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THE MELTING SEASON by Jami Attenberg


by Jami Attenberg

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-59448-896-2
Publisher: Riverhead

Young Nebraska farm wife flees marital and family troubles for a Las Vegas adventure.

For Catherine Madison, stealing nearly $200,000 from her estranged husband Thomas was the easy part; it’s what to do with herself afterward that proves tricky. Hoping for a fresh start, or at least a chance to bide her time, she drives, trancelike, to Las Vegas and checks into a suite. At the hotel casino Catherine meets Valka, a cancer-survivor bombshell who takes pride in her reconstructed breasts and glamorous wigs. Valka takes the troubled younger woman under her wing and out on the town. They party with a troupe of celebrity impersonators, including a gender-bending Prince look-alike who takes a shine to naïve Catherine, who has never been with anyone except Thomas. Soaking up the Sin City debauchery while claiming to still be in love with her husband, Catherine, egged on by Valka, slowly reveals the complex issues (one of them a doozy) that drove her and Thomas apart. Needy, sexually-insecure Thomas does not come across well, but Catherine has plenty of her own baggage, including an abusive alcoholic mom, emotionally remote dad and promiscuous teenage sister. No wonder she clung to Thomas like a life-raft, making their separation especially traumatic. Ultimately, concern for her pregnant sister gives Catherine the courage to face her family and its painful secrets before they destroy the happiness of another generation. Talented Attenberg (The Kept Man, 2008, etc.) deftly keeps things from getting too maudlin, and damaged, quirky Catherine makes for an especially convincing heroine.

Intelligent, moving portrait of a journey to self-awareness, with meaty characters and a refreshing absence of psychobabble.