2014 Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award — Winner
On April 7, 2005, an I.E.D. blast in Afghanistan alters the course of Jeremy Merkin’s life forever.
Still grieving the loss of his best friend, who was killed by the explosion, and nursing the physical and psychological wounds of the war, Jeremy returns home to find that nothing has changed, and yet everything is different.
Living in the basement of a house he shares with his grandparents, mother, and mentally-challenged cousin, Henry, Jeremy smokes marijuana to combat his constant pain. He begins a career as a high school teacher, but memories of the war, the physical limitations caused by his injuries and a criminal accusation threaten to end his teaching career before it’s even begun.
After Helen, the matriarch of the family, dies in her sleep, the already-dysfunctional Merkin clan comes unglued. Jeremy contacts his father, who lives in a local mental institution, to seek advice, only to discover that his grandfather has been hiding a dark secret from his family. His discovery of the secret alters the way he sees his family, and himself, forever.
Amidst all this chaos, his cousin runs away from home to find his mother in New York City. Knowing Henry can’t possibly survive the trip on his own, Jeremy races across the country to find him. While in New York, Jeremy’s world is altered yet again, as more family secrets are uncovered, this time with dreadful consequences.
The Hundred Hearts is a darkly funny story of the courage required to carry on after coming home, and the redemptive power of accepting and revealing our own secrets in order to move forward.