humorous comparison to a pop musical group, Crosbie illustrated the disappointment and reluctance to accept something new from readers who demanded another "Deep End of the Ocean": "In ?A Theory of Relativity,' Mitchard is clearly struggling with this paradigm, and, as a one-time Oprah superstar, must feel like the Baja Men in concert, trying to play new material while the crowd keeps screaming, ?Who Let the Dogs Out?'" While negative reviews of Mitchard's first novel can be found, my research indicated that the majority of critical opinion was favorable regarding "The Deep End of the Ocean." Even when acknowledging imperfections, most critics had positive things to say about her work, and when criticizing her later novels, a sort of disappointment was evident due to extreme praise and admiration for her first work of fiction. SOURCES USED: (all found through a LexisNexis search for "Jacquelyn Mitchard") Crosbie, Elizabeth. "Whiny, Sappy People." Toronto Star: 2001. Dickie, Elizabeth. "Jacquelyn Mitchard Uses Adoption Case as Grist for Plot." Richmond Times-Dispatch: 2001. Habich, John. "Motherhood of Invention." Star Tribune: 2001. Pennington, Gail. "A Master of Emotion, Mitchard Fizzles at the End." St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 2001.

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

Jacquelyn Mitchard's "The Deep End of the Ocean" is worthy of its status as a "bestseller" in every sense. Published in 1996, the novel has gone through all the necessary motions in order to claim its spot in the bestseller spotlight. A debut novel from a former journalist forging bravely into the arena of fiction writing, "The Deep End of the Ocean" wowed critics, readers, and even Oprah. Mitchard made a name for herself by slamming readers with 434 pages of ambitiously heart-wrenching drama and suspense, a morbidly irresistible tale of a family ravaged by their youngest son's kidnapping and miraculous return nine years later. 1996 was a whirlwind year for the novel: forecasted for immediate success by Publisher's Weekly in April and released in July, "The Deep End of the Ocean" had already appeared for its 19-week stint on the Publisher's Weekly Bestseller List by September. Quickly snapped up by Oprah Winfrey as the first selection for her on-air book club that same month, sales for the novel skyrocketed, as did recognition and acclaim for Mitchard's gift as a fiction writer. "The Deep End of the Ocean" was fueled for bestseller status by a number of factors. The novel boasts everything a voracious reader could hope for: a tragic event as the catalyst for a wrecked, sympathy-evoking family, complete with a rocky marriage, shouting matches with the in-laws, a much-anticipated scene of adultery, and a problematic angst-ridden teen. The reader is hurled through a series of hopes, plummets, and near-resolutions, propelled by a thirst for answers that never seem to come?a masterful authorial trick that elicits reviews like this one: "If there's anything you need to do, get it done before you start reading this book, because once you start reading you will never stop." The novel's most appealing "bestseller" quality is that of its terrifying universality; the horrible picture that Mitchard so skillfully paints is enthrallingly, frighteningly realistic. Mitchard's life experience as a journalist, mother, and wife lend to the novel's uncannily realistic qualities, and her stylistic gift of character depiction that is able to elicit compassion, frustration, and gut-wrenching empathy from a reader are among her most coveted weapons as a successful bestselling author. THE INFLUENCE OF THE MEDIA: FROM OPRAH TO HOLLYWOOD While Mitchard's writing is powerful and influential in itself, the fact that the book was highly publicized by Oprah Winfrey and later in a film version cannot be ignored. With an average of 13 million Americans tuning into the Oprah Winfrey Show's monthly broadcast of Oprah's Book Club, it is no wonder that selling status is shown to greatly increase when books are hyped by Oprah. An article entitled "The Oprah Effect" flat-out claims that Oprah's Book Club "has been responsible for 28 consecutive bestsellers. It has sold more than 20 million books and made many of its authors millionaires" (Max 2). As the first novel to be selected for Oprah's Book Club, "The Deep End of the Ocean" certainly derived a great deal of its success from this exposure. In fact, the article goes so far as to credit all of the novel's success to its "Oprahfication." The initial printing of the book yielded 68,000 copies. Three months later, when Oprah selected the book for her club, 100,000 more copies were shipped. By the time Oprah's racket about the