A “hauntingly original” psychological thriller about innocence, memory, and the effect of a moment of violence (O: The Oprah Magazine).
In the girls’ bathroom, Diana and her best friend, Maureen, are stealing a moment from the routine drudgery of high school when a classmate enters holding a gun. Suddenly, Diana sees her life—past, present, and acutely imagined future—dance before her eyes.
Through prose infused with the dramatically feminine sensuality of spring, readers will experience sixteen-year-old Diana’s uncertain steps into womanhood—her awkward, heated forays into sex; her fresh, fragile construction of an identity—and, in exhilarating detail, her life-not-lived as a doting mother and wife of forty. Together with the sights and sounds of renewal are the tasks of Diana’s adulthood: protecting her beloved daughter and holding on to her successful husband.
This “poetic” novel encompasses both the truth of a teenager’s world and the transformations of midlife (Vanity Fair). Resonant and deeply stirring, The Life Before Her Eyes finds piercing beauty in the midst of a nightmare that echoes like a dirge beneath each new spring, in a story that “takes on deep matters of life and death; conscience and consciousness; family, love and friendship” (Los Angeles Times).
“Evokes terror and redemption, shadows and light. Kasischke treads a delicate line with the precision and confidence of a tightrope walker. She reminds us to look hard at life, to notice its beauty and cruelty, even as it flashes before us and disappears.” —The New York Times
“Mesmerizing.” —Chicago Tribune
Acclaimed poet Kasischke applies her lyrical skills to fiction in this double portrait of Diana McPhee as 40-year-old wife and mother and 17-year-old girl. As in her earlier novels (White Bird in a Blizzard and Suspicious River), here Kasischke's precise imagery and the languid, dreamy pace capture the poignancy and sluggish awakening of late adolescence, though they are at odds with the harsh tale that unfolds. Blond Diana and dark Maureen, regarding their images in the high school bathroom mirror, jolt from their teenage dreams at the sound of gunfire. Their attacker is fellow student Michael Patrick, who laughs as he delivers a horrible ultimatum: one girl will live and one will die; each has a moment to choose. Maureen offers herself, and the sacrifice is accepted or so it seems. As the past begins to contaminate Diana's safe suburban life with her beautiful daughter and loving husband, it becomes clear that this future is the result of her imagination constructing a life she may never live in the moments before Patrick releases the safety on his gun. Kasischke is at her best writing about young women urgently sexual, childishly careless. This song of innocence and of experience reads like a fairy tale gone drastically wrong, the sensibility heightened by Kasischke's emphasis on language. Despite the poignancy of the central moral conflict (her or me?), its resolution is made secondary to the novel's stylistic imperatives and, as a result, the story loses much of its power. Still, it will please readers who were mesmerized by The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides and other tales of teenage reverie. 10-city author tour.
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The Life Before Her Eyes
Could barely complete this book and wish I'd stopped after a few pages. I have this thing, if I start a book I want to finish it. Always want to give the author the benefit of a doubt? This was a waste of my time? Too messed-up and confusing. Constant descriptions of the surroundings. Back and forth without much meaning. Just thought it was an awful book!