TILT

Elizabeth Burns, Author . Sourcebooks Landmark $22 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4022-0041-0

The things that happen to Bridget Fox in this debut novel could make Job weep, but Bridget is funny on every page, and equally poignant. The overwhelming fact of Bridget's life is that her five-year-old daughter, Maeve, is autistic. Bridget describes what it's like to love a child when "she can't let you know she loves you back." Maeve wears a weighted vest to calm her and alternately giggles and moans to herself. She throws herself against a window and cracks it. This child would be too much for anyone, but Bridget has also suffered grievous losses: she divorced her philandering first husband and weathered the death of her beloved cousin. She and her current husband, Pierce, recently left their longtime home in Manhattan for Minneapolis, where Pierce, an internationally known sculptor, has a teaching job. Bridget has virtually no support system. Her father dies of cancer, her mother is chilly (she tells the desperate Bridget that she needs to find a good rinse for her graying hair). Pierce is soon diagnosed as manic-depressive. It's no wonder that Bridget tilts toward mental breakdown, but it is a wonder that she can be so engaging while coming unhinged—and that Burns manages to stave off melodrama with her dry wit and down-to-earth narration. Burns is a poet whose prose is lyrical, energetic and original. "We have crossed over into some world that I used to imagine was inhabited only by saints and martyrs, by mothers who grow patience like lizards grow tails." This hip and witty novel doesn't mince words about sex, mental illness or the exhaustion of child-rearing. (Mar.)

Forecast:Burns's honest, peppery voice will appeal to fans of Allison Pearson's I Don't Know How She Does It.

Reviewed on: 02/03/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 978-1-57490-577-9
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-425-19592-5
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