UNKNOWN CALLER by Debra Spark

UNKNOWN CALLER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An emotional and surprising story of a fractured family.

This novel is a nonchronological tale of the interwoven lives of Liesel, who is vivacious yet irresponsible; Joel, her ex-husband, who is staunch yet critical; their daughter, Idzia, who is artistic yet wounded; and their many dear friends and romantic loves. Five years after she leaves Joel, Liesel begins semiregularly calling him in the middle of the night to request child support. He's willing to send money if he's allowed to be a part of Idzia’s life—a request to which Liesel cannot bear to agree. After many years of these nighttime disruptions and many attempts on Joel’s part for legal intervention, Liesel is spurred by her life-threatening illness to concede to a visit. But on the planned day, 17-year-old Idzia never arrives, and Joel is left waiting at the Boston airport. What follows is an exploration of why: what led to this moment and what came after. In vibrant prose, she describes Liesel's life before she met Joel, when she was an entirely different person but no less unsatisfied; Joel’s impatience, which compelled Liesel to have an affair, causing their marriage to fall apart; and the no-less-imperfect relationships that came after. The story’s structure, jumping back and forth in time and place, allows these authentic, flawed characters to be fully fleshed out. Spark (Pretty Girl, 2012, etc.) offers nuggets of poignant wisdom, such as when a dear family friend explains to Idzia, in the most intense hour of her life, “At the moment, your resources for dealing with pain are unequal to your pain. The challenge, for the rest of your life, will be to change that.” Spark’s principal accomplishment, though, is the care she takes to create multidimensional characters who behave in unexpected, truthful ways. Their fullness and intricacy gracefully illustrate how every story has many versions, every memory many interpretations.

A book of candor and complexity that captures human relations with heart-rending accuracy.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-8071-6469-3
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.
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