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Moral Disorder: and Other Stories Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 19, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
An intriguing patchwork of poignant episodes, Atwood's latest set of stories (after The Tent) chronicles 60 years of a Canadian family, from postwar Toronto to a farm in the present. The opening piece of this novel-in-stories is set in the present and introduces Tig and Nell, married, elderly and facing an uncertain future in a world that has become foreign and hostile. From there, the book casts back to an 11-year-old Nell excitedly knitting garments for her as yet unborn sister, Lizzie, and continues to trace her adolescence and young adulthood; Nell rebels against the stern conventions of her mother's Toronto household, only to rush back home at 28 to help her family deal with Lizzie's schizophrenia. After carving out a "medium-sized niche" as a freelance book editor, Nell meets Oona, a writer, who is bored with her marriage to Tig. Oona has been searching for someone to fill "the position of second wife," and she introduces Nell to Tig. Later in life, Nell takes care of her once vital but now ravaged-by-age parents. Though the episodic approach has its disjointed moments, Atwood provides a memorable mosaic of domestic pain and the surface tension of a troubled family. (Sept. 19)
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Margaret Atwood has expressed her social vision, played with narrative form, and written about enigmatic women, sexism, and family in more than 40 books, including the acclaimed The Handmaid's Tale, Cat's Eye, and The Blind Assassin. Her newest collection contains the same dazzling intellect, writing, and suspense as her previous fiction, but critics call this semiautobiographical effort more compassionate, rich, and emotionally resonant. The stories embedded in this novel of sorts, far from being randomly ordered, speak to each other and Nell's personal growth as she becomes caretaker to her sister, husband, and parents. The only problem? "The stories are so compelling," admits the Rocky Mountain News, "that they leave us wishing for a fuller, more novelistic treatment."
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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Anyone who has read this book should also consider "Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature" and "Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth". Her essays are as sharp, insightful and objective as her fiction.
"Communication hasn't failed us, not yet. 'Not yet' is aspirated, like the 'h' in 'honour'. It's the silent 'not yet'. We don't say it out loud."
Right then I knew she had me; I was hooked. This morning I read a passage where a woman is describing how she feels intimidated by her lover's former marriage:
"It [the marriage] had a certain oversized and phosphorescent splendour about it, like a whale decaying on a beach."
This particular book is a collection of short stories from different periods of the life of a single character. I'm still savoring the book, and I am deeply thankful that Atwood is such a prolific writer. I don't know why she hasn't been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature-perhaps just "not yet"...
P.S. If you like the certain intense way she uses words in this book, you might also enjoy "The Tent". The stories are much shorter and thus less engaging in a sense, but like "Moral Disorder", "The Tent" is another example of literature at the limits of mastery.