cover image STOP THAT GIRL


Elizabeth McKenzie, . . Random, $22.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-6224-9

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STOP THAT GIRL Elizabeth McKenzie . Random , $22.95 (208p) ISBN 1-4000-6224-1

Makeshift families, ill-advised relationships and a series of nonhomes shape McKenzie's wry, clever debut, a novel in nine stories. The tidy world of Ann Ransom, a precocious eight-year-old, is turned upside down when her mother, Helen, marries real estate broker Roy Weeks in the book's title story, and Ann is briskly shuttled off for a holiday in Europe with her eccentric, emotionally exhausting grandmother, Dr. Frost. Ann weathers the shift and learns to appreciate likable Roy, but must cope with her mother's increasing reclusiveness. Eight years later, in the perfectly pitched "We Know Where We Are but Not Why," her mother finally experiments with happiness—"I use self-discipline to pick you up from school on time.... Why shouldn't I make myself be happy?"—but the result is a disastrous summer vacation at the Grand Canyon. Ann gets the chance to escape her frustrating family in "Look Out, Kids," when the semi-apocryphal stories she tells a UC Santa Cruz financial aid officer convince him to give her a full scholarship. In the collection's gem, "S.O.S," Dr. Frost returns to haunt Ann in college, the visit coinciding with a campus appearance by Allen Ginsberg. Despite her desperate childhood desire for normalcy, as Ann grows up she finds herself leading an unconventional life that curiously mirrors her mother's. McKenzie's humor, Ann's touching bravado and the collection's subtle evocation of emotional undercurrents make this a poignant, incisive debut. Agent, Kimberly Witherspoon. (Feb. 15)