PORTRAIT OF MY MOTHER WHO POSED NUDE IN WARTIME by Marjorie Sandor
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PORTRAIT OF MY MOTHER WHO POSED NUDE IN WARTIME

Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A powerful second collection (after A Night of Music, 1989) of ten connected stories about family and history in the tradition of Alice Munro’s The Beggar Maid.

Sandor’s distant first-person permits an examination of the repetition of history in a single family. “They named her Clara,” begins the first story, “Legend,” which follows Clara’s mother through the aftermath of giving birth and serves as launching pad for a wandering treatise on motherhood, the past, and “the future, that perverse and squirming bundle whose gaze tells you nothing you can count on, but watches your move with unblinking eyes.” “Capacity” catches up with Clara, now grown, on her first failed attempt to leave home for situations she isn’t prepared for; and “Gravity” follows a much older Clara, now married to Gabe, who, despite Clara’s vertigo, arranges for her to go up in an airplane to spread his ashes when he dies. The title piece switches to Gabe’s family for another daughter’s recollections of her mysterious mother. It coalesces around the time when her mother is pregnant with the narrator, but not so far along that she can’t commit the vague sin of posing for a painting that will never be seen. “It was a year of maiden-lady suicides,” begins “Elegy for Miss Beagle,” a piano teacher. Music is a theme throughout the Sandor’s writing. She is sentimental and nostalgic in the best of ways: you sense an unblinking affection for characters, a positive regard even in the face of error and sin. Their sadness is real, their regret tangible: “Closing my window, I wished myself in her place, going north on that bus, leaning my cheek against the cool window while other passengers, men and women with unknowable lives, slept or told each other stories, making them better or more horrible than real life . . . . ”

A step forward for a strong talent.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-889330-83-3
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Sarabande
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2003