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Letting the Body Lead Hardcover – May 27, 2002

3.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Crowell made a splash with her first novel, Necessary Madness, an international hit penned when she was 17. Her second effort examines the plight of a precociously gifted woman a condition into which she might be presumed to have some insight. Twenty-five-year-old Isobel Sivulka is a doctoral student in psychology at NYU, completing a study of at-risk Brooklyn girls and their undergraduate volunteer mentors. She's something of a mess, despite her academic success and stable boyfriend: overwhelmed by her responsibilities, she can't sleep, forgets to eat and has hallucinations of a young girl standing at the foot of her bed. Just as she's about to finish her dissertation defense, she puts everything on hold and flees to Iceland, following in the footsteps of a high school mentor who had gone there years ago and had a revelation about her own status as a woman. Isobel house-sits in Reykjavik, where Ragna, a friend of the owner of the flat, introduces her to a set of high-spirited Icelandic women. The "radiant, earthen moments" she spends among them contrast with her affair with seductive but dangerous Kjartan, who is 10 years her senior. An alcoholic with a failed marriage, Kjartan is good in bed but too much for the vulnerable Isobel to handle. Her amalgam of neediness and privilege can be off-putting, but as Crowell alternates between Isobel's experiences in New York and Reykjavik, what emerges is a subtle, moving portrait of a young woman struggling to live up to her own high expectations.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This novel at first seems overwritten, the adjectives inappropriate, and the sentences confusing (" `This idyll, Isobel thought, must be tinged with violence' "), but the author is often trying to render feelings for which there are no real words. Detailing a summer trip to Iceland by psychology graduate student Isobel, this second novel by the 22-year-old Crowell (after Necessary Madness) is about women growing up and the inappropriate men they desire. Crowell writes some remarkably explicit but tasteful sex scenes, deftly handling the dilemma of recognizing an abusive relationship when one is sensually very pleased. Her book is peopled with strong women: Isobel herself, her mother, an Icelandic single mother, a bohemian teenager trapped in a Midwestern school, a junior high guidance counselor, and Isobel's dissertation director. Suitable for all fiction collections. Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (May 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399148590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399148590
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,362,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Isobel Sivulka is driven to achieve. Working on a thesis for her post doctorate degree, she encounters one of those jags most all of us - if at all we are the types to grow and expand in our selves, in our personal journeys of enlightenment throughout our lives - sooner or later encounter. Now and then it simply becomes necessary to move a few steps off our usual beaten paths, strike out, and blaze a new trail. Isobel blazes hers to Iceland. She abandons the thesis, she breaks off a relationship with her lover, puts a few close friendships on the back burner for a while. Iceland is a foreign place for her, and it is this "foreignness" she seems to need and want most. Perhaps we all need to, on occasion, place our familiar selves against an unfamiliar background in order to regain a clearer focus on who we are - and who we wish to be.
All of this is accomplished in Jenn Crowell's second novel. She writes well and uses enjoyably fresh expression and crisp dialogue. If I felt I was missing anything, then it was that I would have enjoyed the "foreign background" of Iceland to be painted in richer color, brought more to vivid life, so that I could have had a deeper compassion for Isobel's inner foreign ground in contrast.
"The rest of that evening was a kaleidoscope of burnished colors and surging emotion," Crowell writes... yet I didn't quite follow the crest of that surge. Isobel's journey is perhaps a bit too muddled and unclear - did she find what she was looking for? Or did she merely get lost?
A well written book, fresh enough that I am now reading Crowell's first novel (written at the ripe old age of seventeen!), "Necessary Madness," but with potential for growth I look forward to the author's filling. I believe she will.
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Format: Hardcover
This book reminded me of The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, in that it seemed to WANT to be a story of a woman finding herself, but didnt quite make it. A young woman is finally burnt out after pushing herself too hard for too many years. She has always lived in her head and wants to learn to live in her body. But at the end of the story the issues dont seem resolved, and in fact, some of the conclusions seem erroneous. There is an undertone of misdirected feminism that just seems confused.

The supporting characters in this novel are delightful. The narrative is engaging. I just think the PLOT drags and falters. I would NOT recommend it to friends.
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By A Customer on August 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Letting the Body Lead" is the story of a young woman who learns that accomplishments and talents aren't all there is to life. She eventually learns to listen to her inner strenths and needs and to allow those to lead her. Its a coming of age story that is richly written and compelling to read. Crowell's writing, as she herself ages, will be even more delightful in the future.
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