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Haddam Neck’s Amanda Brainerd’s Debut Novel: Age of Consent

By Kathy Brown

Amanda Brainerd’s novel, Age of Consent, came out on July 14, 2020. When you read it, you may find it hard to believe that it is her debut novel. It reads like classic literature, honed to perfection.

She is a real estate broker by trade, though she started out as an architect, and writes when she can carve out the time. “I prefer mornings and afternoons to evenings or night when I am wiped out,” Amanda explained when interviewed. She switched careers after she had her second of three children because real estate was more flexible. “But real estate, although challenging and requiring multiple skills, is not very creative,” she said.

In 2008, Amanda was at a dinner party “with a writer I had grown up with. We were talking about how laissez-faire so many parents were in the 1970s and 1980s and how many of our friends (we were in our 40s) still suffered from it,” said Amanda. “All of a sudden, I realized, ‘I’m going to write that story.’ It took me years to write, years to edit, and years to get an agent. But here I am.”

Age of Consent follows teens who meet at a private school in Connecticut and their various experiences. “Many of the characters in the book are based on friends from my teenage years,” said Amanda, but clarified, “This is a work of fiction, which allowed me to, as you noticed, to not only compile many stories, but to weave together traits from several friends into each character.” The characters are complex and varied, and very authentic. “Almost all the things in the book really happened, but not necessarily in that order, to those people,” Amanda explained. “Even the most shocking ones really happened. That was why I wrote about it.” The character of Eve Straus most closely resembles Amanda’s experiences, though not everything that happened to Eve happened to Amanda, and vice versa.

One review on GoodReads by Susan Budd says, “Brainerd’s Age of Consent takes one back to the opulent and indulgent 1980s as seen through the eyes of adventurous teens attempting to swim in the deep end of adult life. This sassy coming of age story quickly ensnares you with complex characters struggling to define their identity.” 

Another GoodReads review, by Caroline Leavitt, said, “This is just a gorgeous debut about two people, Justine and Eve, both upper strata, blazing a path through the 80s’ alcohol and drug soaked era.”

I will not give away the ending, but let’s suffice it to say, that everything is not tied up neatly at the end. Amanda explains her decision this way, “The characters in the book are so young, that it didn’t seem right to sew it all up. Despite their journeys in the novel, they all have so much farther to go.”

Amanda Brainerd

Though Amanda lives in Manhattan, she and her husband have a farm in Haddam Neck, which has been in her husband, Charles’ family since the 1670s. He is a direct descendent of David Brainerd. “Our farm dates from the early part of the 1700s, and has remained in the family,” said Amanda. “There are several houses, a small early 1700s house, two main 18th century houses, and a late 19th century house we live in.”

Amanda found a literary agent after years of searching, Alice Whitwham, who sold it to Viking Press, which is part of Penguin Random House. “The hardest part of this process is finding an agent,” explained Amanda. And now that she’s written one book, will she write another? “Oh yes,” she replied. “At least one, if not many. The one I am working on now is set today and is about two women who look exactly alike.”

“I have learned a lot during this process, that so much of it depends, like most of life, in being in the right place at the right time,” said Amanda. “For aspiring writers out there, I would just say don’t give up. Keep writing, and stay on the path.”

Photo of Amanda by TheoJuliet.

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