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In her highly acclaimed debut novel, the bestselling author of Shelter introduces the Hampsons, an ordinary, small-town American family profoundly affected by the extraordinary events of history. Here is a stunning chronicle that begins with the Depression and ends with the Vietnam War, revealed in the thoughts, dreams, and memories of each family member. Mitch struggles to earn a living as Jean becomes the main breadwinner, working to complete college and raise the family. While the couple fight to keep their marriage intact, their daughter Danner and son Billy forge a sibling bond of uncommon strength. When Billy goes off to Vietnam, Danner becomes the sole bond linking her family, whose dissolution mirrors the fractured state of America in the 1960s. Deeply felt and vividly imagined, this lyrical novel is “among the wisest of a generation to grapple with a war that maimed us all” (The Village Voice), by a master of contemporary fiction.


“Machine Dreams, in its wisdom and its compassionate, utterly unsentimental rendering of the American condition, will rank as one of the great books of [the] decade. Jayne Anne Phillips is a blessing.”
-Robert Stone

“An intensely American, beautifully written first novel. . . . It carries the strength of myth, and yet is utterly of our times.”
-The Wall Street Journal

“A remarkable novelist debut and an enduring literary achievement. . . . Its subject is history and the passage of time—as mirrored in the fortunes of the Hampson family, whose own dissolution reflects the dislocations suffered by this country in the wake of the 1960s and Vietnam. . . . This astonishing book establishes Jayne Anne Phillips as a novelist of the first order.”
–Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Reaches one’s deepest emotions. No number of books read or films seen can deaden one to the intimate act of art by which this wonderful young writer has penetrated the definitive experience of her generation.”
–Nadine Gordimer

“A story of conflict and love, of dreams put on perpetual hold, of losing faith with America but not with Americans….a book so deeply felt, so vividly imagined, that its characters seem not created at all but people breathing….Machine Dreams shines with quiet eleoquence ….a rare and important work of fiction.”

That Machine Dreams would be among the year’s best-written novels was easy to predict; that it is among the wisest of a generation’s attempts to grapple with a war that maimed us all is a stunning surprise.”
The Village Voice Literary Supplement

“Astonishing and mysterious…The fascination is in the telling…Phillips expresses herself with clarity and grace: these lives matter..”

“Machine Dreams seems itself a thing in flight: gliding above the American landscape, illuminating a time and our own collective dream!”
San Francisco Chronicle

“A novel so brilliant it sticks in your head long after you have read it. . . . The compassion is so strong here that everyone is forgiven; Jayne Anne Phillips’ genius is to bring it home with such art and beauty and attention to detail that you can’t help but say ‘Wow! This is gorgeous!’”
Los Angeles Times

“Lyrical….Machine Dreams is a plain American beauty.”

“An intensely American, beauifully written first novel. Southern voices….so true, and their experiences so fundamental to the hurly-burly of family life, that this novel is one of the finest in contemporary fiction.”
British Edition
The Wall Street Journal

“One’s first reaction to this novel is the general pleasure that fine writing affords; then, gradually, a deepening perception of the ironies of existence, communicated through the experiences of ordinary people; and finally there comes a llump in the throat and an almost palpable ache in the heart, in recognition of the vision of life that Phillips, with a fierce gentleness, lays bare.”
Publishers Weekly