From Publishers Weekly
Joanna is a collage artist, an appropriate calling for the protagonist of one of the finest montages of language to head south from Canada since Margaret Atwood's Surfacing. In her first novel, Schoemperlen (author of The Man of My Dreams, 1990, and three other story collections) has taken 100 words from the 1910 Kent-Rosanoff Word Association Test and used each as a chapter title. The result is an elegant pastiche of forms that conveys-in non-chronological free-association-the story of Joanna's everywoman life. Unlike Joanna, who "begins to see her life in sections... so that [except for her parents] none of the characters from one stage leak forward into the next," the narrative bleeds across time: one chapter tells of all the houses Joanna has lived in or has wanted with the three loves of her life. These men are Henry, a guitar-playing truck driver; Lewis, her married lover, an artist who compartmentalized well enough to work on several paintings at once; and Gordon, the man she married. Most poignant, however, perhaps are the vignettes with Joanna's father and son. Widower Clarence seems to take his bitter wife's death as "the end of possibility"; Joanna's young son, Samuel, filters word and meaning with the same nimble clarity as his mother. With this novel, Schoemperlen triumphantly establishes her literary credentials. 25,000 first printing; $25,000 ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Using chapter titles like "River," "Wish," "Sleep," "Short," "Comfort," and 94 other stimulus words from a common word association as a springboard, Schoemperlen tells the story of Joanna, from her childhood as the daughter of a bitter, angry mother and a quiet resigned father to her love affairs, marriage, and motherhood. Joanna discovers that her early ideas of romance fade in the reality of a passionate relationship with a married man, the complicated feelings of guilt and sorrow as she watches her father age, and her intense love for her son. A marvelously evocative writing style that will resonate with most readers overcomes the novel's one real weakness-of all the characters only Joanna is truly three-dimensional; the others are seen in profile, as they relate to Joanna's life. Still, if we judge by this first novel, which was shortlisted for the 1994 Books in Canada/Smithbooks First Novel Award, Schoemperlen has the right stuff to join the list of other Canadian writers such as Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, and Carol Shields. Recommended for most public libraries.Nancy Pearl, Washington Center for the Book, Seattle
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.