Jill Bialosky. Counterpoint, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-64009-024-8
Bialosky (The Prize) contests patriarchal notions about life, marriage, and art in her clever if uneven latest. An unnamed poet and teacher regularly visits the Metropolitan Museum of Art, her refuge and source of inspiration. Through the lens of Greek and Roman mythology, she traces the gradual unraveling of her marriage after her son leaves for college in Maine, as well as her complicated friendship with a man she calls the “Visiting Poet,” who arrives from Ohio for a yearlong fellowship at her school. The narrator draws parallels between her life and the tribulations of Heracles and Odysseus (“What labors must I endure for what I’ve done?” she asks herself, looking at a bust of Heracles), and the explosive third act considers the myth of Leda and the Swan, prompting deeper questions on the autonomy of female desire in the face of male dominance (“Who is the true abductor, the victim or the perpetrator?”). It also inspires her next book. Despite the shocking betrayal-fueled climax, Bialosky’s messages on feminism are a bit pat—as one character says, “we have not come further as a society” since Mary Wollstonecraft’s “intellectual equals” declaration of 1792. Still, Bialosky’s sensuous evocation of longing and regret will no doubt linger in readers’ minds. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency. (Sept.).
Reviewed on: 06/28/2022