Life is a challenge for 36-year-old Kate Cavanaugh, high school guidance counselor to a motley group of at-risk students. Two years after finding her young husband dead in bed beside her, Kate’s storybook life has vanished, and she and her two children are still reeling. Her daughter Charlotte, once a sweet girl, has morphed into an angry, tattooed, tongue-studded teen; and Hunter, Kate’s four-year-old, keeps his feelings sealed tight inside and an empty ketchup bottle clasped to his heart. When a tragedy occurs at the Alan B. Shepard High School, it’s Kate who finds herself in need of counsel and guidance. What she does next catapults her and her family down an unfamiliar road, on a trajectory into space—toward understanding, forgiveness and healing.


Americans in Space

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Additional Praise for Americans in Space

"An affecting story of life in the space that we all inhabit – the universe of family ties, of anger, of love and of loss...Mary E. Mitchell knows that not all landings are soft, and not all destinations are called out on the maps we cobble together.  All roads lead to…the unexpected, and fulfilling end of this novel."

--Alex Beam, author of A Great Idea at the Time


"Mary E. Mitchell blasts boldly into the mysteries of an unstable universe yet keeps her characters grounded with her warm, wry, wise narrative voice.  Readers will root for Mitchell's compassionately drawn characters as they face the worst of life on earth and find the best in themselves.  Stellar storytelling."

--Elizabeth Searle, author of Celebrities in Disgrace and Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera


“With equal parts humor, warmth, charm, sorrow and compassion topped off with an iconic ketchup bottle, Mary E. Mitchell treats her readers to a delicious slice of domestic life.  Americans in Space is earthbound comfort food of the highest order.”

--Mameve Medwed, national bestselling author of How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life and Of Men and Their Mothers


“In her compelling new novel, Mary E. Mitchell examines what it means to take back one’s own life.  Americans in Space pulls us into the gravitational orbit of a family disoriented by loss.  To find their footing again, they first need to work their way out of the tightest spaces of all: the human heart.  The characters are lucky to have Mitchell as their creator as she guides them through it all with humor and sympathy for what it means to be most deeply alive” 

--Alexandra Johnson, author of Leaving a Trace


“A beloved husband suddenly dies; a young widow must find a way to mend

her shattered children and her own blasted heart.  I found myself rooting

for Kate as she pieces her life back together with humor and grace, shard by shard.  Mary Mitchell has written a touching and wise novel.” 

-- Caroline Preston, author of Gatsby’s Girl

From Kirkus Reviews:

Mitchell (Starting Out Sideways, 2007) arrestingly depicts a family consumed by grief.

Two years after the sudden death of her husband from an undiagnosed heart condition, Kate Cavanaugh’s family is virtually unrecognizable. Her daughter, Charlotte, has morphed into a sullen, tattooed teenager. Her four-year-old son Hunter, the book’s most affecting and lovable character, quietly toddles around clutching a ketchup bottle to his chest. The only person keeping the Cavanaughs functioning, it often seems, is their neighbor “Auntie Marge,” a wealthy tech geek with the body of a linebacker and a heart of gold. Kate’s professional success as a guidance counselor at Charlotte’s high school underscores her difficulties with her personal life. She effortlessly soothes the problems of the likable, charismatic misfits in the school’s “touchy feely” support group, but she is unable to have a conversation with her daughter that doesn’t devolve into yelling and slamming doors. Kate’s further breakdown after a school tragedy is painful to witness, but well handled by the author’s delicate description and organic dialogue. The myriad relationships—between mother and daughter, sister and brother, husband and wife, children and grandparents, friends and co-workers—are artfully rendered. The characters give the novel its shape; each acts as a window into seemingly inescapable grief and the strength required for revival. Mitchell keeps it honest by painting multidimensional people whose dark sides she’s willing to expose. Readers will be surprised at how quickly they are sucked into the Cavanaughs’ grief and how much they root for this small clan. The title alludes to the isolation and ungrounding of Kate, Charlotte and Hunter after a quarter of their family is unfairly taken away. Mitchell lets her characters drift further apart, their individual trials breaking our hearts until, mercifully, she brings them back down to earth.

Get out the tissues, but plan on reading this impressive, stirring novel straight through.

From Booklist:

Two years after she awoke one morning to find her husband dead beside her, 36-year-old Kate Cavanaugh is still mired in missing him, unable to proceed more than superficially with her life. She is still a guidance counselor at Alan B. Shepard High School, but other than her once-a-week meetings with a group of at-risk students, she listlessly endures each day. Her son, Hunter, now 4, has regressed to baby talk and clinging to a succession of inanimate objects. And she has completely lost touch with her 14-year-old daughter, Charlotte, who is suddenly tattooed, tongue-pierced, and skipping school. Mitchell has surrounded this fragile family with a strong cast of secondary characters, including Kate’s stalwart friend Marge, who does everything from babysitting to constructing Hunter’s new bunk beds; the kids in Kate’s at-risk group, who love and count on her; and Foster, the handsome, divorced lawyer who chastises Kate for being slow in getting “back on the horse.” Mitchell captures the mother-daughter angst to perfection, and Kate’s struggle to get on with her life with a frank and empathetic lens.

        -- Deborah Donovan