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Living Roomby Rachel Sherman
Synopses & Reviews
Living Room is a disarmingly direct portrait of a family in trouble. With the tone of a modern-day Jewish Ice Storm set in Long Island, imbued with Alice Munro's fascination with personal history, this is a deep exploration of the ripple effects of mental illness and a wry, wise take on suburban angst.
The novel's perspective carousels between three generations of women. Abby, a wise teenager, strives to keep her parents' dysfunction at arm's length while navigating the unfamiliar terrors of high school. Her mother, Livia, a housewife with unfulfilled career aspirations and an eating disorder, is consumed by a daily struggle to keep herself together while helplessly watching her family fall apart. And then there is Headie, the grandmother, whose oncoming senility brings vivid dreams and hallucinations of her younger life and whose main link to reality is a new computer with which she writes cryptic missives to her family.
With her highly praised debut story collection, The First Hurt, Rachel Sherman became known for her laser-sharp view of adolescence; here she takes it two generations further, bringing together a fascinating array of experiences with unusual frankness, humor, and wisdom.
"Sherman's riveting debut novel (after the collection The First Hurt) examines the dreams and disappointments of teenager Abby; her mother, Livia; and Abby's grandmother, twice-widowed Headie. Each of the women harbors a secret none of the others suspect: Abby drowns her crippling insecurity in alcohol; Livia has an eating disorder; and Headie's encroaching senility obscures a secret about her son, Jeffrey. Each, caught up in her own secret, neglects to notice the damage her preoccupation causes others. Vividly drawn secondary characters expand the story's breadth — Abby's bad-news friend Jenna; Jorgen, a Swedish au pair whose bad judgment nearly kills Abby; Simone, a lesbian psychiatrist Livia is attracted to for reasons she isn't quite sure of; and Jeffrey, who acts as a narrative linchpin. Unsentimental yet deeply felt, this tale examines what bubbles under the surface of a supposedly happy Long Island family." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[Living Room] hums along, its heavier moments tempered with plenty of dark humor and incisive language; but it's the intimate character sketches that truly resonate." Time Out New York
"A compelling and unsentimental novel about the loneliness that exists just below the surface of a family. Sherman skillfully and movingly renders the inner lives of three generations of women as they try — or don't try — to reconcile the distance between their desires and their actual lives." Dana Spiotta, author of Eat the Document
"Here we have the fractured lives of three generations of women told with zero sentimentality and a huge amount of heart. Living Room is edgy, moving, smart, funny, and altogether human. Rachel Sherman is the real deal." Dani Shapiro, author of Black and White
"Rachel Sherman's Long Island is a desolate place: lawns, indoor carpeting, a wet couch some high school kids dragged into the woods to smoke pot on. The au pair has acne and grandma can't seem to turn off the caps lock key. Sherman, incredibly, is in no hurry to leave this place. She tells it all. The result is a funny, scary, dirty, and, in the end, a very moving, generous book." Keith Gessen, author of All the Sad Young Literary Men
The follow-up to her highly praised debut story collection, The First Hurt, Rachel Shermans Living Room is a beautiful and disarmingly direct portrait of a family in trouble. With the tone of a modern-day Jewish The Ice Storm set in Long Island, imbued with Alice Munros fascination with personal history, Living Room is a deep exploration of the ripple effects of mental illness on a family, as well as a look at generational differences in mating and marriage, and a wry, wise look at suburban angst.
Follows a family of three generations of women: a grandmother whose senility brings strange dreams and hallucinations about her younger life; her daughter, an unfulfilled housewife with a strange eating disorder; and her teen granddaughter, who strives to navigate the terrors of high school, despite her mother's dysfunction.
About the Author
Rachel Sherman holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University. Her short stories have appeared in McSweeney's, Fence, Open City, Conjunctions, and n+1, among other publications. Her first book, The First Hurt, was short-listed for the Story Prize and the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, and was named one of the 25 Books to Remember in 2006 by the New York Public Library. She teaches writing at Rutgers and Columbia Universities and lives in Brooklyn.
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