Customer Review

35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Home is where the Heart is, July 24, 2002
This review is from: Man Walks Into a Room (Hardcover)
Nicole Krauss' "Man Walks Into A Room" is a story of longing. Longing for our youth and for the time when our Mothers were very important to us...really the center of our world. It is also about memory and how our memories shape our lives and what happens when we are without a big chunk of them.
Samson Greene, a married college professor 36 years old and living in NYC, is found wandering in the desert outside of Las Vegas. He is disoriented, doesn't know who he is or from whence he came. In the hospital he is found to have a brain tumor, which, after removal, leaves him without 24 years of his memories. His wife Anna rushes to his side of course, but he does not recognize her: "He could not absorb everything she was trying to tell him. When she told him that his mother had died he felt it like the clean break of a bone and a sound came from him that he did not recognize. When he was too exhausted to weep any more he lay in silence, all his being drained to the flat line of the heart stilled."
Anna takes Samson home to New York and they try to reconvene their marriage but it is not easy: "You don't know. You don't know! She (Anna) shouted...I still love you. I've lost you and yet you're still here. To taunt me..."
Krauss or Samson really, refers back again and again throughout the novel to the loss of his mother: "It was as if he had been sleeping when she died, or worse laughing his head off at a party. It had always been the two of them; it was as if he had closed his eyes and then, when he opened them, he was old and she was gone." Samson later, towards the end of the novel, as a way of explaining his being found in the desert outside Las Vegas, feels that he was trying to find his way home from New York to California much like the Swallows find their way home to Capistrano every year...not just out of tradition and custom but because it was only at home and with his Mother that he really felt safe and secure.
Krauss' style is gorgeous, succinct and intelligent throughout but it is especially effective during Samson's reveries about his Mother, as in this quote about what she taught him about loss: "To touch and feel each thing in the world, to know it with your eyes closed so that when something is gone, it can be recognized by the shape of its absence. So that you can continue to possess the lost, because absence is the only constant thing. Because you can get free of everything except the space where things have been."
So much of contemporary fiction and film seems centered around the notion of recapturing a lost childhood or reconstructing an idealized family life that may or may not have existed; be it "The Road to Perdition" or Nicole Stansbury's "Places to look for a Mother." Add "Man Walks Into A Room" to that list.
Nicole Krauss has done an outstanding job of creating a world gone awry and inhabiting it with characters of substance and interest. I look forward to her second novel with anticipation.
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Location: Southern California United States