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Love Invents Us Paperback – January 27, 1998

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Editorial Reviews Review

In this first novel, Amy Bloom spins the tale of one Elizabeth Taube, charting her progress from an unloved adolescent to (alas) an unloved, middle-aged mother. To be sure, Elizabeth has had no shortage of suitors. Yet, one by one, they desert her, leaving nothing but their imprints upon her personality--which, if we are to take the title literally, is almost all the personality we have. The author steers clear of sentimentalizing her heroine's plight. And Bloom's eerie ability to convey physical sensation--which also distinguished her story collection Come to Me--is on ample and impressive display. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The first two thirds of this first novel exhibit many of the excellent qualities seen in Bloom's highly praised short-story collection, Come to Me. Again, Bloom's prose combines lyrical imagery with a comfortable vernacular; her protagonist's vision of the world is distinctive, wry and intense. We meet Elizabeth Taube as a preteen in upper-middle class Great Neck, Long Island. Perceptive enough to know that she is unloved by her mother, a chilly interior decorator, and her father, a remote accountant, she is too innocent to understand the attentions of an elderly furrier, who teaches her about the power of the body to arouse passion. A short while later, she acquires the two lovers who will have the largest impact on her life. One of these, Max Stone, is her junior-high school English teacher and a clear father figure. Max tries and fails to repress the sexual aspect of his love for Elizabeth, and as a result ends up a broken man. While Max is almost entirely unsympathetic, Elizabeth's other lover, a black high school star athlete named Huddie Lester, is often too good to be true. The sure hand for characterization and plotting that Bloom showed in her stories is not always in evidence here; a blind black woman that Liz befriends is a fully realized and memorable character, yet her parents are especially unpleasant and underdeveloped. The book's pacing sometimes lags, and the last third of the novel, with Elizabeth a middle-aged mother, lacks credibility. Yet Bloom's beautifully inflected prose captivates a reader. Her keenly perceptive evocation of a young woman's burgeoning self-awareness and her sensuous descriptions of erotic passion are fashioned with undeniable intelligence and grace. 40,000 first printing; author tour. (Jan.) FYI: The first chapter of this novel is virtually identical to a story in Come to Me titled "Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines."
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Contemporaries edition (January 27, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375750223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375750229
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #976,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

AMY BLOOM is the author of two novels and two collections of short stories, one a nominee for the National Book Award and the other a National Book Critics Circle Award nominee. Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and numerous anthologies here and abroad. She has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, Slate, and Salon, among many other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award. Her first book of nonfiction, Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude, is an exploration of the varieties of gender. A practicing psychotherapist, she lives in Connecticut and teaches at Yale University. Multiple Audie®; Award winner Barbara Rosenblat has been named a "Voice of the Twentieth Century" by AudioFile magazine. The New York Times writes,"Watch Ms. Rosenblat work...and you get the sense that even an Oscar winner might not be able to pull this off." She created the role of "Mrs. Medlock" in the Tony®; Award-winning Broadway musical The Secret Garden.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Cathy A Belben on April 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
Amy Bloom's stunning writing made what might have been a depressing story a terrific read. I found her characters not only believable, but sympathetic and fraught with the complicated baggage that makes real people interesting--and at times intolerable, as these characters were.
Elizabeth Taube's quest for love begins with the strange fur salesman Mr. Klein and continues through a series of longer-lasting relationships, none of which completely satisfies her--although all of them do, as the title says, invent her. From Mrs. Hill, who teaches her how love through service, to Mr. Stone, her obsessed English teacher, to her parents' disconnected affection, Elizabeth learns about love in the complex forms in which it presents itself to us, and Amy Bloom shows us how Elizabeth learns in elegant prose.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By MICHAEL ACUNA on July 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
While reading "Love Invents Us" and about Elizabeth, I was reminded of several recent movie characters who find themselves in similar situations: Enid in "Ghost Story" and "J" in "My First Mister." Besides all three characters being about the same age, all three also have affairs of a sort with older men, all are rebels, all dress in a style best described as Goth and all three are devastatingly intelligent and colossally misunderstood ("My Mother usually acted as though I had been raised by a responsible, affectionate governess: guilt and love were as foreign to her as butter and sugar."). More importantly all have a deep capacity for love, untapped as it mostly is.
Elizabeth Taube, though she complains of not being, is well loved: by Max, a high school teacher who falls compulsively and helplessly for her: "So beautiful, Max thought. Am I supposed to be ashamed for being such a dirty old man, another Humbert, disgusting in my obsession?" By Mrs. Hill a nearly blind elderly woman whom she helps out several times a week and who "sees" Max's attraction to Elizabeth: "You put one hand on that child who thinks you love her fine mind...and I'll see you turning in Hell, listen to you pray for death." and by Huddie a young African American who once his father finds out about the affair, sends Huddie away: "(Huddie was)...a hundred times handsomer than the other handsome boys, kinder than the other sports stars. Even girls he slept with only once had nothing bad to say about him."
All of the characters in "Love Invents Us" have to deal with missed chances and miss-connections. Max's wife Greta says: "I did think it would be a happy life. That is what people think. That's why they marry and have children. In anticipation of further joy, of multiplying happiness.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bela on October 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a book that throughout the year I have found myself asking others to read. It stayed with me... and you would be doing yourself a favor if you read it.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Charismatic Creature on January 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
I have admired Amy Bloom's short stories, and her first full length novel, "Love Invents Us" is adapted from one called "Take My Hand", which was published in the New Yorker in '97. I still have my dog-earred copy -- I thought this was one of the finest modern short stories I ever read...brilliant characterization and dialogue. Basically, it's the section of the novel where the teenage Elizabeth cares for the elderly Mrs. Hill, at the same time beginning an inappropriate flirtation with her middle aged junior high teacher, Max Stone.

