1. The Beginner's Book of Dreams

    A Novel

    Elizabeth Benedict

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    This celebrated coming-of-age novel moves from Manhattan during the early days of Mad Men to the swinging, chaotic 1970s: A sensitive girl burdened with her mother’s drinking and long string of husbands becomes a special young woman when her best friend’s family opens her eyes to art
    Esme Singer is a resilient girl from Los Angeles, new to Manhattan, who takes better care of her beautiful, alcoholic mother than her mother does of her. A former fashion model and extra in the movies, her mother attracts a series of husbands and boyfriends as Esme watches in fascination and sometimes horror. Esme’s father comes and goes, forever riding the wave of the latest get-rich-quick scheme. As Esme becomes a teenager, she turns to her friend Leah’s cultured, exotic family for inspiration and solace—especially Leah’s father, a well-known photographer who encourages Esme to cultivate her gifts. Might art—and a favorite teacher—become the answer to some of her troubles?
    The Beginner’s Book of Dreams is an insightful, sophisticated, sometimes wickedly funny, always sharp-eyed portrayal of a young woman inventing and discovering her own independent spirit.

  2. Pub Date
    Open Road Integrated Media

Editorial Reviews

  • “As for [the] stunning, insecure daughter, Esme—named like a Salinger heroine—who rises from these ashes, you regret not having met her, but there is the feeling we will see her again.” —James Salter

  • “Splendid . . . a bold, expressive view of growing up absurd in New York City . . . a reminder of the capacity of the wounded human spirit to rise to the occasion, which is life.” —The New York Times Book Review

  • “Benedict knows her characters thoroughly, and each one of her details, from the description of Esme’s first sexual experience to the account of her father as an aging hippie in a Rolls-Royce, rings absolutely true. She can pin down a character with a word, evoke a scene, a room, or a city with a few perfect lines.” —The Washington Post

  • “Brilliant.” —Los Angeles Times

  • “[Benedict] is an enormously talented writer. . . . [She] portrays Esme’s ten-year search through the rubble of adolescence to the precarious moment of adult recognition . . . with disarming wit and a cast of flamboyant characters.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

  • “Strong and affecting . . . The Beginner’s Book of Dreams takes us easily into its grip and holds fast.” —USA Today


  • “Benedict’s masterful second novel evokes the anxieties of childhood and adolescence with rare clarity.” —Publishers Weekly

  • “[Benedict is] an impressive writer, capturing the moods of a time with clarity and economy . . . an involving, bright, and believable work.” —Kirkus Reviews

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About the author

Elizabeth Benedict

Elizabeth Benedict is a novelist, essayist, editor, and creative writing teacher. Her novels include the bestseller Almost, the National Book Award finalist Slow Dancing, and her most recent, The Practice of Deceit, which the Boston Globe called “a wickedly funny literary suspense novel.” In the Chicago Tribune, Anne Tyler praised her second novel, The Beginner’s Book of Dreams, for “the world it spreads before us,” which is “complex, fascinating, bewildering, sometimes morbidly funny, always unlaid with pain. The marvel is that such a sad book could be such a joy to read.” Benedict’s essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Rumpus, EsquireAllureHarper’s BazaarSalmagundi, and Dædalus. She is the editor of two anthologies: Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives, and the New York Times bestseller What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most.