THE NIGHT GARDENER by Marjorie Sandor


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There’s a distracted, plangent tone to Sandor’s (A Night of Music: Stories, 1989) memoir, which unspools in episodic glimpses of bruised sensibilities, indigo moods, and moments when she wakens to brief pleasures. From the start, Sandor finds her cards without merit: “I missed the truth and my family’s golden age all at once: a perception perhaps given divinely unto all last, late, and accidental children.” Her life proceeds as a series of half-steps and aches, of not quite measuring up to expectations (in particular, she, her mother, a piano, and Mozart dance awkwardly), and the saving grace comes in an unexpected package, her staid father’s friend and opposite, Uncle Maury, who lives and breathes literature and polishes delightful little windows through which she can peek at her family: “While my father slept, or pretended to, Maury went on. He called him a ‘musical peasant.” Did I know my father loved ‘schmaltz?” “ She marries and has a child and her husband takes up photography, “a brilliant tactic for sudden escape” that she emulates by going fishing. In some of her least self-consumed writing, Sandor relates her introduction into the Masonic art of fly-fishing, where she both gets played as a chump and discovers “a moment of unmarked, unannounced partnership with the wilderness . . . the hope that comes from standing at the gates of the kingdom we abandoned so long ago, and are always running from.” Then she falls in love with someone other than her husband (both men remain ciphers, unlike her father and Uncle Maury), and her separation from her daughter ushers Sandor back into a lost country of regret and remembrance, a landscape of guilt and grief that readers will have little mercy for having brought on her own head. Sandor might see her life as Mozart his music, a “passion for comedy in the midst of the sublimely sad,” but she brings ruefulness, not play, to the endeavor.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-55821-931-5
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Lyons Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1999