Books by Jesse Lee Kercheval

MY LIFE AS A SILENT MOVIE by Jesse Lee Kercheval
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 19, 2013

"Kercheval (Brazil, 2010, etc.) delves deeply into the rawest of emotions and the most wrenching of choices, richly detailing each twist and turn with grace."
In this sharply drawn chronicle of grief, a woman reassembles her identity through her father's art and her brother's tenuous offer of a new life. Read full book review >
SPACE by Jesse Lee Kercheval
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Jan. 1, 1998

A sweetly honest memoir of a girl growing up amid the glare of the rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Kercheval's father, a West Point graduate who left the army rather than serve in Vietnam, moved his family from Washington, D.C., to Cocoa, Fla., when the author was 10 years old. This was the setting of her adventurous mother's ultimate collapse from too much Valium and bourbon and of novelist Kercheval's (The Museum of Happiness, 1993) fascination with the nearby space center's early sorties to the moon. Her memories themselves were launched by a shoeboxful of family snapshots sent by her sister Carol, two years her senior and the one who, throughout their childhood, kept the sentimental flame of family burning. It's Carol who demands, typically, ``that we . . . put up a Christmas tree, [and] eat in the dining room at Thanksgiving,'' and who urgently reminds her sister on other occasions that ``we don't do things like that.'' ``Things like that'' range from not wearing shoes when they go out to play to drugs and alcohol (at 16). Jesse meanwhile falls out of a treehouse, has to do time in a body-brace and a wheelchair, and confronts racism and menstruation. Also on her agenda of challenges are sex, drugs, death, the meaning of life, and most of all, the race to the moon. Eventually, ``one by one,'' the whole family gets dispersed—Carol to teach, the flower-child author to wed, and her father to seek a divorce, leaving her drugged-out mother behind. Rising to the occasion, though, the mother drops her Valium and booze to remarry the author's father—just as Kercheval herself is getting a divorce and starting a new life. A familiar coming-of-age story, but punctuated by the romance and thunder of rockets entering space. (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1993

Love (with some help from magic and coincidence) conquers all for a rich young American widow and a stateless vagrant in Paris in 1929: a charming first novel—literary in style (portions first appeared in journals like Boulevard and Indiana Review) and feel- good in impact. Kercheval's story collection, The Dogeater (not reviewed), won the Associated Writing Programs Award in Short Fiction in 1987. ``Everyone has their own museum of happiness''—inside the head—``where no one can touch it.'' Or so Ginny Gillespie learns before the triumphant end of her adventures. Back home in Florida, Ginny was dying of pneumonia when her doctor married her in order to authorize treatment that her mother—a Jehovah's Witness- -refused. Soon after her recovery, he died, leaving Ginny enough money to flee to Paris. (Her only sane relative, confined to a mental hospital, warns her: ``When you get discouraged and you want to come home...don't.'') Meanwhile, Roland, born in the disputed territory of Alsace, inherited the webbed fingers and psychic abilities of his father's family; after WW I, his German mother tried to give him her nationality, but not her love. In Paris, Ginny and Roland promptly connect in a pairing so odd that it must be fate. Within days, he is deported to a German detention camp. Ginny—pregnant—desperately tries to find him, while Roland—by natural and/or supernatural means—will be by her side when their baby is born. More serious elements (war, death, irrational nationalism) hardly provide ballast for much whimsy and sweet uplift: a pleasure to read that falls short of lasting resonance. Read full book review >