GODMOTHER NIGHT by Rachel Pollack


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 While this begins as a depiction of modern lesbian life, it grows inexorably into a magical exploration of the deepest roots of life and death. Pollack (Temporary Agency, 1994, etc.) tells a story that shifts with remarkable ease between the world of mundanity and the world of fairy tale and folklore. Essentially, it falls into three, large movements (which do not quite match the novel's internal divisions). In the first, we meet Laurie and Jaqe, two college women who fall in love and (after Laurie drops out of graduate school) set up housekeeping. They have several disturbing encounters with a mysterious woman called Mother Night and her entourage of Motorcycle Girls. Jaqe eventually decides that she wants to become a mother; a friend finds an anonymous sperm donor, and in due course Jaqe gives birth to a daughter, Kate. Shortly thereafter, Jaqe dies--and we learn that Mother Night is Death incarnate. In the second section, we see Kate growing up (Laurie has adopted her), with Mother Night in the role of godmother. Kate is a bit of a misfit in school, but she moves easily in the ghostly world revealed to her by her godmother. Mother Night offers Kate, who is deeply affected by the suffering of others, a healing potion with which she can save some of those whom conventional medicine cannot help--but only those whom Mother Night tells her are not already doomed. In the third section, we see Kate grown up and working as a healer. When she begins to question Mother Night's decisions, she has to face a difficult choice--with the fate of her own lover in the balance. Throughout the narrative, Pollack finds graceful transitions between realistic portrayals of modern urban life and a fantastic landscape peopled with angry ghosts, lesbian biker Valkyries, and incarnations of supernatural powers. Tender and disturbing, down-to-earth and wildly inventive, this complex novel shows Pollack to be one of our best fantasists.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14606-X
Page count: 355pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1996


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