The Finite Woman by Mark Salamon
Kirkus Star

The Finite Woman

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A complex psychological tale examines grief and unlikely redemption.

In his debut novel, Salamon charts the slow and often torturous paths taken by his two main characters through the traumatic events of their lives as their arcs gradually converge. Margaret lives in a small town outside of Madison, Wisconsin, and we watch as her young life is marked by tragedies, including a hunting trip with her father that goes horribly wrong and the deftly orchestrated scene where she walks into her home seconds after her mother’s botched suicide attempt. Alternating with these episodes told from Margaret’s point of view are scenes from the perspective of Thomas Ackerman, a successful California doctor who finds his life derailed when his beloved wife is diagnosed with inoperable cancer and quickly dies. Margaret is seeking desperately to find a way out of the life she’s enduring. Thomas (the better-realized of the two characters throughout the book’s first half) simply checks out of his own life, becoming so paralyzed with grief that his son hires a preternaturally competent caretaker named Stephen (who “looked like an accountant with a killer weekend golf game”) to take care of the household. Shattered, sleep-deprived Thomas shambles through his days as a kind of emotional zombie, and although he reflects that “tragedy can pull a family together or push them apart,” his own family life seems every bit as poised on the edge of obliteration as Margaret’s, whose sense of isolation only deepens when she becomes a single mother. Salamon displays remarkably tight control over his complicated plot, often enlivening his strong narration with memorable descriptions (to dazed Thomas, a couple of nurses glimpsed at the hospital “seemed impossibly young, as if they were continuing a game of pretend they’d started at home”). The book’s parallel stories of wounded souls converge when Thomas’ son begins to fall in love with Margaret’s daughter, at which point the drama intriguingly multiplies. Fans of the sharp-edged, character-driven novels of Carol Cassella and Chris Bohjalian will find here a promising new author to follow.

An ambitious, insightful novel about two damaged people struggling to overcome their pasts.

Pub Date: April 25th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-5078-5819-6
Page count: 460pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2016


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