From Publishers Weekly
An intriguing patchwork of poignant episodes, Atwood's latest set of stories (after The Tent
) chronicles 60 years of a Canadian family, from postwar Toronto to a farm in the present. The opening piece of this novel-in-stories is set in the present and introduces Tig and Nell, married, elderly and facing an uncertain future in a world that has become foreign and hostile. From there, the book casts back to an 11-year-old Nell excitedly knitting garments for her as yet unborn sister, Lizzie, and continues to trace her adolescence and young adulthood; Nell rebels against the stern conventions of her mother's Toronto household, only to rush back home at 28 to help her family deal with Lizzie's schizophrenia. After carving out a "medium-sized niche" as a freelance book editor, Nell meets Oona, a writer, who is bored with her marriage to Tig. Oona has been searching for someone to fill "the position of second wife," and she introduces Nell to Tig. Later in life, Nell takes care of her once vital but now ravaged-by-age parents. Though the episodic approach has its disjointed moments, Atwood provides a memorable mosaic of domestic pain and the surface tension of a troubled family. (Sept. 19)
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Margaret Atwood has expressed her social vision, played with narrative form, and written about enigmatic women, sexism, and family in more than 40 books, including the acclaimed The Handmaid's Tale
, Cat's Eye
, and The Blind Assassin
. Her newest collection contains the same dazzling intellect, writing, and suspense as her previous fiction, but critics call this semiautobiographical effort more compassionate, rich, and emotionally resonant. The stories embedded in this novel of sorts, far from being randomly ordered, speak to each other and Nell's personal growth as she becomes caretaker to her sister, husband, and parents. The only problem? "The stories are so compelling," admits the Rocky Mountain News
, "that they leave us wishing for a fuller, more novelistic treatment."
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