From Publishers Weekly
An independent young woman comes of age under the influence of Emily Dickinson in this posthumous debut novel. (MacMurray, a public school poetry teacher, died in 1997.) Miranda Chase's childhood is an isolated one: her mother dies when she is nine and her busy scholar father provides his bright, inquisitive only daughter with a private tutor. A year-long sojourn in Barbados sets the stage for their move to Amherst, Mass., where her father teaches at the college. Miranda's unusual upbringing brings the 13-year-old to the attention of Amherst's famous recluse. Despite their 15-year age difference, Miranda becomes one of Emily's few regular visitors—and while she values her time with Emily (depicted imaginatively but gratingly; Emily speaks in capitals when she wishes to MAKE HER POINT), the relationship becomes more complicated as Miranda grows older and love, deaths, heartbreak and the Civil War intercede. Miranda begins a career in education and breaks away from Emily; the two clash with dramatic results. MacMurray knows well her "belle of Amherst," and the poet's friendship with a younger kindred spirit—which initially sets off gimmicky warning bells—becomes charming. This is really Miranda's story, but through it the poet and her poetry—in all their inconsistent genius—are served well. (Apr.)
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Nineteenth-century American poet Emily Dickinson is remembered for both her vagaries and her verse. The author of sublime, pithy poems was reclusive, exclusive, and often emotionally overwrought. What prompted the once sociable New Englander (whose ancestors founded Amherst College) to spend the last 20 years of her life holed up in her father's house? Was she but another member of the eccentric Dickinson clan, which included a wraithlike mother and a sister who never recovered from a failed romance? Readers are invited to view Dickinson's world through the eyes of Miranda Chase, a clever young teenager who becomes the poet's confidante. Befriending Emily, who is nearly twice her age, proves both a blessing and a curse for Miranda. Many life lessons are learned as she navigates the moods of her mercurial, self-obsessed friend. Afternoons with Emily
is the only novel from MacMurray, a poet and teacher who died in 1997. Based on letters, poems, and research about Dickinson, this engaging historical tale will appeal to those with interests in nineteenth-century American history and literature. Allison BlockCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved