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Split Estate: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 5, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bacon's beautifully wrought, precisely observed and haunting latest follows a New York family struggling to survive a suicide. When Laura King jumps from the window of her Upper East Side Manhattan apartment, she leaves her husband, Arthur, and her teenage children, Cam and Celia, in emotional limbo. Seeking solace and a change of scene, Arthur takes the children cross-country to his mother, Lucy's, home in Callendar, Wyo. With pitch-perfect command of distinctive voices, Bacon (There Is Room for You; Last Geography) divides the narrative between Arthur, Celia and Cam, and Lucy King, all of whom feel guilt and anger about Laura's suicide. A major plot strand relates to the issue of mineral and drilling rights under the ranch land and gives the novel its title: each of the Kings strike out in self-destructive ways, related and unrelated to proposed methane wells, leading to a shocking denouement. Bacon captures the stark Wyoming landscape and Western ethos, and the power of buried secrets. She masterfully portrays complex family relationships in the wake of irrevocable damage. (Feb.)
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From The New Yorker

Laura King’s suicide—she jumps from a window—unmoors her family from their New York life. When a second mother of their acquaintance jumps, Arthur King hastily moves his adolescent children, Cam and Celia, back to the Wyoming ranch where he grew up; there, he thinks, it will be easier to keep them safe. His tough-minded mother, Lucy, a retired schoolteacher, sees more clearly that her shattered son has brought his damage with him. In the rural West, the costs of hanging on to what you have are also rising; Lucy is surrounded by ranchers who have sold off the mineral rights to the land their animals graze. Bacon’s examination of Laura’s legacy is densely particular and poetic—Cam is haunted by his mother’s bedroom window, that "tranquil rectangle of blameless air"; Celia registers a runaway horse as a "streak of need"—and yet we are never allowed to forget the harsh truths that drive her story forward: survival is never guaranteed, and fighting for it is optional.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374281831
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,051,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Allison M. Campbell on March 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
Split Estate is a quietly powerful novel that examines the grief of the King family some time after Laura King jumped from their tenth-story New York City apartment, leaving no explanation. Arthur and his two teenaged children, Cam and Celia, are individually and collectively damaged by the suicide, and in desperation, Arthur drags Cam and Celia to live temporarily with his mother, Lucy, in his hometown of Callendar, Wyoming. Laura's memory isn't banished by a mere change of scene, however, and as the Kings struggle to relate to each other and adjust to life in Wyoming, each has grief and anger to contend with. The novel's title refers to the mining in Wyoming; as the ranching way of life has become harder and harder to sustain, families have begun to sell off the rights to mine their land, resulting in a split estate. Likewise, Laura still possesses the underlying foundation of the King family, and the question is whether they can either reclaim what they've lost or move on to lives without it.

Bacon's spare, precise prose illuminated with poetic turns of phrase ably compares the brutal reality of Wyoming with that of grief. As the Kings settle into their lives, there is hope that the change of scene might save what is left of the family. Chapters alternate between Arthur, Celia, Lucy, and Cam, but because the grief is collective as well as individual, this doesn't result in a lack of continuity; rather, the story is more nuanced and developed for the varied points of view. Each person has his secrets that are slowly revealed to the reader, and the ending is both shocking and inevitable. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking novel of despair, family, and Western life.
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Format: Paperback
I read this after loving There is Room for You. In between the two I had read Annie Proulx's The Shipping News (which I also loved.) I guess if you don't mind really super depressing books with not very much redemption than you will enjoy this. Split Estate shares the excellent description of characters and scenes within a specific geography like The Shipping News, but lacks even a small amount of redemption I found in There is Room for You. I found myself skimming the last 60 pages just to get to the end.
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Format: Paperback
How can a family reconcile their studied indifference to a deeply disturbed woman who provides daily sustenance to their lives? How will a husband, a son, and a daughter recover from her final self-destructive action: his wife and their mother jumping out of a window in the New York City apartment where they shared the seasons of their lives?
Overwhelmed by his own loss, Arthur is ill fit to render care and compassion to his teenage children, bewildered and confused in their efforts to decipher why fate has inflicted such a tragedy upon them.
Unable to envision New York City as a suitable place for his family to heal, Arthur packs up his family and drives to the small town of Callendar, Wyoming, his mother's ranch, his beginnings.
There we meet the matriarch, Lucy King, who manages her dwindling ranch, and wonders whether this new arrangement with her son and her grandchildren will provide the solace, they sorely need. As ranching loses its luster, and neighbors sell mineral rights to their land, Lucy struggles with her own personal demons.
The personal resolution of each character's conflicts is a study in human nature and endurance at its best.
Charlotte Bacon persuasively captures each character's persona as they undertake essential daily struggles and in so doing, discover the inner strength vital to advance beyond grief, and move forward.
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Format: Hardcover
My Grandmother has often described a Wyoming to me that is paradoxically small in its vastness; a place of compact points of view floating in an endless sky. Charlotte Bacon has sculpted characters who flail against the implied fences of a small ranching community, one where incipient boredom and the rocky landscape openly brawl with modern developments in mining and commerce. The main players in the story have returned to live in Wyoming following painful and violent personal loss. A broad frontier gives physical heft to the void in their family, and allows each to roam and wander in states of profound grief.
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Format: Paperback
I'm in awe of Charlotte Bacon's talent; the beautiful way she uses words, the way she brings her characters to life. This is writing at it's best.
Split Estate is the story of a family in the aftermath of a suicide; how they deal with it (or don't), how they learn to live with it, the choices they make. There are four main characters, and I was engaged with, and rooting for, each of them. They're not perfect people, they're real and human.
I didn't want this book to end. I was as enthralled with Bacon's writing, her amazing turn of phrase, as I was with her story.
My only problem with this book was the ending. I'm not a happily-ever-after person, I don't need a book wrapped up in a tidy bow, but this feels unfinished. I wanted just a little bit more.
Still, that's not a deal-breaker, it's an amazingly beautiful book, but that's the only reason I didn't give it five stars.
I can't wait to read more of Charlotte Bacon's work.
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