An American Memory

Eric Larsen, Author Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill $12.95 (227p) ISBN 978-0-912697-68-0
This first novel about three generations of a Midwestern family is a powerful and quietly moving narrative revealed in exquisitely rendered fragments. Young Malcolm's childhood takes place on the Reiner family farm in Minnesota where his grandparents, descended from Norwegian pioneer stock, settled, and, like dust, are still settling as Malcolm sifts the evidence of his family's past. Central to this sensitive narrator's search is his father's implicit disapproval; Malcolm is awed by this restless and silently angry man who dominates a room even when asleep. Malcolm must find connections with his family by rummaging through a trunk of relics in the attic, and he comes to know its various members' life stories by observation and deduction, as one might study an overgrown landscape for clues of hidden rocks formations. The Reiner heritage is one of death, isolation, crippling loss. Old photographs that disclose hidden details and explain circumstances while raising new and unanswerable questions are layered with memories of shocking events snapshot-like in their clarity and vivid depiction of one moment frozen in time. Malcolm's sense of loss and separation is ultimately overwhelming, and his search for identity takes him into an emotional abyss from which he emerges whole, though fragile. Writing with a delicate grace and rhythm that invite comparison to Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, Larsen's debut reveals a rare and poetic gift. (April)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1988
Release date: 04/01/1988
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 227 pages - 978-0-385-26255-2
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