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Layover Paperback – Bargain Price, May 16, 2000
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The Amazon Book Review
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Writing about grief has been the death of many a novelist--artistically speaking, that is. Even the most earnest attempts to describe this taxing and tenacious emotion can dip into bathos and rhetorical wire-pulling. In Layover, however, Lisa Zeidner gives grief its due, and does so with such wit and high style that the reader's (occasional) tears are mixed with a kind of elation. Exactly what is Claire Newbold mourning? Mostly the death of her young son, which has taken place some time before the novel opens. In response, she's withdrawn from her husband (a no-less-shattered surgeon) and her job (a sales rep for a medical-supplies company), allowing herself just the faintest purchase on her old existence: "Right now, I realize, I was just floating. Trying to float. Skimming over my life, letting life tickle my feet. I had no plans to glide off entirely." Gliding off entirely, however, is exactly what she does after learning of a single infidelity on her husband's part. In the middle of a business trip she cuts off all contact with home and lurches into a sex-and-self-discovery spree.
Sneaking in and out of hotel rooms without registering--which, let's face it, is the final eradication of identity for any business traveler--Claire first seduces an 18-year-old, then manages to get in bed with the boy's father. Zeidner records these trysts with superb, hypersensitive relish, finding fresh ways to write about that topic, too. "Sex is a story you know the ending of," she notes. "More or less the same story with the same ending, every time. Yet we want to keep hearing it, the way a child listens to a fairy tale, vigilant for variation." Still, Layover is anything but a bedroom farce. As Claire bounces between erotic encounters, she is unraveling before our eyes, and Zeidner's real subject turns out to be not body but soul:
I'd discovered grief's trade secret: once you burrow that deep into yourself, you simply have a better nose for pain. Truth is, hardly anyone is happy. Not even the people with nothing wrong. They're all hunkered down in the bunker of self, in self's fragile failure.There is so much to praise in Layover that it's hard to know where to start, or to stop. It's diabolically funny, deeply intelligent, and surely the best work of hotel- or motel-room anthropology since Humbert Humbert did his cross-country trek. At one point, however, Claire ascribes a kind of clairvoyance to herself: she can see into people, she claims, while their souls "glow phosphorescent, as if X-rayed by the baggage-check machine." Zeidner has a similar, semi-radiant insight into human behavior--and hers, of course, is anything but a delusion. --James Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
How does a mother cope with the death of her only child? Angry and grieving, medical equipment saleswoman Claire Newbold sheds her identity and becomes homeless. She occupies other people's recently vacated luxury hotel rooms, where she sleeps for hours, blotting out memories of the tragedy. What Claire can't escape are the other components of her past. Cardiothoracic surgeon Ken Leithauser, her husband of 17 years, accuses her of "fuguing out," and begs her forgiveness for his brief affair with a colleague; her clients bemoan her truancy; and her persistent therapist frets about her survival. The thrill of evading hotel security soon fades, leaving Claire vulnerable to chance encounters with little boys who would be the age of her son, had he survived the accident that claimed his life three years earlier. She grows ever more reckless: while stealing a swim in a hotel pool, Claire meets a college freshman, Zachary Davidoff, in town with his recently divorced mother, and seduces him. Posing as a surgeon, Claire wangles dinner with mother and son and hatches a plan to bed the senior Davidoff as well. Ignoring her therapist's advice to return home, Claire cavorts with Zach's father, a sexy lawyer, realizing that robust sex is, for her, a panacea for grief, and staying in his plush bachelor digs while she awaits the results of the test for cancer. Now yearning to see Ken, she saves a youngster's life, and realizes she'll be able to face a future that will always include the pain of loss. In this spirited, original take on the subject of prolonged grief, Zeidner presents a moving portrait of a woman who reclaims her life through passion and humor. An accomplished prose stylist, novelist (Limited Partnerships) and poet (Pocket Sundial), Zeidner skillfully charts the map of Claire's vulnerable heart, eschewing the maudlin. Instead, she offers titillatingAand sometimes funnyAsex, and a wicked sendup of contemporary life, deconstructing the men whose professions give them a false sense of aggrandizement and the women who live with them.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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Surprise, surprise. Ms. Zeidner handles this first person narrative, told by Claire Newbold, sucessful travelling saleswoman of medical supplies, wife of Ken Newbold, cardiothoracic surgeon, former mother of Evan, now dead for three years, with extremely deft perception, humor, and compassion. Nobody who makes an appearance in the book is let off the hook, not Zach, Claire's young lover,she picks up while swimming laps in the pool at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia, not his mother...not his (oh no! oh YES! ) father, and especially not Claire... her pain and semi-breakdown/alienation remind me of another lost soul's: Holden Caulfield. Her intelligence and the extreme oddness of her behavior counterpoint each other until you are gathered so effortlessly into her psyche that her actions make sense, when they shouldn't--and even when SHE herself is pointing that out to you.
Very strikingly written book, charming at times, intense at times, sexy at times, sad at times (yes, and at the end, I cried--but not from sadness...), very different and worth your time.
Reading Layover, it comes as no surprise that the author is also an accomplished poet. Her tight prose carries the story beautifully. Where other authors might ruin the story by making it saccharine sweet, she is able to keep it going with powerful imagery and a great mastery of the language. As a reader, we cry for her character?s suffering, laugh at her barbed observations, and feel her sense of dread confusion.
A last personal note. As a reader, I found this novel so evocative that I often considered putting down. The ability to bring forth so many emotions marks this as a worthwhile novel. I highly recommend it.
In creating a protagonist who was just barely on the sane side of a total breakdown, the author made it possible to stay within her main character's point of view throughout the writing. I found that compelling.
The shift in tone from jaunty, sexy, and hilariously funny to the many lyrically beautiful passages (especially at the end, in the park) didn't bother me. Her flip, sassy, seemingly shallow responses wereclearly defensive. Her deep, gut-level, poignant grief was painful to share. Both felt exactly right.
This Zeidner lady can really write. I don't read poetry, but having finished Layover, I just might check out her poems, too.