The story ends ambivalently, with Mr. Stone initially driven off by Mrs. Hill's common sense...but with Elizabeth (who was already digitally raped at the age of 10 by a family friend) continuing to pursue and egg the older man on.

I was expecting the novel to continue the story, in equally amazing and unpredictable ways. But Ms. Bloom is clearly more comfortable (as are many fine modern writers) with the short story format. An entire novel simply gets away from her. This is most obvious in the way she continually changes point-of-view -- from first person to second to third. It is confusing and very distracting, and does nothing to tell the story.

And what IS the story? The short story version ("Take My Hand") seems to be about a somewhat damaged girl (molested, cold parents, given to shoplifting) who is drawn to danger and inappropriate sexual partners. But in the novel, Elizabeth ends up living a cold and lonely existence, into middle age, after a teenage mixed-race romance ends badly. This doesn't seem convincing -- most of us have loads of "teen drama" and yet go on to lead normally fulfilling lives.

I am more troubled by the way the author brushes over the issue of sexual molestation of young girls.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 21, 1998
Format: Paperback
Ordinary people--the kind we meet in the deli and barely notice--are rendered extrardinary through Amy Bloom's knowing eyes. So many stark truths about life's realities are spoken so matter-of- factly that one could miss them if one were not paying attention. And in the lives of Elizabeth, Huddie and Max, so separate yet so closely interleaved--like contiguous layers of onionskin at opposing poles--we see patterns that repeat themselves in childhood, at puberty, in middle age--ways of being that took root before we knew what we were doing. "Elizabeth knew that the bad things that had happened to her were no worse than other people's bad things; they were pretty small potatoes, in fact, compared to terminal cancer, death by famine, incest, quadriplegic paralysis." p.132 Amy Bloom's lyrical writing is like a benediction on what, in less skillful hands, would be tawdry lives. Love not only invents Elizabeth Taube; it is the driving force of her existence and the exclusive theme of the novel. So here is a syllogism for you: If love invents us, we exist through love; if existence is good, then love is good. Ah, but is it? Here, surely, is love gone awry. Here is a young girl irretrievably damaged by the illicit desires of older men who should have known better. Old Mr. Klein's furs turn the lost child Elizabeth into a beautiful princess, but the damage is done, the acceptance of the unacceptable is learned before puberty. Ignored by her parents and deprived of wholesome love, Elizabeth inevitably takes love where it is offered. Who among us could not accept love that is freely given; nevermind, the consequences. The pattern is set and pursues Elizabeth as theme and variations through middle age.Read more ›
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