CRACKPOTS

Sara Pritchard, Author
Sara Pritchard, Author . Mariner $12 (194p) ISBN 978-0-618-30245-1
Reviewed on: 07/14/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-1719-4
Open Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-547-34657-1
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Having published fiction under the pseudonym Delta B. Horne, Pritchard won the Breadloaf Writers' Conference's Bakeless Prize for fiction with this first novel. As prize judge Ursula Hegi (Stones from the River) notes in her foreword, the book's dramatic tension arises from its differing perspectives on protagonist Ruby Reese, 52 in 2002, and an episodic narrative that flashes backward and forward in time. Introduced in the womb, Ruby is the eccentric pigtailed movie extra who plays the trombone while her mother gives piano lessons; the fourth grader who burns the house down after her single prize poem "The Very Beautiful Sad Elegy for Bambi's Dead Mother" was criticized for misusing the word stag; and the youngest of a family that is termed "a buncha crackpots" by its Pennsylvania neighbors. Her brother, Mason, is a sometime degenerate who never lives up to his jazz potential, while her sister, Albertine, remains bookwormish and resolute despite her mother, a superstitious insomniac, and her father, a reticent survivor. Aging aunts and ill-named neighbors haunt Ruby's defining relationships—with her violent first husband, Boo; her second husband, a Swede nicknamed Oskar-the-Mumbler; and her third husband, Miles, a poetry professor she follows to Portland—relationships that ultimately (and gently) reflect her obsessions as a youngster. Individual vignettes are telling and vivid, and the more intimate moments are engrossing. Some readers may find Pritchard's moves between the first, second and third person affected, but the dialogue is tight and the observations lyrical, and they hold Ruby's world together beautifully. (Aug. 17)

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