Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders

A Novel


By Julianna Baggott

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“A mesmerizing tale of star-crossed love and of the dark secrets in a fracturing family . . . This novel is so full of wonders that it leaves you haunted, amazed, and, like every great read, irrevocably changed.” — Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

The reclusive Harriet Wolf, revered author and family matriarch, has a final confession: a love story. Years after her death, as her family comes together one last time, the mystery of Harriet’s life hangs in the balance. Does the truth lie in the rumored final book of the series that made Harriet a world-famous writer, or will her final confession be lost forever?

Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders tells the moving story of the unforgettable Wolf women in four distinct voices: the mysterious Harriet, who, until now, has never revealed the secrets of her past; her fiery, overprotective daughter, Eleanor; and her two grown granddaughters — Tilton, the fragile yet exuberant younger sister, who’s become a housebound hermit, and Ruth, the older sister, who ran away at sixteen and never looked back.

When Eleanor is hospitalized, Ruth decides it’s time to do right by a pact she made with Tilton long ago: to return home and save her sister. Meanwhile, Harriet whispers her true life story to the reader. It’s a story that spans the entire twentieth century and is filled with mobsters, outcasts, a lonesome lion, and a home for wayward women. It’s also a tribute to her lifelong love of the boy she met at the Maryland School for Feeble-minded Children.

Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders, Julianna Baggott’s most sweeping and mesmerizing novel yet, offers a profound meditation on motherhood and sisterhood, as well as on the central importance of stories. It is a novel that affords its characters that rare chance we all long for — the chance to reimagine the stories of our lives while there’s still time.


  • "Julianna Baggott's devoted readers have long known that she is a genius who can do whatever she wants. But with Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders she has somehow outdone herself. This novel, about a woman who is stuck telling and living a family story that someone else has written and whose ending has been (maybe) lost forever, reminds me of the best work by the great Steven Millhauser: brainy, self-aware, tender, full of loss, but also full of grace and wonder. This is Julianna Baggott's best book, which is one way of saying it's one of the best books you'll read this year, or any other."
    Brock Clarke, author of the national bestseller AnArsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England
  • "Dazzling and ambitious, Julianna Baggott's gorgeously written new novel explores the miracles born out of desperation of three generations of women, all set against an astounding sweep of twentieth-century history. Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders is a mesmerizing tale of star-crossed love and of the dark secrets in a fracturing family, but it is also a profound meditation on stories themselves: how they create and trap us, how they protect us, and how, even amid great tragedy, they can sometimes make us bloom. This novel is so full of wonders that it leaves you haunted, amazed, and, like every great read, irrevocably changed."
    Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You
  • "Julianna Baggott's richly imagined new novel is filled with laughter and heartbreak, and--most wonderfully--with the bright, pained release of stories, which flutter from these pages like living birds."
    Elizabeth Graver, author of The End of the Point, long-listed for the 2013 National Book Award
  • "All stories worth telling are love stories, a character says in Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders. This novel about a famous writer's lost manuscript, the complex legacy of family secrets, and--yes--a love story that unfolds across generations is inventive, playful, and deeply affecting."
    Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train
  • Praise for Pure:

    "Pure is not just the most extraordinary coming-of-age novel I've ever read, it is also a beautiful and savage metaphorical assessment of how all of us live in this present age. This is an important book by one of our finest writers." --Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winner

    "A great gorgeous whirlwind of a novel, boundless in its imagination. You will be swept away."--Justin Cronin, New York Times bestselling author of The Passage

    Praise for The Madam

    "A poet has transformed a piece of history into a luminous and epic piece of literature; it's as if John Irving and Djuna Barnes had collaborated, each bringing to the page the fiery best of their various gifts, the dark and lyrical and bizarre and sexual and comical and violent and mysterious and supremely heart-breaking spectacle of wide, wild lives rendered vividly before our eyes."
    Antonya Nelson
  • "Beautifully rendered, this story is as brave and unique and full of surprises as the madam portrayed within it."
    Elizabeth Strout, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
  • "Few writers of the twenty-first century can rival the verve, the energy and the sheer delight in language of Julianna Baggott. Profoundly different from anything she has done before, The Madam is an extraordinary novel which will open a whole new phase of what already looks like a brilliant career."
    Madison Smartt Bell
  • Praise for The Miss America Family
  • "Julianna Baggott enjoys living on the knife edge between hilarity and heartbreak and that makes her a writer after my own heart."
    Richard Russo, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
  • Praise for Girl Talk
  • "For Baggott, cosmic irony is always in the details, the absurd gap between self-knowledge and behavioral excess ... [Her] brand of witty psychological observation is dark and corrosive... [she] has the knack for finding the oxymoronic in any situation."
    New York Times Book Review

On Sale
Aug 18, 2015
Page Count
336 pages

Julianna Baggott

About the Author

Julianna Baggott is the author of numerous novels, including Pure, which was a New York Times Notable Book in 2012. Her poems have been reprinted in Best American Poetry, and her essays have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and on NPR’s All Things Considered. She teaches at the College of the Holy Cross and in Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts.

Learn more about this author