Enchantment

Daphne Merkin, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $16.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-15-128791-8
This piercing evocation of family life chronicles a child's obsessive enchantment with her mothera ""hopelessly entangling skein of anger and need and pain.'' If this memory of self-described, anal-retentive Hannah Lehmann, who grows up in material wealth but emotional deprivation, incorporates too much therapy-talk (right down to accounts of steaming feces) as well as a self-absorbed whine, it is also gifted with rare insight and a deft and witty style. Merkin, an HBJ senior editor and literary critic, weaves fragments of Hannah's past and present from the protagonist's claustrophobic and relentless vantage, vividly rehashing every last familial grudge and longing as she masterfully unfolds the tragedy of Hannah's paralyzing inability to exorcise an oppressive parental omnipresence, which is mostly of her own making. Her mother wishes that she wouldn't make ``mountains out of molehills''; Hannah does so with such candor and lack of sentimentality that the reader is forced to bear witness with frustration to her self-pity; with fear to her capacity for self-destruction; with empathy to her painful transition from needy child to responsible adult. Elegant depictions of the ordinary, such as a favorite pair of washed-out cotton pajamas or the contents of an almost-bare refrigerator, and the accurate portrayal of Orthodox Jewish life are especially skillful. A portion of the novel was previously published in the New Yorker. (September 9)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1986
Release date: 01/01/1986
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