cover image Now You See It

Now You See It

Cornelia Nixon. Little Brown and Company, $17.45 (186pp) ISBN 978-0-316-61170-1

This thoughtful and elegant group of interconnected stories depicts one family over two decades, as seen through the eyes of several of its members and one outsider. We first meet the Hoopers in 1949, on their way to Berkeley where Edward, fresh from Harvard and the war, has a position teaching philosophy. Next, Nixon displays them in their early California years when Ella, a no-nonsense and strong-willed native of Germany, tries to leave a distracted and sometimes cruel Edward by carting their three young sons across the Bay Bridge. Turbulent stages of domestic relationships are observed by Jane, the youngest sibling, her brother David, and Laura, one of Edward's students--and his lover. And finally, in the tumultuous Berkeley of the '60s, Jane--the only child left at home and the only Hooper to tell her own story--struggles to define her scattered family. With each sketch, more clues are revealed about the Hoopers, but what is most visibly and poignantly shown is how many differnet perspectives there are to the same experience: depending on whose point of view is presented, Edward is either a monster or a creative and warm parent, if lax in matters of discipline. With a spare and delicate touch, Nixon demonstrates how far apart families can be while they're trying to communicate, and how wonderful are the occasional moments of understanding. (Apr.)