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In Case We're Separated Signed 1st Editionby Alice Mattison
Synopses & Reviews
A broken kitchen appliance leads Bobbie Kaplowitz — a single mother of a six-year-old son — to a new understanding of love and life in the title story of In Case We're Separated, Alice Mattison's family chronicle of interrelated stories.
Spanning the twentieth century, In Case We're Separated looks at a family of Jewish immigrants in the 1920s and 1930s, and follows their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren as they all lead urban, emotionally turbulent lives against the backdrop of political assassinations, the Vietnam War, and the AIDS epidemic.
The title story, which appeared in Best American Short Stories 2002, begins with Bobbie in 1954 Brooklyn. Subsequent stories deal with Bobbie's son, Bradley, a gay man living outside Boston with his partner and playing detective after a cousin's girlfriend is assaulted at knifepoint.
Other stories concern two sisters: one is an editor, always trying to figure out just how Jewish she is, always trying to get through to her troubled sister. The sister, a would-be suicide during the 1960s and 1970s, reappears as a shaky Prozac miracle, helping others and scrambling to hold on to happiness in her middle-aged life. The sisters keep looking for the right man, and the next-to-the-last story includes a midlife wedding and the gathering of what remains of this varied clan.
The sisters' aunt Sylvia appears and reappears throughout the book. She's a schoolteacher who always knows what's best for everyone; later, she's a middle-aged woman still trying to hold on to hope — and looking for her "next affair" — despite an aging mother, an unhappy son, and the election of Ronald Reagan. Later still, with failing eyesight, she hangs on to dignity in her own old age, not wanting to ask her busy, professional daughter whether her shoes match.
Alice Mattison's recent novel The Wedding of the Two-Headed Woman was called "quietly splendid" by the New York Times. The Los Angeles Times has called her "a writer's writer." In In Case We're Separated, Mattison's gift for storytelling and ability to create rich, multidimentional characters prove, once again, that she is a master of her craft.
"A double sestina consists of 12 six-line stanzas, with each line repeating one of six (usually unrelated) words, and the poem ends in a three-line envoi. Mattison's (Men Giving Money, Women Yelling) prose version spans several generations of a Brooklyn family via 13 short stories: each repeats six images — a glass of water, a sharp point, a cord, a mouth, an exchange of items and a map that may be wrong — and the last story is shorter by half than the others. As characters take turns serving as protagonists and secondary characters, multiple, amusing and often devastating perspectives on the Kaplowitz clan emerge. The title piece begins in 1954, when the divorced Bobbie Kaplowitz's Thursday-night-and-Saturday-morning boyfriend exchanges her electric mixer for another, and realizations ensue. 'I Am Not Your Mother' swiftly and mercilessly tackles clannish pre-WWI immigrant experience, while 'Boy in Winter,' set in the present, constructs a brilliant minimystery, as gay urban studies writer Brad moves with partner Warren to Wanda, Wis., and then to Somerville, Mass. Noisier and brighter if not as broad in scope as Joan Silber's recent, also interlinked Ideas of Heaven, Mattison's stories have an arresting focus and navigate the clichs of Jewish-American fiction firmly and knowingly. As the images repeat and characters recur, the family's involuntary interconnectedness emerges starkly, even as the characters experience wildly differing epiphanies — and have varied, vivid reactions to them. (Oct. 11) " Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The author of "The Book Borrower" brings together 13 connected tales that trace a family of women across generations.
About the Author
Alice Mattison grew up in Brooklyn and studied at Queens College and Harvard. She is the author of four novels, three previous collections of short stories, and a volume of poetry. She teaches fiction in the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Ms.magazine, Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, Agni, The Threepenny Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, and Shenandoah. Mattison lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
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