Unravelling

Elizabeth Graver, Author
Elizabeth Graver, Author Hyperion Books $22.45 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6281-8
Reviewed on: 07/31/1997
Release date: 08/01/1997
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-15-600610-1
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The plainly eloquent voice of narrator Aimee Slater draws readers into this strong and affecting first novel. Smart, wounded but not defeated, 38-year-old Aimee raises rabbits and chickens in a tiny hunting shack on the edge of a bog in 19th-century New Hampshire. Her ailing mother lives just a few miles through the woods, but the distance, for Aimee, is nearly impassable--and her story tells us why. At 15, the defiant Aimee flees her family's New Hampshire farm to work in the mills of Lowell, Mass., where she proves adept with a loom but unwilling to resist the charms of the mill's mechanic. In her own eyes, Aimee strayed from the righteous path her mother laid down the day she touched her younger brother sexually in the hayloft. But her dalliance with feckless William Tanning--on a bolt of cloth on the mill's floor--leaves her pregnant. Amy can't forgive her mother for forcing her to give up the twins to whom she gives birth. Nor can she forgive her mother's shame. Emaciated and longing for death (one of very few slips into melodrama), Aimee moves to the hunting shack on the edge of her family's land, where she experiences a kind of love in the arms of another exile. At the threshold of middle age, with her mother nearing death, Aimee finds the courage to cross the woods and achieves a reconciliation of sorts. Graver (whose short-story collection, Have You Seen Me?, won the 1991 Drue Heinz Prize), conjures up the sensory environment of Aimee's world with great skill. Occasionally, the narrative strains too obviously for poignant moments, but its depiction of the dissonance between what Aimee's heart tells her and what her world expects of her is genuinely haunting. 25,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo; QPB selection; Bn Discover Great New Writers selection; author tour (Aug.)
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