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A Body at Rest Paperback – January 25, 2009
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This light fantasy positions itself at the conceptual crossroads of two literary classic novels, an essay and a movie: Emma, Don Quixote, A Room of One's Own, and Field of Dreams. The twenty-seven year-old protagonist, Martha Andrevsky, agrees with Emma's skepticism about the institution of marriage. She's put off by the apparent ubiquity of infidelity and bothered by older couples who ignore each other. Martha has tired of her quasi-adolescent existence, but has no firm alternative in mind. She and roommate Nina Lozzaro, book-loving restaurant servers, are stagnating in Cleveland among low-tipping goosers, so they take a road trip to Iowa to wish for remarkable lives in "a very sincere cornfield." Performing the vaguest of enchantment rituals, they pull for "optimism and idealism to win out over logic and reason." After this incident an absurdist reality drives the story. Martha and Nina leave the nondescript sticks to search Davenport's mean streets (okay, the only mean street), for a tattoo parlor. Freshly inked with representations of their respective heroes, Emma Woodhouse and Don Quixote, the two gradually acquire distinctive speech patterns and mannerisms. Their conversations are quite consciously reference-laden like Dennis Miller chain riffs, as if such stylized communication could add retroactive value to their unutilized liberal arts skills--an admirable but impossible dream. The book's plotting and general execution isn't on par with the superior premise. -- manuscript review by Publishers Weekly, an independent organization
Top Customer Reviews
Author Susan Petrone weaves literary references through her story, kicking it up a notch from the usual road trip novel. The writing is crisp and funny, the characters believable. According to the synopsis the two young women are set to take on literary personas and ... well, we'll have to wait to find out since the excerpt ended way too soon!
I'm enjoying the literary scavenger hunt and the smart dialogue. We've got a lot of back-story on the characters and we know they are looking for something more meaningful in life. Now we're ready to roll and I'd like to see the plot get up to cruising speed.
Here's hoping that Petrone is able to keep the writing fresh and the references relevant, as she has done so far. It's not always easy to stay consistent in a first-person novel but Martha has a lot to say and a great smart-mouth way of saying it, so my money's on this one!
Linda Bulger, 2008
From the beginning, I love the style of the narrative: it has a sense of easy eloquence that is mixed with just a touch of something that may be slightly manic. This gives the piece the cadence that allows it to successfully take its initial exposition and transform it to a fun (if slightly twisted) take on the road-trip-as-self-realization.
The characters of Nina and Martha work quite well in the excerpt. They are neither exactly matched nor greatly mismatched, which should hopefully lead to more interesting (and less stereotypical) characterizations and interactions when given time to develop in the full work.
As an aside, I'd be interested to know exactly when the author first conceived this piece: some descriptions (places and atmospheres, particularly) feel like they closer to the Midwest of the mid-90's rather than present day. The variety of references in the excerpt (literary, television, pop culture) don't force its setting to any specific date as far as I can tell, and I'm sure this is something that is explored in the book. (Frankly, my 1990's estimate may be no more than reading the mention of Kurt Vonnegut in the narrative's present-progressive tense and fondly remembering when he was still spry in his brilliant anger.)
Overall, this is a promising excerpt that, if allowed fuller development, truly could result in a work that takes an ages-old theme and breathes fresh life into it. If the characters explore (and are themselves explored) while maintaining the wonderful pacing and tone of this excerpt, it truly has the potential to be something special.
When I first read the synopsis, I was a little worried about a "Thelma & Louise" knock off, but that wasn't even close to being the case. The story is an interesting look at two women who need to change their lives and their perspectives on life.
The writing is, for the most part, clear concise and well done. There were several run on sentences; one in particular grated on my nerves. Found on the first page: "For me, that moment came on a hot, humid Saturday night in mid-August, a time when the breeze off Lake Erie is just a damp mass that sticks to your clothes and your hair and your face and everyone in Cleveland who can't afford to take a vacation is cranky and you need something to happen to break the monotony and remind you that you're still alive."
Finding several mistakes in an excerpt is to be expected, and that does not detract from the wonderful story and the very capable writing. I expect to be seeing this in store shelves in the not to distant future!