THE BODY IS WATER by Julie Schumacher


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 First-novelist Schumacher conveys the pain of family life in wonderful, muted, edgy prose, but her story, shaped around a swelling pregnancy, feels hollow in the middle. Jane Haus, in her late 20s, unmarried, and pregnant, returns to live with her father in her childhood home on the New Jersey shore. The old seaside house is not replete with cozy memories: Jane has never felt close to her gruff, grudging father; her mother has been dead for several years and, long before she died, was ill, distant, and preoccupied. Still, this is home, the only one Jane has known, and she spends long, hot summer days obsessively pawing through boxes in the attic, looking for clues that will help make sense of her family. But when her older sister Bee inexplicably moves home too and attempts to take charge of things, it seems to pull the family even further apartuntil Jane's sense of dislocation almost overwhelms her. Schumacher knows just how to construct the secretive and stubborn facade of a family like thisin some ways, the problem is that she does the job too well. Jane, so adept at being guarded with her family, remains elusive, almost numbed, as a character. When pressed for information about her pregnancy, for instance, she's as coy with the reader as she is with her father, and it feels as if some promise has been brokenreaders always expect the inside scoop. It isn't until an extraordinary, cathartic, final scene that we have a real inkling of all that Jane (or Schumacher) has kept bottled up. Now it's going to come pouring out, but too late. The novel is over just as the reader gets her feet wet. An uneven--and, resultingly, thin--debut from a writer with talent.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1995
ISBN: 1-56947-042-1
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Soho
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1995


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