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Bailey's Beads Hardcover – August 9, 1996

13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After a car accident, Bryn Redding, a writer, lies comatose in a Los Angeles hospital as her mother, Vera, and her lover, Djuna, struggle to clarify their complex attachments to her. Interspersed with poems by Bryn and cleaved in the middle by Splinters, Bryn's novel-within-the-novel?about her childhood abuse at the hands of her stepfather and a lesbian relationship in contemporary L.A.?the narrative alternates between Vera's and Djuna's perspectives. What gradually emerges from these three points of view is a nuanced picture of each woman's conflicting emotions. Vera, an overprotective Midwestern housemom, had never acknowledged the abuse of her daughter or Bryn's alcoholism, suicide attempts or lifestyle choices. Djuna, a native Angeleno and photographer, had staked her future on her relationship with Bryn. As Vera and Djuna struggle over Bryn's care and their hostility toward one another, they seek to come to terms with Bryn's enigmatic persona and the prospect that she may never recover. Betraying a poet's proclivity for metaphor (Wolverton's collection, Black Slip, was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award), the prose in this first novel can be overblown (Djuna spills into her car "like honey swirled from a spoon"). But as Bryn shows signs of awakening, the narrative gathers momentum, building to a conclusion as oddly comforting as a good cry or a rainy day.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In her latest novel, Wolverton (Black Slip, Clothespin Fever, 1992) examines the ripples that an unexpected, traumatic event has on friends and family. Bryn Redding slips into a coma following a car crash, throwing together her lover, Djuna, and her mother, Vera. It's a most unharmonious relationship at the start, marked by skepticism and resentment and enough hissing and spitting to make two tomcats proud. But most of all it's marked by the aloneness of the two women who, sadly, can't occupy the same room at the same time for bedside vigils of Bryn. The format of this book upholds this separateness as private thoughts and anguish are recorded in chapters headed "Djuna" and "Vera." The book has some compelling elements in it, especially in the plot twists and in Wolverton's ability to pin down in print what loneliness feels like. Recommended for public libraries.?Lisa S. Nussbaum, Euclid Pub. Lib., Ohio
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 185 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; First Edition edition (August 9, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571198910
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571198917
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,588,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Terry Wolverton grew up in Detroit and was influenced by the tough spirit, working class consciousness and African-American culture of that city. In 1976, she moved to Los Angeles to be part of the feminist art movement and the Woman's Building. In addition to writing, she has created performance art and experimental theater and exhibited visual art. She teaches fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction at the Los Angeles writing center she founded, Writers At Work, has edited numerous literary anthologies and consults with nonprofit organizations. She has received Fellowships from the California Arts Council and the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. She is also a certified instructor of Kundalini Yoga.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "janevaningen" on February 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed the story of Djuna, Brynn and Vera, and I appreciated the fact that all three sides of the story were told. It's especially useful to present the poetry and novel of a character who can't speak for herself; this is very clever. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the novel-within-the-novel, which was called Splinters. The second half of the book is really where it all comes together, and it was only then that I really came to care about the characters. Wolverton is clearly a talented and gifted writer, but I couldn't fathom a whole lot of sympathy for Brynn, the woman in a coma whom everyone is rallying around.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Owen Keehnen on May 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Terry Wolverton's debut novel, BAILEY'S BEADS, is one of the most extraordinary and engrossing books I've read in some time. This moving, wise, and provocative novel is the story of Bryn Redding, a Los Angeles writer who lies comatose following an auto accident. At her bedside are Bryn's lover (Djuna) as well as Bryn's mother (Vera) and through their alternating points of view the reader soon comes to discover that Bryn is not quite the person either of the two grieving women thought she was. While drawing the reader into the compelling plot Wolverton simultaneously explores that common human tendency to feel we actually "know" another person when in fact we are often only familiar with a select part of the whole...or we are merely interpreting their behavior...or simply projecting our own experience onto them. This extremnely well written novel accomplishes this all in a quiet and subtle manner which haunted this reader long after finishing the book. It's a real gem not to be missed.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 10, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The best book I've ever read and believe me, I've read many. I can't help but am immensely impressed by the unusual writing style employed by the writer, Terry Wolverton. In fact, once you started reading the book, there's no turning back. The book is extremely well written with the emotions of each and every characters that follow after Bryn's (also known as Brenda) car accident, carefully and beautifully displayed. There are other characters like Bryn's mother, Vera, her lover, Djuna and her students and friends revolving around in the story. The most amazing thing about the story, which is not just like any of those involving a lover's and many loved ones' exaggerated display of emotional feelings and memories that always seem to follow after an accident and with a very predictable ending, is the way how the writer makes it a point to suck the readers' mind and soul into it. As you read page by page, you actually feel that at one moment, you're Bryn, and the next moment, you're either the hilarious but faithful friend, Emily or the distraught mother, and worst of all, the dishearten girlfriend, whom had been mercilessly 'erased' from Bryn's memory after she regained her consciousness... You feel the pain, the struggling of each characters' emotions of having been brought together once again because of the accident and makes you realised how in real life, we have missed so many chances of treasuring our loved ones until we start to lose them, or the chances of finally being able to realise how we have mistreated or have taken advantages of some people, how we can actually know a person more deeply if given the right chance to try...Read more ›
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 2, 1996
Format: Hardcover
This book is fascinating exercise for the mind, as Terry
Wolverton artfully explores the ways we build the stories of
our lives and of those we love. The author invites us to
construct our own view of her central character, Bryn, based
on the tales and memories of those who gather around her
in a crisis and, perhaps most remarkably, through Bryn's
own novel. Wolverton raises stimulating questions that will
stick with you after you finish reading, like the memory of
a particularly engaging and satisfying conversation. Fans of
Jeanette Winterson will likely be thrilled with Bailey's Beads!
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By julia on September 27, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Bailey's Beads" is a masterpiece. Authentic. Original. Brave. This outspoken novel takes you to places both inevitable and unexpected. Beautifully written. Searingly honest. It exposes and makes visible the urges and longings we may want to hide from others as well as from ourselves. The handful of poems, which grace this novel, are occasions of such depth as to be utterly breath-taking.

Having read "Bailey's Beads" -- I now feel more compassion for the characters it portrays, as well as for more myself as a result. There is something so recognizably human in this tale of (possible) loss, love, longing, lust and unrequited expectations. A humanizing read.
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By Heidi Duckler on September 2, 2014
Format: Paperback
Terry Wolverton is an exceptionally skilled, socially conscious, writer and poet. This novel is amongst my favorite of her oeuvre. The novel is beautifully constructed and written with an humanistic approach that gathers momentum throughout. I have loaned my copy to many friends over the years and its frayed pages are beloved.
-Heidi
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By Matthew White on August 24, 2014
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. The complex characters are beautifully drawn, and their relationships, no less complicated, tell a moving story of very different people rallying around a person they love. They do this in very human and even dysfunctional ways. Bailey's Beads is a story that is rich in detail and quietly powerful.
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