book had died down, "Viking ended up filling 750,000 more orders. ?The Deep End of the Ocean' would go on to have 4 million copies in print" (Max 5). This novel seems to have set the tone for the types of novels selected by Oprah, novels deemed by Doubleday editor Deborah Futter "moving, painful human stor[ies]" (Max 2). It is a novel that meets Oprah's standards, because it is a novel that she claims "teaches us something about ourselves" (Max 3), as she believes all of her selections to do. Mitchard herself recognizes and attributes the raging success of her first novel to Oprah's attention to it. She stated in the article, "If you send my name to the 900,000 who bought ?Deep End of the Ocean' because of Oprah, it will mean nothing to them. There's no carryover. You learn quickly Oprah's the brand name, not you" (Max 7). She came to terms with this when her second novel, "The Most Wanted," was refused?virtually ignored?by Oprah. "It was not Winfrey's kind of book. No one at Harpo Productions read it. It did not do well" (Max 7). Although the public had enough faith in Mitchard to read her first novel, this did not translate to her ensuing work, raising the question of just how much success she would have encountered from her first novel without the strong, steady hand of Oprah. The book was able to maintain its presence in mainstream American culture through the 1999 adaptation of the plot into a movie. With a cast headlined by Michelle Pfeiffer and Whoopi Goldberg, the film was sure to attract viewers on star appeal alone, regardless of their awareness of Mitchard's novel. The return to high exposure a few years after the novel's publication was certainly another sales boost, as new editions of the book were released featuring Michelle Pfeiffer on the cover. THE LITERATURE ITSELF: Perhaps one of the biggest challenges to a novelist is the importance of the believable. Concocting an interesting plot is one thing; conveying it in a realistic and believable manner is quite another. Mitchard's realistic dialogue and plausible scenarios reverberate throughout the novel, making for an easy, automatic flow of reading, without any of the far-fetched or jarring moments of "wait a minute?no way" that can distort and disrupt the ability to appreciate and become absorbed in the reading. Part of Mitchard's credibility is derived from her years as a newspaper reporter and journalist. "Mitchard is an easy read. Her years as a syndicated columnist make her dialogue sound familiar and the narrative flow" ( In this sense, Mitchard masters one of the first necessary hurdles for a writer: writing in a style that is both captivating and automatically believable. Aside from narrative and dialogue, her journalistic/media experience also makes smooth and natural the many scenes actually depicting the media. As someone who is familiar with the world of the media in a much more intimate sense than the average person, Mitchard is able to paint these descriptive scenes with a keen vividness. From her experience with the very media her novel deplores, she succeeds in creating an air of authenticity in her scenes of media frenzy. When she describes the scene that Beth encounters outside of the hotel from which her son, Ben, was kidnapped, we can easily imagine that we are walking beside her, past the "half-dozen squads ranged around the circle drive in a loose ring, including a van Beth assumed from the array of electronic plumage on top housed a portable communications center. Cables snaked from the van across the sidewalk, under and through the doors of the Tremont. The fabled Eyewitness News truck was still there as well, its white-eyed lights giving the whole dark stretch of pavement an Oscar-night feel" (Mitchard 57). This is only a single instance of insight-filled description, and would be easily glanced over as merely background description by a reader. However, it is this easy acceptance that is in fact the beauty of it. Mitchard's insight allows for all the more accurate and credible portrayal of what accompanies an event like a kidnapping. Another instance of Mitchard's journalistic insight into what the media sees and perceives is evident in the scene in which Beth prepares to face a televised interview: "I look like a sack of shit." "That's okay," said Candy, and Beth thought, remembering her newspaper days, yes, of course, this is a tableau: the grieving mother she had herself photographed five or ten times, eyes dreadful with sleep deprivation, cheekbones like rocky ridges. "But you don't want to look frightening," Candy went on, "or they'll think?" "They'll think what?" "That you're nuts and you did it" (Mitchard 65). We can recognize the insight provided by Candy