I am sixteen when my mother steps out of her skin one frozen January afternoon—pure self, atoms twinkling like microscopic diamond chips around her perhaps the chiming of a clock, or a few bright flute notes in the distance—and disappears. No one sees her leave, but she is gone.
Laura Kasischke's first novel. Suspicious River. was hailed by the critics as "extremely powerful" (The Los Angeles Times), "amazing" (The Boston Globe), and "a novel of depth, beauty, and insight" (The Seattle Times). Now Kasischke follows up her auspicious debut with a spellbinding and erotic tale of marriage, secrets, and self-deception.
When Katrina Connors' mother walks out on her family one frigid January day, Kat is surprised but not shocked; the whole year she has been "becoming sixteen"—falling in love with the boy next door, shedding her baby fat, discovering sex—her mother has slowly been withdrawing. As Kat and her father pick up the pieces of their daily life, she finds herself curiously unaffected by her mother's absence. But in dreams that become too real to ignore, she's haunted by her mother's cries for help. . . .
Four crucial years in a troubled teenager's life are the focus of this eloquently written, suspenseful second novel by the author of the praised Suspicious River. Having grown up in an extraordinarily suffocating atmosphere, 16-year-old Kat Connors greets her mother's disappearance one winter day with stoic calm. Kat is overweight, lives in a cookie-cutter suburb, feels her heavy figure makes her a social outcast--and yet has a pivotal adolescent sexual experience. Readers who find similarities between Kat and Delores Price, the heroine of Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone, will also see eerie similarities in Kat's tense relationship with her mother (both mothers have birds as pets, in one case a parakeet, in the other a canary; the girls' fathers hate them; subsequently, both birds are found dead at the bottom of their cages). In both novels, mother and daughter end up sleeping with the same man without the daughter's knowledge. Like Delores, Kat sees a psychiatrist who becomes a father figure to her. Both heroines lose weight and triumph over their traumatic experiences, and each experiences the unexpected death of her mother. Despite these similarities, Kasischke's heroine is a fully rounded, distinctively portrayed character--a self-centered, typically hormone-crazed teenager who painstakingly develops into a self-aware young woman. Kasischke movingly charts her progress into a person, a young lady who learns to trust her instincts and her misgivings about the truth behind her mother's disappearance.
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Simply fantastic book