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Crazy Quilt: A Novel Paperback – October 15, 2005
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Crazy Quilt by Paula Paul is a remarkable novel of healing." (New Mexico Woman )
"Enthusiastically recommended reading. Crazy Quilt is a superbly crafted, fun and entertaining novel. --Midwest Book Review
From the Inside Flap
After cancer treatment, a woman encounters a crazy quilt of characters who help her on her road to healing.
Top customer reviews
"Crazy Quilt" by Paula Paul depicts the ambiguities of a recent cancer survivor. Flora Adams has recently undergone a mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy and she needs to get back to her Texas roots in order to attempt to bring sanity to her tenuous hold on life. Her husband of twenty years is distant and unwilling to help facilitate Flora's healing. Instead, she turns to an unlikely support group: an old man dying of cancer, a former boyfriend, a teenage girl who has issues of her own, and a host of former classmates who have a heap of understanding about what a women needs.
Those who have previously read Paul's work know that she is a master at character development. She mentally gives birth to totally human men and women subjects and then develops them carefully and skillfully to adulthood. In doing so, she understands their thinking, feelings, behaviors and the totality of their being. With this kind of skill, you cannot resist yielding to the humaneness of the novel and you will be captivated much like the moth to the flame. This is so much more than a novel about a cancer survivor. It is a story of coming of age as a human being and a story of beginning to know the intricacies of personal need and how to meet those needs. It is a tale of chances and a story about closing doors and opening others. Paul has produced a story that will linger with the reader even long after closing the book.
FLORA ADAMS has driven to her home town in Texas, ostensibly to visit her AUNT CORA, but really to take some time off from her marriage to JEFF and to figure out what to do next. She's just gone through a course of surgery and chemotherapy to stave off breast cancer and she isn't happy that Jeff is pressuring her to go back to work. He keeps reminding her how hard it is to live on one salary and he thinks she's being selfish when she can't articulate why she doesn't want to go back to work quite yet. So heading for Muleshoe, Texas is a little like running for her life.
This character-driven book is centered on Flora, but the ensemble supporting cast is full of rich, dimensional roles that are ready for an actor to inhabit and enhance. The characters are very rich, both internally and externally. When the author goes into Flora's head and we listen to her thoughts about everything from her marriage to the "human sacrifice" of bits of her body to propitiate the cancer gods, we realizes we know this woman intimately--blood and bone. She is particular, but she is also EVEVERYWOMAN, and we celebrate her search for something other than oblivion. (Flora is not immune to the thought that if she is going to die from the cancer that took her left breast and her hair that she should be dying someplace interesting, like the French Riviera.)
One of the standout characters is Mac, a cantankerous old man who could have been a cliché, but instead comes across as an individual who has his own reasons for doing things (damn it!) and will brook no interference. He's like a throwback to the old west and he fascinates Flora as much as he infuriates her. Their relationship is one of the real pleasures of the book.
The dialogue is very good. The writer (a former journalist) has an ear for phrases that flavor the language (the Texan version of "hey," which is "hidey") and she gives everyone here their own individual voice. Mac's voice gets a little "country" at times, but there's nothing about his lines that sound forced or contrived.
This is not a book that is plot-driven, although Flora definitely has an arc and a beginning and middle and end to her story. When Jeff shows up expecting her to take his apology and forget everything that's happened, he's genuinely baffled by her response. This ties the book to some feminist movies like ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANY MORE and AN UNMARRIED WOMAN and even BOYS ON THE SIDE. (It actually reminds us a lot of BOYS ON THE SIDE.)
Some of the plotting is actually a little on the contrived and coincidental. A lot of the plot is taken up with Flora's memories of living in the place. There are a lot of memories centered around her grandmother (MAMA) and simple things like the making of a Friendship Quilt. These moments connect her to the past and they connect US to her past. (She has always thought that dwelling on the past was not useful, but now she sees the past all around her.)
The actual style of the writing is very graceful. We simply glide into the story on the wings of Paul's prose and before long we're enmeshed in Flora's story and her problems and coming along for the ride. She does a fine job of getting into the head of a woman with cancer, and she is a shrewd observer of life in general. This is a place where everyone is connected and everyone is interested in everyone else. Paul hasn't sentimentalized her small town (it's very far from Mayberry) but she gives us a good look at what it's really like to life in a place so small it makes a place called Muleshoe look like a thriving metropolis.
This is a gentle story that sneaks under your skin when you're least expecting it. The central metaphor of the crazy quilt is more subtle than the same motif in HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT, but the message is just as clear. We all have our individual lives, but they're bound together, like pieces in a crazy quilt.
Most recent customer reviews
Flora Adams is a woman of forty plus years who is returning home to west Texas from Albuquerque to visit her Aunt Cora...Read more