Bliss, a detective supervisor with a stripper's name, as insight belonging to Mitchard herself from her own career experience. Although a reader may not realize the effect that such descriptions have on their reading of the book, these manifestations of the author's experience add a level of credibility to the novel that is elemental to its success. Without the realistic edge, the painful jostle of reality, the book could have easily been chalked up as a sleuthy detective novel with fast-talking heroes and swooning female victims. Every element of Mitchard's story is "chillingly and beautifully real" (, contributing immensely to a reader's ability to empathize, and therefore contributing to the book's bestseller success. The most startlingly real aspect of the novel is that of the Cappadora family's dynamics. "Mitchard imbues her suspenseful plot with disturbingly candid psychological truths about motherhood and family relationships. Displaying an infallible ear for family conversation and a keen eye for domestic detail, she writes dialogue that vibrates with natural and unforced humor and acerbic repartee" (Publisher's Weekly, 4/1/96). As a wife and mother of six children, Mitchard is able to effortlessly project her own knowledge of family behavior and communication onto her work. In a 1997 interview, Mitchard stated, "You write about what obsesses you at your core, and it's obvious that domestic life is my turf." She paints a married couple so vividly that readers can easily believe that they know them, perhaps even recognize them as manifestations of themselves. Illuminating qualities to be both admired and scorned in any parent or spouse, Mitchard portrays Beth and Pat Cappadora in a manner that is simultaneously tender and abrasive, and altogether achingly real. Beth is a woman who obviously cares for her family, but is at the same time "harried, impatient, disorganized, and ambivalent about her husband and her kids?faults that come back to haunt her after her middle child disappears in a crowded hotel lobby" ( Essentially, she is a woman that every wife and mother knows that she herself could easily become with the slightest slip-up. Beth is a woman who somehow imagines a rustling in the garage to be a rodent before she thinks of her own child, yet by the end of the same scene, is engulfed by a love for the child she nearly forgot: "She heard a rustle in the dark from the corner of the garage, where the snowblower was stored, and her heart did thump then. A rat. A fat, bold raccoon, waiting to bite. She threw open the car door and nearly knocked Vincent over. ?Baby!' Beth cried. ?I didn't see you!' Vincent buried his face in her belly, nearly knocking Beth back into the seat. And suddenly, easily, she was holding him too, eagerly pulling him up onto her lap" (Mitchard 116). Beth's husband, Pat, is everything that Beth appears to be lacking. His tender regard and affection for his children and his heartache over Ben's loss radiates from the pages of the novel, and is encapsulated by the scene in which he first encounters Ben, nine years after his kidnapping: "It was Pat's gathered energy Beth could still feel when she thought of that instant?his coil; she thought he would leap up onto the step, leaving her behind, numbed, her arms hanging thick and useless. He had, instead, raked his hair, once, and then walked up to the step slowly, cautiously, the way a field biologist would approach a newborn antelope, and extended his palm, made as if to shake hands. And when the child only stared at him, Pat had lifted his hand, run one thumb down the side of Ben's face, from his hairline to his chin, and asked, ?How are you?'" (Mitchard 278) The balance of Beth's ambivalence, resigned hopelessness and passive inactivity with Pat's fervently emotional desperation creates an unbearable yet irresistibly realistic depiction of mourning and suffering. It is this jolting self-recognition and the clutching realization that this family could easily be your family, that their grief could be your grief, that strikes a chord in the reader's heart. An empathetic appreciation for the Cappadoras is instilled in the reader that contributes to the incessant dedication to this novel, thereby propelling it forward in the bestseller arena. Not only is Mitchard a mother and wife, but she is one who has dealt with her own fair share of grief and suffering. She and her first husband battled with the emotional trauma of infertility and a nearly fatal tubal pregnancy that resulted in the loss of their unborn child. She also suffered the traumatic loss of her first husband to cancer, leaving her as the single mother of five adopted children. A veteran of loss and mourning, Mitchard