- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Riverhead Books (February 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594480672
- ISBN-13: 978-1594480676
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,443,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Symptomatic Paperback – February 1, 2005
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"A hypnotic psychological thriller." —Essence
"Read this novel." —Glamour
"Thoughtful and exciting. Highly recommended." —Library Journal
"Suspenseful, and the anguish her vividly relaized mixed-race characters feel when confronted with hostility from both ends of the racial spectrum is. sadly, all too authentic." —Booklist
About the Author
Danzy Senna's first novel, Caucasia, was the winner of the Book-of-the-Month Club's Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and an American Library Association Alex Award. It was a finalist for an International IMPAC Dublin Award, and was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. Her short fiction and essays have been widely anthologized. She is a recipient of the 2002 Whiting Writers' Award and currently holds the Jenks Chair of Contemporary American/Letters at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.
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-- Debra Hamel
The narrator is a recent college grad from Berkeley, California, her home town. She's moved to New York as the recipient of a prestigious journalism internship. When we first meet her (we never learn her name), she's living in an old women's boarding house but soon to move in with her boyfriend Andrew. One night at a party of Andrew's friends from Andover, our narrator is privy to the racist banter that can go on when people don't realize they're in mixed company. And she is mixed, racially mixed, that is, and light-skinned and straight-haired enough to pass for white. She sees a side of Andrew that she'd perhaps secretly feared was there, and when she does, she decides to leave him. Now all she has to do is find a place to live in Manhattan where she knows no one and has no connections. Enter Greta Hicks, a coworker, who knows of a sublet that's available.
We see a young woman who's bright enough to be a journalism fellowship winner but who's unsure of herself. It's this insecurity that allows Greta to get her hooks into the narrator. What begins as payment of gratitude evolves into an uneasy and somewhat forced friendship and spirals down from there.
Senna has a strong sense of the stark bleakness of New York in winter, the nothing sky and the bite of cold. I felt the storyteller's desperation when she says "what do you have to do to find a place to live in this town?"and I felt her despair when she finally finds a place to live (thanks to Greta) and how abysmal it turns out to be.
There are no ironic twists in this tale leading to great revelation or wisdom. No doubt, many readers will see what's coming. Symptomatic is a portrait of a modern woman gone insane, poisoned by her own bitterness and despair to the point of madness. If you've ever been stalked, if you're biracial, or if you have a nostalgic longing for New York in winter, you will be "all in" with Symptomatic. If you're not, it's no great loss. You can finish this book in a day. I give it a solid 3.5 stars.