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Veronica, a soap opera writer who is small, dark, and accommodating, has little in common with her older sister Lillian, a neuroscientist who is tall, blonde and intolerant.  Nevertheless, for the past fourteen years–since their mother moved to New Zealand–they have been meeting on the first Monday morning of every month at the Hungarian Pastry Shop on the Upper West Side. No Ordinary Matter begins on Valentine’s Day 2000, the twenty-fifth anniversary of their father’s death in a car crash.  During the sisters’ritual encounter at the neighborhood cafe, Lillian surprises Veronica with the announcement that she has succeeded in becoming pregnant – and that the father of her child is an “out-of-work” actor she picked up in a bar and who is none the wiser about his impending paternity. The ensuing story, which unravels over the course of Lillian’s pregnancy, involves a mysterious father, an estranged mother, a long lost brother, sisterhood, an impulsive marriage, a honeymoon, an annulment, three detectives, several car accidents, a musical, and incest. The fast-paced narrative full of coincidences and contingencies reads like the fictional equivalent of Chaos Theory and yet this fantastical world is rendered delightfully ordinary.  Ultimately, the novel explores the meaning of family and the competing, overlapping and intersecting roles that science, will, desire, accident, and chance play in shaping our lives. With No Ordinary Matter, Jenny McPhee’s fiction continues to be “an elegant inquiry into the randomness of love and the glory of fate.” (Entertainment Weekly)


“No Ordinary matter is very funny. It’s also a profound description of how we’re all made crazy and sad and occasionally even wise by that extravagant kind of brain trauma known as life.”
– Matthew Sharpe

“McPhee is astonishing–her storytelling makes me want to write (the highest praise another writer can offer). This is a whimsical, magical book.”
– Suzannne Finnamore

“Lively, fun, and smart, this story of two sisters coming to terms with their past–and with each other–is really a wonderful read.
– Elizabeth Strout

“So absurdly improbable that it can be swallowed whole: a wiffy spoof, nicely put together and hard to put down.”
– Kirkus (starred review)

“Start to finish, this smart, lively novel keeps its eyes on the surprise. From a long-lost half-brother to the heady truth about a mysterious death, McPhee unleashes an ever-twisting plot that pops and crackles on the page.”
– Bookpage

“Just as she accomplished with her first book The Center of Things, McPhee leaves you shaking your head in wonder at the end of No Ordinary Matter. It’s funny, sad, intellectual and hysterical. More than anything, McPhee makes it clear that she knows how to write smart, sexy, and intensely interesting characters. This book was a blast and a treat.” 
– Colleen Mondor, Bookslut