ORDINARY PARADISE by Laura Furman

ORDINARY PARADISE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A memoir detailing the loss of a mother from ovarian cancer in 1959, when the author was a young teenager, and the shadow the experience cast over her own life. Novelist Furman (Tuxedo Park, 1986, etc.) grew up in New York City, summering in the New Jersey countryside. Her grandmother too died of the disease. As the author says early on here of her adult self, “the medium through which I felt most intensely was still my mother’s death.” In recounting an ordinary enough past, paradise or not, Furman displays an unmemorable prose style, rendering the details of her rites of passage—for example, the beginning of menstruation. Yes, now she is able to connect the onset of her own menarche with the organ that “betrayed” her mother, but the point falls flat. With her father’s remarriage, Furman locates herself in the age-old tale of the unwanted stepchild. An unhappy, self-romanticizing young adult reading Fitzgerald and Chandler, she attempted halfheartedly to injure herself and was confined for a period to a psychiatric hospital. Images linger of the terminally ill mother moving her car from one side of the street to the other in accordance with local regulations, or ordering Chicken Kiev at the Russian Tea Room, but none of this detail seems to matter, to tell us any more about her; even the details of the wording commissioned for her mother’s headstone fail to stir. There are occasional surprising moments of illumination in Furman’s world-weariness. Of an aunt’s recollection of her quarrel with the author’s mother: “I listened to her hopeless recital of the quarrel and the cause, and I wished I never had to hear about it again.” Later, married, raising an adopted son, and living in Texas, Furman underwent the prophylactic removal of her own ovaries. May be of interest to others who’ve lost loved ones to this disease, but too prosaic in the telling to sustain most readers’ engagement. (b&w photos) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-9657468-4-4
Page count: 176pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1998




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