BLUE SUBURBIA: Almost a Memoir

Laurie Lico Albanese, Author . Perennial/HarperCollins $12.95 (205p) ISBN 978-0-06-056563-3

Albanese's moving if predictable hybrid volume tells the story of her life in verse. As she seems to recognize, this author's key experiences resemble those of many other women. Albanese survives a working-class Northeastern family with an abusive father and a clinically depressed mother, struggles through college into an unsatisfying job in publishing, then marries and moves to Chicago, where she becomes a troubled stay-at-home mom, raising a boy and a girl. Later, Albanese grieves at her mother's death, moves to New Jersey ("unhappy/ to be back in the suburbs"), enters therapy, and discovers self-confidence in part through writing this very book. Readers may cavil at Albanese's verse technique; here, for example, she views a Picasso: "nothing prepared me/ for the day I stood face-to-face with genius/ hearing the man's message/ screaming in my soul/ but afraid to say a word." Though Albanese's novel, Lynelle by the Sea , won praise for its fine descriptions, her memoir can seem unpolished and unexceptional compared to many recent prose competitors, from Beverly D'Onofrio to Lauren Slater (whom Albanese calls "a personal/ hero of mine"). Yet Albanese's experience, and the straightforward ways in which she describes it, may well resonate with many who have felt, in her words, afraid "of the very life/ being sucked/ out of me," trapped in endless familial obligations, and just "barely/ hanging/ on." (Mar.)

Forecast: HarperCollins apparently plans to promote the book as a memoir, with little mention of its status as verse; the strategy seems right for this extremely accessible work. Though the young adult verse novel (by writers with no other poetry cred) is now a well-recognized form, it's hard to think of comparable new work pitched at adults; if this volume succeeds, it will break some ground.

Reviewed on: 02/02/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
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