From Publishers Weekly
What does it mean to be terminally, madly in love with your family? Jemima Weiss, the narrator of this nervy, inspired debut novel, knows very well the perils of the condition. She has never quite recovered from an imperfect but dangerously idyllic childhood, and in her stream-of-consciousness tale she loses herself in the lush lexicography of family. She is the middle child of five, born in the early `60s to an irascible Jewish sportswriter father and a gorgeous, serene Protestant mother who relocate from England to Canada when Jem is 11. Transatlantic and sophisticated, but also nave and slightly wild, Jem and her siblings speak their own coded language, full of in-jokes and rambling free association (" `Agnus Dei,' says Ben. `Paschal lamb. Lamb to the slaughter.' `Mary had a little lamb!' I say"). Ben, the eldest, has what the family calls a gothic sensibility; Gus, the youngest, is a golden boy. Jem loves them both, but her deepest, most complicated feelings are reserved for scattered, ethereal Harriet, three years younger and her special charge, and silent, stalwart Jude, her beloved almost-twin. Vignettes strung together according to Jem's private logic allude to her education at different convent schools, the WWII games she plays with Jude, her fascination with St. Francis of Assisi (who "called everything Brother this and Sister that"). Throughout, hints dropped by an adult Jem reveal that "Sister Crazy" is not just a play name. As she grows up, Jem lapses into madness, tormented by the loss of the intimacies of childhood. Richler (daughter of the Canadian writer Mordecai Richler) perfectly channels Jem's wise-child voice. Though her narrative does not quite achieve the crystal clarity of Salinger's Glass family stories, she captures the allure and subtle perils of a similarly intense, hothouse upbringing.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
In these interconnected stories, which have the spiky specificity of memoir and the layered nuance of fiction, four charming siblings journey into adulthood while their middle sister is left behind—in a netherworld brightened by the lure of sharp objects and the glow of the filled wineglass. But, unlike most tales of family dysfunction, Richler's is a romance, a dense mythology of Westerns and Arthurian loyalties and perplexing Catholic rituals; adult life pales, almost fatally, in comparison. Comic, poignant, and terrifying, these unusual stories expose the dangers of loving one's loving family too much to break free of it.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
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