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Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking Paperback – June 24, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sweeney's debut novel centers around Miranda Donnal, who grows up on Maine's lonely Crab Island, where her father decides to hunker down and work on his translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Shortly after their arrival from New York, Miranda's mother dies in a boating mishap, leaving Miranda in the care of her withdrawn father, who is content to keep his nose in his books. A half-Indian local fisherman, Mr. Blackwell, becomes something of a father figure to Miranda, taking on an unusually devoted caretaker role—cooking for the Donnals, taking Miranda to school and serving as her confidante. Yet secrecy also shrouds Mr. Donnal and Mr. Blackwell's evolving relationship. When Miranda graduates from high school, her father dispatches her to New York City and a job at the classical studies institute he was molded by. There she begins to peel away myth after myth of the father she thought she knew as she falls in love and has her own revelations about intimacy and connections. Sweeney's prose effortlessly conveys her characters' isolation and evolution, and her portrayal of the aftermath of life's slights—big and small—make this coming-of-age better than most. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Miranda Donnal is an infant when her parents move from New York City to a remote island off the coast of Maine so her father can complete a translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses. When her mother takes a boat to town and never returns, Miranda is raised by her reclusive father. She grows up primarily in solitude, save for a friendship with Mr. Blackwell, a fisherman who often acts as Miranda's surrogate father. This endearing bond is complicated by the mysterious relationship between Mr. Blackwell and Miranda's father. After Miranda graduates from high school, her father arranges for her to return to New York to work in the classical-studies library that he helped establish years before her birth. It is here that Miranda begins unraveling the mysteries of her father's past, while pushing beyond the threshold of isolation to discover her own enthralling path in life and love. In Sweeney's debut novel, an accomplished coming-of-age tale, her subtle prose elevates the moments when Miranda shrugs off another layer of loneliness. Strauss, Leah --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143113410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143113416
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,491,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By lost in space on July 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Where has Aoibheann Sweeney been all these years? I loved this book. it's about Miranda, an odd girl who moves to new York from a small island in New England. Her father is a spaced out academic. He loves whiskey. He ignores his daughter. He never misplaces his pens. Her mother is dead. Poor Miranda is lost in New York, perpetually confused about who she is and where she's going. But everybody loves her nonetheless, and she gets plenty of action in NYC in no time.

Sweeney's writing is amazing. Spare and poetic, but not at all annoyingly so. I hope she gives us another novel soon.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By S. Marion on August 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book! I found it beautiful, gritty, magical, completely moving, and sometimes very funny. It is an unconventional coming-of-age story that is terse and tough-minded but unafraid of portraying raw emotion. It is also a story about art-making, art's entanglement with life, and the imagination's ability to feed, transform and give shape to experience. Finally, it is a terrific read--with all the suspense of a mystery (which it is also), the intrigue and humor of a social satire (which it is also), and the stark lyricism and metaphoric depth of a poem (of the plain-spoken, restrained variety). The characters drive the plot and are totally engaging and idiosyncratic, most especially Miranda, the protagonist. She is a stalwart, dreamy loner whose adventurous impulses seem driven by a desire to break out of her isolation. On route, there is disappointment but ultimately hope and complicated, dogged love--love between men and women, women and women, men and men, father and daughter. Love in Miranda's world is a force that clobbers or saves or sometimes both. Despite these sobering investigations, Sweeney maintains a light touch and a sense of exuberance. Did I mention that Among Other Things... is also a playful feminist revision of The Tempest? Do I need to give you any more reasons to read this book?
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on August 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It is not unusual for first novels to be of the "coming of age" variety. But seldom has anyone come of age the way that Miranda Donnal, the main character in Aoibheann Sweeney's first novel, manages to do it. Miranda, an only child, was taken to live on an isolated island about a mile off the coast of Maine when she was only two years old, and because her mother died not long after the family's arrival, she spent her formative years on the island with only her father and Mr. Blackwell, the family caretaker, as company.

Miranda's father isolated himself with his books and his lifetime project of producing a new translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses and was not much of a father to Miranda, preferring to leave her to her own devices as long as she was always home for dinner and available to type up his latest pages of translation. Luckily for Miranda, Mr. Blackwell did have some paternal instincts and he came to love the child in a protective way that her father could never equal. It was Mr. Blackwell who made sure that Miranda was enrolled in school and who was there to take her by boat to the mainland every morning until she was old enough to handle the trip alone. And it was Mr. Blackwell who educated Miranda in the ways of life on the island during all the years when her father seldom seemed to think about her.

Despite this unusual upbringing, Miranda felt protective of her father and seemed to understand why he was incapable of expressing or showing his love for her. So when he surprised her after her high school graduation by arranging a job for her in New York City with his friends at the cultural institute he helped to found there before leaving for his new life in Maine, she exchanged her tiny island for a much larger one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By tealjoye on January 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
I didn't really get to know any of the characters in this book, including the main character. She doesn't understand herself or anyone around her, and hers is the only voice, so the reader is left hanging. There is no action, only reaction. She spends the entire book wondering why her father doesn't love her, and then suddenly she decides that he does and the book ends abruptly.

On the plus side, the writing is pretty, so perhaps this author will mature into a good novelist.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Barton on December 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed reading this book because her descriptions are vivid, particualarly the view of NYC through a young innocent girl's eyes.. one who has been isolated on an island without any true knowledge of the "real world". However, her character development of this young girl, whose mother died when she was too young too remember and is clouded by mystery, is more outstanding. Her portrayal of Miranda, a lonely creature, is so powerful, you can't help but empathize with her longing for intimacy. Trapped on an island with her emotionally absent father, with her only friend a local fisherman, she descirbes her daydream of becoming a tree with such vividness, that you can visualize the transformation in your minds eye. Her scholarly literary referecnes, particuarly to Ovids Metamorphosis (what her father is translating as his work)is an added bonus. My only complaint is that she didn't seem to finish the book! When I got to the ending, I thought "did she run out of paper?" After such a craftfully mastered piece, her ending seemed rushed... not well-thought out... as if she had a deadline to meet. That is my only dissapointment. I hope she writes another book with Miranda as the main character so the loose ends in this book are tied up.
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