A NOVEL CALLED HERITAGE by Margaret Mitchell Dukore

A NOVEL CALLED HERITAGE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Winner of the new Maxwell Perkins Prize, this gifted first novel derives considerable energy and interest from its quirky format and tone (cute cynicism knowingly played to the hilt); but it ultimately suffers--in terms of involvement and depth--from the insistent jazziness. The book consists of two alternating elements, both focused on 18-year-old Anne Sarah Foster of San Francisco. First, there are sections from Heritage, the debut novel that Annie is writing--and narrating--about her mother (a suicide) and her crazy father. And then, interleaved, there's Annie's correspondence with a New York editor--who has been sent Annie's manuscript (unsolicited) and who will eventually become Annie's first lover during a San Francisco business trip. These author/editor letters--about Annie's determination to be famous, about her knowingness and vulnerability, about the editor's shlemeil-y personality--are an almost constant delight. Meanwhile, too, the chapters from Annie's novel about her mad parents offer glimpses of an intriguing story: mother Kate, talented Yale-trained actress, gives up the Broadway boards to marry the love of her life--Matt, her college drama professor from back in Oregon; children follow (Annie and a younger sister); Kate grows bored with Oregon, with Matt, with her aborted career; this tableau of despair--Kate's histrionic gestures, wild language, weird parenting--leads up to her suicide at 36. And there's added appeal in how Annie narrates her sad story: having inherited all of mother Kate's most infectious traits (vivacity, foul-mouthedness, freedom), she tells the tale more with jokes than tears. Unfortunately, however, this novel-within-a-novel never becomes the central core needed for the book to work: the fragmentation is fatal. And the constant ping-ponging back and forth between novel and letters is compounded by the relentlessness of Dukore's poppity, side-of-the-mouth narration. Still, if the result here is a hyperactive fiction debut that never settles down long enough to be compelling, it's also a steadily interesting first novel: quick, electric, and enormously promising.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1982
Publisher: Scribners