In See Now Then, the brilliant and evocative new novel from Jamaica Kincaid—her first in ten years—a marriage is revealed in all its joys and agonies. This piercing examination of the manifold ways in which the passing of time operates on the human consciousness unfolds gracefully, and Kincaid inhabits each of her characters—a mother, a father, and their two children, living in a small village in New England—as they move, in their own minds, between the present, the past, and the future: for, as she writes, "the present will be now then and the past is now then and the future will be a now then." Her characters, constrained by the world, despair in their domestic situations. But their minds wander, trying to make linear sense of what is, in fact, nonlinear. See Now Then is Kincaid's attempt to make clear what is unclear, and to make unclear what we assumed was clear: that is, the beginning, the middle, and the end.
Since the publication of her first short-story collection, At the Bottom of the River, which was nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Kincaid has demonstrated a unique talent for seeing beyond and through the surface of things. In See Now Then, she envelops the reader in a world that is both familiar and startling—creating her most emotionally and thematically daring work yet.
In her first novel in a decade, Kincaid (Autobiography of My Mother) brings her singular lyricism and beautifully recursive tendencies to the inner life of Mrs. Sweet, who is facing the end of her marriage, and who, over the course of the book, considers the distinctions between her nows and her thens, particularly when recounting what was while the memories bleed with a pain that still is. Particularly touching is Kincaid s rendering of motherhood. The immediacy of Mrs. Sweet s small son s toys Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers creates a significant foil to the ethereal interior echoes. Such is the reality of parenting: what is imagined or remembered loses every battle against plastic warriors and the demands of children. What s startling is the presumably autobiographical nature of the plot. The family lives in Bennington, Vt., like Kincaid, and Mr. Sweet is a composer who leaves his wife for a younger musician, as was the case with Kincaid s former husband. While evidence of fictionalization is obvious (naming the children after Greek myths), the book feels precariously balanced between meticulous language and raw emotion. The distinction between life and art is not always clear, but only a writer as deft as Kincaid can blur the lines so elegantly.
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Now and Then
The online review of Kinkaid's new book is confusing. It is poorly written and would not attract a reader to spend their money to get a pig-in-the-poke from a popular novelist who has not published a new work for ten years.