THE LION IN THE ROOM NEXT DOOR by Merilyn Simonds

THE LION IN THE ROOM NEXT DOOR

KIRKUS REVIEW

An episodic history of 40 years in an unnamed woman’s life, from childhood through early middle age, told in 11 subtly related stories: a debut collection by the Canadian author (new to American readers) of the highly praised recent nonfiction The Convict Lover. Simonds establishes her protagonist’s dreaminess in the first (title) story, which describes a seven-year-old girl’s explorations of the Brazilian hotel where her family lives while her father manages a nearby factory’specifically, her sighting of a neighboring guest who keeps a lion in his room and calmly walks the beast through the hallway. It’s a nifty image: both an expression of the child’s untrammeled imagination and a fantasy of protection and empowerment. The girl’s later experiences often take similarly visionary form: Instruction from a beloved teacher stimulates a meditation on the likely existence of angels; trips to Mexico and Hawaii summon up an understanding of the blessings and curses of continuity, conferred by viewing the ruins of an ancient Mayan city and seeing'in the specters of carnivorous tropical birds'disturbing corollaries to “the image that came to mind when I thought of myself: indistinct and flayed, nothing left but glistening bone and sinew.' These stories’ narrator is an incarnation of restlessness who phlegmatically distances herself from her family and home (in rural Ontario), sleepwalks through an itinerant marriage to a German sculptor, the father of her two sons, then separates from him and takes a lover while continuing to seek a “home” in the aforementioned and other foreign lands, eventually returning to Ontario, where Simonds concludes the book with a marvelous summary story, “The Day of the Dead.” This is a revelation of the woman’s encounters with death, climaxing with that of her mother and ending with a lyrical intimation of her own passing. Beautifully wrought, emotionally complex, satisfying fiction. Simonds may be the next Alice Munro.

Pub Date: Feb. 7th, 2000
ISBN: 0-399-14591-5
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2000




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