49 pages 1 hour read

Zadie Smith


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2012

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Part 1, Pages 3-63

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “Visitation”

Part 1, Pages 3-22 Summary

NW begins at the home of 35-year-old Leah Hanwell, who is outside reading a magazine in her hammock. Thoughts of global warming, the heat, and the noise of her neighbors distract her. Her doorbell rings. Leah greets a frantic stranger, Shar, who asks for help for her mother, whom she says is in the hospital. Leah invites her in and then vaguely recognizes her as a classmate from long ago, when she attended the Brayton school.

They sit and drink tea as Shar tells a convoluted story. She says she has an abusive but absent husband and three kids, but she is unable to even remember the name of the hospital where she says her mother is. While Shar’s story doesn’t quite add up, Leah is nevertheless moved, intimately revealing that she found out that she is pregnant that morning. She tells Shar she does administrative work at an organization that distributes lottery money to charities and nonprofits. Leah goes to her bathroom to get money for Shar’s cab ride to the hospital, sits on the floor, and cries. The doorbell rings; there is a driver at the gate outside. Leah’s husband, Michel, a hairdresser, arrives.