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The Truth About Celia Paperback – July 13, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his well-received story collection (Things That Fall from the Sky), Brockmeier was hailed as a writer of sinuous, startling prose. That skill is on full display again in this haunting, subdued debut novel, presented as if written by one Christopher Brooks, a science-fiction writer. In 1997, Christopher lives happily with his wife, Janet, and seven-year-old daughter, Celia, in a beautifully preserved 19th-century house in a peaceful small town. One morning, while Celia and her father are home alone, Celia vanishes from the backyard. There are no clues, no suspects. In successive stand-alone chapters, Brockmeier wanders ever further from a straight recounting of events. He describes the aftermath of Celia's disappearance from the perspective of the community at large, then turns Celia's story into a fantasy about an otherworldly green-skinned child, and finally imagines Celia in a new incarnation as a single mother called Stephanie. Christopher's and Janet's numbness-they show little rage, frustration or grief-is skillfully rendered, if sometimes oppressively subtle. Christopher lives in a hazy world of guilt, while Janet commits a few quiet acts of rebellion, disrupting the showing of a movie and finally drifting away from her husband. Brockmeier's prose is measured and lovely, and he sketches a number of eerie and compelling scenes, including those in which Christopher believes he receives telephone calls from the missing Celia on a toy phone that she treasured. The fragmented narration may deflect some readers, but others will cherish Brockmeier's seductive turns of phrase and sharp imagination.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The loss of a child is a shocking, life-altering event, especially when she disappears from beneath your very gaze. One moment seven-year-old Celia is balancing atop a stone wall--taking in the sunshine and breathing the fragrant air--and in the blink of an eye she has vanished from Christopher's sight. Christopher is in the midst of showing their historic home to some tourists while Janet is off at orchestra practice. He thinks Celia is probably playing somewhere in the yard as he passes the window facing the stone wall, and he continues to give the grand tour of the recent restorations to their vintage home. Close to a decade of searching does not return Celia, and Christopher and Janet are left with the fragments of a life they cannot piece together. Perhaps Celia is not dead and she resides in another dimension that defies time and spatial probability as we know it, or maybe Christopher is mad with inconsolable grief. This is a novel of devastation and whimsical possibility. Elsa Gaztambide
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (July 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375727701
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375727702
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,688,795 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
While reading Kevin Brockmeier's debut novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT CELIA, I was struck by this question: how can a book that is so deeply despairing and so heartrendingly devastating be such a joy to read? How can it be not just rewarding in its conclusion but enjoyable and exciting from its first sentence until its last?
On a cool day in March, seven-year-old Celia Brooks vanishes from her backyard, leaving no signs as to whether she ran away or was abducted. It's as if she simply ceased existing. The unexplained --- and apparently unexplainable --- nature of Celia's disappearance overwhelms her father and mother, Christopher and Janet, and begins to tear at their marriage as if, having been parents, they cannot return to being lovers or even friends.
Brockmeier implies that Celia's family will never know the truth about her and that they will be haunted for the rest of their lives. But he balances their consuming pain and confusion with a playful sense of wonder that underscores the novel's immense tragedy, making THE TRUTH ABOUT CELIA simultaneously wrenching and whimsical.
An Arkansas resident who has published a children's book called CITY OF NAMES and a short-story collection entitled THINGS THAT FALL FROM THE SKY, Brockmeier is a curious and questioning writer who seems to draw from many disparate influences. Comprised of agile, eloquent sentences speckled with clear, evocative imagery, his writing combines Nicholson Baker's miniaturist eye for daily routines and household rituals, Italo Calvino's ability to mirror reality through fairy tales, and Vladimir Nabokov's restless structural innovation.
It's this last one that will likely strike readers immediately in THE TRUTH ABOUT CELIA. Like Nabokov's PALE FIRE, it is a book within a book.
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Format: Hardcover
The Truth About Celia is a book within the book: in addition to being a real work of fiction, it is also a fictional book by the story's main character, author Christopher Brooks, and it comes complete with its own dedication, table of contents, and notes about the author (the fictional one, that is). If that doesn't make sense, it at least gives you a flavor for what the book is like, as it frequently verges into surreal territory. Christopher is a father whose 7-year old daughter, Celia, disappears one day while playing in the backyard. Unable to start a new novel as he had planned, Christopher instead writes about Celia--not only from his own perspective, but also from his wife's, from the people of the town, and even from Celia herself (this section is reminiscent of The Lovely Bones). The story shifts both in time--from immediately after Celia's disappearance to 7 and 14 years beyond--and in content--a short story about "The Green Children" is woven into the plot. The effect of this is interesting but disorienting, leaving the reader never being quite sure of exactly when or where they are. The tendency of the author (the real one) to use long, rambling paragraphs that go on for pages only adds to the sense of confusion. However, this short novel is certainly a worthwhile read, both for its uniqueness and its raw emotional honesty.
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By A Customer on November 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I cannot say that I know what it is like to lose a child, however, Kevin Brockmeier's novel engulfs the pain and heartache of a father who has lost his daughter. Brockmeier's delicate and beautifully written sentences led me to cry and laugh...and not stop reading until I finished. Wonderful book.
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Format: Paperback
This novel is difficult to describe, it's almost a set of inter-related short stories. And yet, each unique chapter informs the others in such away that the whole is profoundly moving. This is one of those rare books that should be read in a short period of time if possible, because the details you retain, the connections you make, are simply amazing. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it, it's that rich. On top of that, it's just achingly beautifully written. One of the best books I read last year, I can't recommend it enough.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In the end, the book is not really about Celia, nor about the truth of her situation. The book is about the father, and the truth of his personal identity, which he only discovers in the last paragraph or so. Good psychological portrayal, but the plot and story line seem weak.
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Format: Hardcover
Whenever someone dies or disappears in some way from our lives we human beings have a need to make sense of what has happened. We don't like unanswered questions so we tend to guess at any gaps we have in our knowledge and in that manner arrive at "the truth". But, when we can't be satisfied that we are right, we keep constructing new truths.

This is the task of the narrator, Christopher, in Kevin Brockmeier's novel. The novel takes place during a seven year period at the beginning of which Christopher's seven year old daughter, Celia, disappears while playing in her own yard.

Christopher's attempts to explain this incomprehensible loss bear resemblance to the science fiction and horror books that he has authored. We experience Celia in a number of ways beyond the seven year old in an American small town setting. We meet her as the heroine of a fairy tale and as a victim who is trapped with earlier friends in a world that is separate from but privy to the one her parents occupy. We witness her as an adult in a world whose passage of time is not synchronized with our own.

This is not an easy book. It requires the reader to travel with Christopher as he explores the several routes his child might have taken. And like the narrator, we're in the dark,always wondering if we will learn enough to finish the puzzle of Celia's life.

Beyond the brief descriptions of Christopher and his wife's deteriorating [sexual] relationship, this is a very sensual book. The narrator[s] have a heightened awareness of their milieus' sounds, sights, smells and tactile events as they attempt to break through "the tissue" that separates one reality from the next.

Certainly not a fun or easy read, this is a book that requires heavy reader participation. It's worth it.
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