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The shadow of desire [a novel]
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From Publishers Weekly
Four years after her searing first novel, Not the End of the World, Stowe weighs in with a sharp and ultimately moving tale of a family and its buried psychological sins and unaddressed tragedies. Ginger Moore, a 38-year-old divorced academic, slogs her way out of New York City, where she's often the butt of her stand-up comedian lover's jokes ("I go to bed with my girlfriend... and wake up with Alistair Cooke"), and drives to Michigan for a family Christmas. Virginia, Ginger's mother, is a bitter alcoholic; Poppy, her dad, is pathologically withdrawn; Cease, her brother, is a whirlpool of rage; and Ginger, unhappy with her own life, habitually flees into the biographies she writes. This is a family whose Yuletide traditions include watching Pycho. Harrowing confessions, ballistic verbal abuse and acts of violence are the only remaining recourse with enough thermal power to blast these passive and benumbed souls out of their intricate depressions, torpors and frustrations. What made Virginia an alcoholic, Poppy oblivious, Cease so cruel and Ginger chronically unsatisfied with herself? Were it not for Stowe's evolved sense of irony, the process of finding out could have been overwhelmingly depressing. But Stowe uses comedy to control the otherwise relentless pathos. And Ginger-cursed with a chorus-like super-ego in her head that includes Jonathan Edwards, H.L. Mencken and her own mother-is a savvy guide, smart enough to know that her book-smarts won't save her.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In her second novel (following Not the End of the World, LJ 1/92) Stowe returns to upper Michigan, this time small-town North Bay. Her protagonist, Ginger Moore, a 38-year-old academic whose biographies resurrect lost female writers, is returning home to her dysfunctional family for the annual (un)festive Christmas gathering. In the course of her visit, several old secrets are revealed, and she is finally released from the grip of her mother, a depressed, whining alcoholic. But the whining doesn't stop with Mother; it permeates Ginger's own narrative, finally condemning the novel itself. Though Stowe is a fine writer, this lacks the edge that gained her first novel kudos.
Francine Fialkoff, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gail Caldwell, Boston Globe
Packing her slate-gray wit like a velvet-covered blackjack, Ginger Moore is the kind of frail-tough modern woman who haunts the streets of urbane America. . . . The Shadow of Desire has a focus of concentration that grants it both literary authority and passionate momentum.
From Kirkus Reviews
Stowe (Not the End of the World, 1992) again explores family dysfunction, but this smart, carefully written second novel is much more than its subject: It's brittle and sharp, poignant and tough- minded, a balancing act that takes a breathtaking aesthetic risk. Stowe's narrator, Ginger Moore, is also much more than her rsum: a middle-aged divorced New Yorker who writes biographies of obscure female figures in English literature whose talents went unnoticed or unfulfilled. For all of her relentless self-criticism, and her reflexive sarcasm, she's no whiner, partly because she's a duty-bound midwestern WASP. Her Christmas trip to Michigan--a pilgrimage that lends the book structure--also stirs up various revelations about family resentments and secrets. Her mother, Virginia, a former southern belle, now wallows in desperation and need, and an ``insatiable appetite for vodka'' that developed after the accidental death of her third child. Ginger's 41-year old brother, Cease (for Cecil), is bitter, sardonic, consumed by his hatred for his mother, secretly blaming himself for both his brother's death and his mother's retreat into booze. Meanwhile, Cecil Sr., a wealthy retired lawyer, enjoys his willed oblivion-- his gentle jokes and his everyday routines. Admittedly ``intense,'' Ginger approaches the holidays with customary dread--this is a family who watches Psycho on Christmas Eve, after all. What makes the novel so compelling are the voices distilled through Ginger's consciousness: her smart-mouthed boyfriend, a hot young Dennis Leary-like comic; her Panel of Judges, a superego drawn from literary history; and her own overwrought intelligence. She scrutinizes the world, and her family history, with Jamesian intensity only to discover its transparency, which also makes her suspicious of all the pop insights that might otherwise define (and neatly dismiss) this screwed-up brood. Further proof that art often emerges from the most ordinary materials, transformed by style, humor, and grace. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Midwest Book Review
Ginger Moore is 38, divorced, and an academic trudging through life in Manhattan with a sometime lover, a stern Panel of Judges in her head, and an obsession with brainy and talented women from the past who, for one reason or another, failed to fulfill their promise -- women who remind her of her mother and of herself. On her annual Christmas pilgrimage to her childhood home in suburban Michigan, Ginger, her parents, and her older brother reenact the Moore family's Passion Play. Only their Christmas traditions include choosing the scrawniest tree available and watching "Psycho" on Christmas Eve. It is during this holiday visit (complete with startling confession and sudden tragedy) that Ginger is finally able to penetrate the murkiness of her family's troubles and find surcease from the malaise that has plagued her adult years. The Shadow of Desire is Rebecca Stowe's first novel. She is a talent, and an author to be watched for!
Ginger Moore is our guide in this closely observed, wickedly funny novel. She is a thirty-eight-year-old academic and biographer of obscure women long since dead, who had talent but never lived up to their abilities and she has quietly made her name from these books. She is also involved with a comedian who uses her as a character in his act ("I go to bed with my girlfriend . . . and wake up with Alistair Cooke"). She is on her annual Christmas trip home to a family whose tradition is watching Psycho together. During this stay, she will finally understand the lives of her own family and the incident that led to their inward collapses.
Inside Flap Copy
The author of the highly acclaimed Not the End of the World, described by Joan Didion as "a perfectly controlled novel that explodes on impact into astonishing and quite lethal shards, " now offers the sharply observed, wickedly funny, quietly bizarre story of a sympathetic, perceptive woman plumbing the unspoken hostilities, emotional paralyses, and sublimated guilt undermining her uncanny family.
About the Author
Rebecca Stowe is the author of Not the End of the World, available in Norton Paperback Fiction, which Mona Simpson hailed in the New York Times Book Review as "original and emphatically contemporary." She lives in New York City.
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