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The Brambles: A Novelby Eliza Minot
Synopses & Reviews
A luminous, panoramic novel of family life — a beautiful, often hilarious portrait of motherhood and marriage — and a magnificent leap forward from the highly praised author of The Tiny One ("Minot has a sorceress's ability to perceive the emotional spirits trapped in nature and a wild, unstrung, lyrical gift" — The New York Times Book Review).
This is the story of the Bramble family — Margaret, Max, and Edie — three adult siblings careening through wildly different byways of adult life. Margaret, mother of three, drowning in a sea of runny noses and lost mittens, is a nurturer with a sense of humor, a witty woman at wits' end, about to take her ailing father into the tumult and chaos of her already overcrowded home. Edie, her younger sister, is a barely recognizable version of Margaret's former self — young, single, clicking smartly down city streets in good shoes, but struggling mightily beyond her sister's vision to anchor her desultory, and intensely solitary, life. Max, newly married, newly a father, is buckling under the weight of new responsibilities. Over the course of one critical season, a long hidden secret will be revealed, remaking each of them, and all they thought they knew about one another and about themselves.
Lyrical, emotional, and large-hearted — a sweeping and unfailingly precise depiction of the allegiances, as well as the miscommunications and misunderstandings, upon which we build our lives — The Brambles is ringing confirmation of Eliza Minot's abundant gifts.
"Minot's graceful, candid novel about the meaning of adulthood and the depth of family attachment follows the three siblings of the titular clan as they face the consequences of their life choices. Margaret is an ambivalent mother of three who relinquished her autonomy and former identity as a hip New Yorker for a suburban life of carpools; Max, a new father, quit his job as an independent film producer but hides the truth from his wife by pretending to go to work every day; depressed, lonely 20-something Edie struggles with singlehood and a newly acquired eating disorder. Now, they must cope with their widowed father, Arthur, who moves into Margaret's home to suffer through the final stages of cancer. There is also the matter of a long-held family secret, revealed, of course, when they least expect it. Minot (Susan's sister and author of The Tiny One) has a refreshing, contemporary voice, and even the most mundane moments — Edie talking to herself in the car, Margaret's daughter dancing on the lawn — contain surprising swells of emotion. As it turns out, the revealed secret is melodramatic and far-fetched, but this novel excels all the same, buoyed up by its quiet conflicts and small, gorgeous glimpses at truth. 40,000 announced first printing; author tour. (July 21)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Eliza Minot's delicious debut, 'The Tiny One' (1999), was lovingly packed with the semi-autobiographical details of a child's memories of the day her mother died. The author's precocious young doppelganger wondered 'how something so big could fit into such a little thing as a day.' In her graceful second novel, Minot confidently trades the fresh innocence of that girlish narrator for the frazzled... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) intensity of Margaret Bright, a thirty-something suburban housewife. 'The Brambles' turns the question posed by 'The Tiny One' on its head, now asking how so many small things can fill the yawning space of a day. A mother of three, Margaret has been 'thrown into neutral' by her love for the reckless, hungry brood that is her family and the needy, terminally ill man who is her father. She struggles to make her way through the 'blended doughy (Play-Dohy!) days' that vary for her in small ways but are still the same every day. 'The Brambles' is no pulse-racing story about the death of a patriarch and an explosive family secret; it's a leisurely, unfolding scrapbook of the thoughts and impressions of Margaret, her bulimic younger sister, Edie, and her sensitive film producer brother, Max. Max has secretly quit his job and spends his days trolling around New York's Upper West Side, hiding from his wife and child and wondering how he ended up so directionless. Edie works for a popular talk show, struggling to live among 'the drone of televisions' and the deafening emptiness of her own life. Margaret is 'immersed in her abundance of children' but also unprotected and alone with her self-doubts. Minot's characters think deeply about their lives and futures as their dying father journeys to Margaret's home in New Jersey, where he will live out his final days. Minot favors the lyrical backward glance, parsing the present into finely crafted bits of memory and personal history. The forward movement of the novel — too gentle and lazy at times — is of secondary importance. If it weren't for Margaret's penchant for holding the slippery edges of her domestic life together with itemized lists of things to fix ('Vaguely leaking washing machine'), things to remember ('Stamp machine at the post office. Still busted') and things to fear ('Code orange? Amber alert? War'), the novel's unsatisfying conclusion might make little sense. Thankfully, Margaret makes a list to keep the convoluted story straight, 'jotting down notes like she used to do during lectures in school.' Minot is an agile impressionist with a real talent for capturing the inner life of her characters. The challenge now is to craft a stronger, more textured fictional universe in which this radiant inner life may shine even more brightly. Laura Ciolkowski teaches literature at New York University and is on the faculty of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Columbia University." Reviewed by Laura Ciolkowski, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Minot moves nimbly from one character's consciousness to the next, illustrating the power of family to hurt and to heal....A moving portrait of the ties that bind." Kirkus Reviews
"With its warm portrayal of families and relationships and its unexpected plot twists, Minot's new novel will appeal to a range of fiction audiences....A strong candidate for most collections." Library Journal
"An impressive stylistic leap from her admired first novel....Minot shows that she is not afraid to take risks to tease out from the beautiful bones of her story its marrow of suspense." Elle
"If Katherine Mansfield had lived to give birth and bury her parents, she would have written The Brambles. This is a luminous and lyrical book; the writing is rich, but slices like a shining blade. Eliza Minot is not afraid to tackle the big subjects: birth and death, as well as love and life. It is a triumph." Mary Gordon
"It takes the first third of the novel for Minot to weave her characters together, primarily through dialogue. It's a tricky way to set up a story because, as everyone knows, we are not who we say we are, and we only rarely say what we mean, even to those closest to us. But when a writer pulls it off, as Minot does, the result is rewarding." Los Angles Times
"Minot writes radiantly about muddledness: Her prose has the brilliant quality of sharpened detail you experience when you finally get eyeglasses, and that blurred green of the trees turns out to be composed of countless distinct leaves — when the ordinary turns out to be fully extraordinary." Newsday
"[Minot] delivers such consistently perceptive, even stunning sentences that it's easy to overlook the less than cohesive story and just recline inside the characters’ minds and listen to them think. This novel is imperfect in a way that leaves you marveling at the many things it does right." Meghan Daum, New York Times Book Review
A luminous, panoramic novel of family life and family ties, "The Brambles" tells the story of adult siblings Margaret, Max, and Edie, who, over the course of one critical season, find out more about one another--and themselves--than they ever knew was possible.
About the Author
Eliza Minot was born in Beverly, Massachusetts. She lives in Maplewood, New Jersey, with her family.
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