Kirkus Reviews QR Code
WHERE SHE WENT by Kate Walbert



by Kate Walbert

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-889330-15-9
Publisher: Sarabande

. Walbert’s spare first fiction takes the shape of compellingly linked stories—the splintered mosaic of a mother and daughter. Each story, titled by city and date, traces the dual journeys of Marion Clark and her daughter Rebecca, two women possessed by restlessness and entrapped by an unspeakable ennui. Marion’s “life” begins in “Niagara Falls 1955,” opening appropriately on her honeymoon with the dashing Robert, corporate executive and the era’s answer to Mr. Right. Her previous life as a young typist in Manhattan evokes images of Holly Golightly and beatnik clubs in the Village—making Marion’s eventual years spent dutifully following Robert from city to city all the more poignant. Tokyo, Rochester, Norfolk, Baltimore—Marion all but withers on the vine as each new move further fragments her identity, until the birth and subsequent death of her second daughter finally ease her over the edge into a suicide attempt and to “A Place on a Lake 1966” to recover. Yet when she returns, she hasn—t really healed—instead, she’s picked up the skill of disappearing inside herself. The young Rebecca recognizes her as “an imposter . . . a Marion balloon.” The second half of the book concerns Rebecca’s adult years. Ironically encouraged by Marion to see the world (that is, live as the mother never could), Rebecca travels from spot to spot seeking some indefinable experience to bring form to her life. Spanning nearly two decades in Jamaica, Florence, New York, Istanbul, and Ithaca, Rebecca’s narratives, far less focused than Marion’s, mirror the daughter’s fluid existence, marked mostly by the men she encounters. Though stylistically lovely, the mirage-like tales from Rebecca’s life lack the vitality (as does Rebecca herself, compared with Marion) to sustain the connection between the two sections. Still, Walbert’s fluid, evocative language finally recovers a debut that occasionally falters in design.