CHATTER by Perrin Ireland

CHATTER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Literary fiction picks apart politics and a marriage, often confusing the two.

Sarah is a nervous wreck. A homebound writer who is having trouble naming her novel-in-progress, she’s afraid of being alone, of terrorism and of her husband Michael leaving her, a legitimate possibility. The couple have each been previously married, and two years earlier Michael had “announced his intention to leave,” reconsidering only after looking around his “beloved backyard” and realizing “we’d lose EVERYTHING.” The realization that her marriage stands on such rocky, materialistic ground has prompted Sarah to censor her speech, if not her actions, and although she suspects Michael is having an affair, rather than confront him she invents excuses to follow him on a business trip. The truth she uncovers about Michael—that he has a grown daughter from an early liaison—turns out to be more troublesome than a simple affair. His daughter, the exotic, beautiful Camila, is oddly seductive and seems to harbor ill will toward Sarah; her absent mother, Magdalena, is another threat. Sarah’s one good friend, Rachel, is undergoing treatment for colon cancer, but while Sarah accompanies her to chemotherapy and doctor’s appointments, Rachel throws herself into the mystery of Michael’s earlier life, spurring Sarah on to research Michael’s time in the Peace Corps and the mysterious Magdalena’s subsequent, perhaps violent life. Ireland (Ana Imagined, 2000) makes connections between the personal and political, showing how Sarah externalizes her insecurities into a near-constant fear of terrorist attacks. But her protagonist is so fearful and rigid that her first-person narration is annoyingly choppy. Much of the dialogue comes in non sequiturs, and too many highbrow references stand in for characterization. Ultimately so narcissistic she believes she killed her first, Vietnam-era fiancé because she “hadn’t protested the war,” she never garners sympathy.

Self-conscious analysis of a cooling marriage fails to work as a metaphor for world affairs.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-56512-540-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2007