encompasses the stages of grief with stifling, agonizing authenticity. Through the Cappadora family, and most directly through Beth, she traces the progression of human reaction from rational to numb, then from hysteria to resignation. Beth's initial reaction, that of collected rationality, is tragic to us as readers, as we know this is a story of a kidnapping. Privy to the secret that Beth has not yet realized, we instantly climb aboard the sympathy train as we read the lines, "She didn't feel the bottom-out sensation that preceded frenzy. Ben was in the room. The room was filled with people, all good people, grownups who knew Beth, who would ask a little kid where his mama was" (Mitchard 26). She proceeds to a feeling of nauseous panic as the reality sets in, and Mitchard's language conveys that in the most tangible terms. "Beth supposed she should lie down; her throat kept filling with nastiness and her stomach roiled" (Mitchard 44). Following a hysterical episode of screaming her son's name and vomiting, a period of resignation begins to set in: "Beth had to pee. She got up, danced sideways for a step, then made her way into the lush, cream-tiled bathroom. She peed, steady, calm, purged, as if the medicine had deadened a section of brain stem. She wanted to brush her teeth. I am doing the things people do, Beth thought, still wanting to eliminate my body's wastes, clean myself, quench my thirst. Unbidden, Beth thought how even when her mother died, she and Ellen were stunned, not that life went on, but how quickly life went on, and how unchanged it was. People could not wait to eat or to get a newspaper" (Mitchard 55). This portrayal of the return to the mundane is spoken by the voice of experience, a voice that is undoubtedly shared by anyone who has ever suffered a loss and gone through the stages of behavior that accompany it. A reader is able to nod in agreement and appreciate the genuineness of Mitchard's uncanny representation of human emotion felt by Beth Cappadora. After the initial action, the sickening frenzy of the kidnapping and its immediate aftermath, the pace of the story slows to a crawl, instilling in the reader a stale, restless, cabin-feverish feeling. While this part of the story may leave a bad taste in a reader's mouth, it can also be recognized as a stylistic gift, as we realize that Mitchard has succeeded in creating the very sensation being experienced by Beth, shut up in her house and her lack of hope and motivation. Mitchard exhibits the gift of creating characters her readers can have a relationship with. Whether we are shaking our heads with disappointment at Beth's passivity and hopelessness?"Ben is dead. He's dead. If he wasn't, I would know it" (Mitchard 229)?or brushing away a tear for Vincent's constant fear and self-blame hidden behind a mask of teenage debauchery, we are inevitably involved in her characters. The novel's most enduring and appealing quality that renders it a bestseller is its uncanny ability to portray a life that anyone can believe. "The Deep End of the Ocean" is a novel people can find themselves in. The content of this novel, the sum of a parent's greatest fears about themselves and the fate of their families, is terrifying to confront, but at the same time hauntingly magnetizing. The story appeals to a culture that is morbidly obsessed with tragedy and suffering. People are intrigued and mesmerized by the negativity of the world, as indicated by prevalence of media coverage for negative rather than positive news, and the popularity of movies and TV shows involving death, tragedy, and suffering. Readers are drawn to Mitchard's tale of suffering for a number of reasons, including entertainment, the desire to feel compassion and common humanity, or perhaps as a reassurance that there is tragedy in the world that they are fortunate enough to be exempt from. "The loss of a child and its effect on the whole extended family, relatives as well as the immediate family members, is conveyed with great insight and compassion by Mitchard. Her story makes for a painful reading but it's rich in understanding" (Toronto Sun). Heartbreaking and eye opening from cover to cover, "The Deep End of the Ocean" is a story that will remain with its readers indefinitely. While Oprah and Hollywood may have given Mitchard's novel a strong push down the path of bestselling glory, her moving and engaging novel will certainly maintain its momentum by its own accord. SOURCES USED: Mitchard, Jacquelyn. "The Deep End of the Ocean." New York: Viking Penguin, 1996. Max, D.T. "The Oprah Effect." The New York Times: December 26, 1999. Publisher's Weekly: April 1, 1996 Jacquelyn Mitchard's Home Page:

You are not logged in. (Sign in)