From Publishers Weekly
An unusual ménage poses moral questions in this fifth novel (after Disobedience
) from Hamilton, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for The Book of Ruth
. Aaron and Julia Maciver are living in a 1950s Chicago suburb with their two children—and with Aaron's first wife, Madeline. Aaron has insisted on caring for Madeline after she suffered a brain injury soon after their wedding, leaving her with the mental capacity of a seven-year-old. Refusing to consider this arrangement inconvenient, Julia treats the often-demanding Madeline like a beloved daughter, even letting her snuggle in bed with Aaron and herself when Madeline becomes distraught at night. Decades later, the Macivers' son, Mac, now a middle-aged family practitioner with a wife and teenage daughters, prepares to attend the funeral of his estranged cousin's son, killed in Iraq, and muses about the meaning, and the emotional costs, of the liberal values of his parents. Hamilton brings characteristic empathy to the complex issues at the core of this patiently built novel, but the narrative doesn't take any clear direction. Though Mac suggests there are "gothic possibilities" in his parents' story (partly inspired, Hamilton says, by Elizabeth Spencer's The Light in the Piazza
), the Macivers' passions remain tepid and unresolved, and Julia remains an enigma to her son. (Sept. 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
PEN/Hemingway award winner Jane Hamilton (for The Book of Ruth
) delivers further proof of her stunning talent in her latest novel. The book is a subtle, provocative exploration of atypical family dynamics set against the backdrop of the tumultuous second half of the 20th century. Though the central plot element (which is partially drawn from Elizabeth Spencer's novella, The Light in the Piazza
) is tragic, critics note that instead of becoming mired in grief, Hamilton is interested in the nature of sympathy and the powerful metaphor of a vibrant, happy life stopped in its tracks. It is another brave step in the upward trajectory of this talented writer's career.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.