A cleareyed and adeptly composed investigation of a marriage.

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ONE NIGHT WITH LILITH

A devastating fire causes a couple in crisis to look back over their long marriage in Golan’s (Where Things Are When You Lose Them, 2008, etc.) literary novel.

Rob and Amy Lerner are sitting in their favorite restaurant deciding to get divorced while, a few blocks away, their house burns to the ground. The fire destroys Amy’s painting studio and all of her art; Rob’s home office and all the material related to his import business; and every object, photograph, and heirloom that they owned. The couple is left staring at the rubble of their lives “like the body of a loved one under a sheet. The house was like that, a lost loved one.” The two met many years earlier in New York City, where Amy, then named Geller, was a promising—if unconfident—artist, and Rob worked as a Yeshiva teacher to avoid a military draft. At the time, Rob identified Amy with Lilith—the first wife of Adam who wouldn’t submit to his dominion, who’s sometimes interpreted as a demon and stealer of children: “To Rob Lerner [Lilith] was simply the woman you will never tire of, never look at without lust, who will never lose her mystery, the woman who will make you whole.” The couple’s relationship was always combustive, however, and even after they marry, find financial success, and raise a son, Marco, the couple is haunted by events from their pasts—Amy’s brother Mickey’s death and the traumas of Rob’s Holocaust-survivor father, Sol. The novel reviews their rocky relationship and asks where, exactly, it all went wrong. Also, how did the fire, which punctuated their dissolution, start? And what does Rob’s identification of Amy with Lilith—whom Sol claims to have seen in a Polish orchard during the war—say about the couple? Golan’s prose is exact and insightful and full of lines that encapsulate the particular deficiencies of the Lerners’ marriage: “They had grown over the years to dislike each other with a passion that would have been admirable, perhaps breathtakingly beautiful, had it been love.” He constructs the characters of Rob and Amy in a deliberate manner and with great attention to detail. With incredible specificity, the author manages to present an affecting and recognizable portrait of coupledom, and as the storylines grow, their thorny lives become more deeply intertwined. Amy, in particular, is a fully imagined being—knowable when the reader takes her side and completely mysterious when the reader aligns with Rob. The Judaica in the story’s background lends it a slightly mystical mood, and it infuses the proceedings with a grim sense of inevitability. The book does drag in some places, and the reader may be forgiven for wanting to get back to the present-day plotline before realizing that the past is the main story. That said, Golan’s skillful and compelling character work is enough to keep the readers wondering, as Rob and Amy do, about the impossibility of happiness and the meaning of love.

A cleareyed and adeptly composed investigation of a marriage.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-951214-49-4

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Adelaide Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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