Chiseling Memories, Chasing Sleep by Carol A. Elliott

Chiseling Memories, Chasing Sleep

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An invincible woman recalls outrageous misadventures of everyday life in this raucous debut comic novel.

Julie, the witty, loud, and lustful narrator of this domestic saga, isn’t about to let pratfalls, haters, and bad fortune get in the way of her bliss and self-expression. In the 1960s, she’s in love with Mexican-American medical student Diego, and she navigates her white parents’ bigotry and his parents’ snobbery on her way to the altar. She later weathers two difficult pregnancies with voluble ill grace, hormonal flare-ups, and, in quieter moments, anxieties about the health of her babies and the toll on her body, which Elliott renders with vivid insight and poignancy. Julie forgives Diego’s infidelities but also retaliates by gleefully divulging her own affairs. She details all manner of medical syndromes, from chronic sleeplessness to crushingly heavy periods (“too much information” is not a phrase in her lexicon), and carries on a guerilla war against rude, brusque, and stupid health care providers. Throughout, she copes with the psychological fallout from a spectacularly dysfunctional family that includes her loveless, narcissistic mother; her rage-filled father, whom she had to talk out of shooting himself; a brother who did shoot himself after murdering his girlfriend; a second brother who told lies about her; and a third brother who stole her furniture. Overall, there isn’t much narrative shape to this memoiristic story, which unfolds as a series of vignettes over a lifetime as Julie soldiers on through injuries and indignities. Some of the scenes are dark, but most are redeemable for a laugh, such as a high school make-out session in which Julie fainted in ecstasy and woke to an inquiring janitor; a time when she chased her dogs down the street, naked; and another incident in Vegas, where she and Diego cruised the streets dressed as the pope and a pregnant nun. Elliott holds everything together with Julie’s vigorous comic voice and sharp one-liners, which play like a beguiling mashup of Tina Fey and Hunter S. Thompson. While in a crowded delivery room, for example, Julie describes herself: “legs bent and the cloth opened to provide viewing for anyone interested, I felt like a drive-in movie.”

A bawdy, entertaining chronicle with a likably abrasive heroine.

Pub Date: March 31st, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-63413-391-3
Page count: 398pp
Publisher: Mill City Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2016


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