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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

American Woman


American Woman Cover




Chapter One

Red Hook is little more than the junction of a couple of roads, with a farm store, a church and graveyard, a diner. And the post office, a small square cement building with RED HOOK NY 12571 spelled out in metal letters across the flat gray faç ade. He keeps flying through this sparse nexus of structures, first along the south-north road, then, when he finally manages to slow down and make the turn, along the east-west. He has the idea that the rest of the town must lie just farther on, and that the diner and farm store and church and post office are a far-flung outpost, but he keeps ending up twenty-odd miles away in front of a sign welcoming him to a new town, and so he keeps turning back and retracing his route. He doesn't even see houses in Red Hook, just fence lines along the roads, a dirt drive sometimes winding away. Some of the fences contain fields and some just grass and grazing animals, but everywhere there are smooth humps of hills and distant darknesses of untouched woodland, interesting vistas to the harried urban man. He's enjoying tearing up and down these roads, like swinging hard through the same arc again and again, and catching the same glimpse of the sorry little huddle at the center point, and he keeps at it for a while pointlessly, up down, zoom zoom, but finally he's forced to conclude that he's not missing anything. At the post office he parks and goes in to take a look at her box. If there were a tiny window in the little metal door he would stoop and peer in, but there isn't. At the diner he orders coffee and a jelly donut and tries to figure out where all the people live. A man in overalls asks another man at the counter how to getsomewhere. "I'm from over-river," he explains. Back in his car Frazer studies the map. The Hudson lies west of here, about a ten-minute drive on these roads. Might be pretty. Frazer knows he is possessed of the skills to solve such problems as the one that lies before him. He can recognize, for example, that right now he is looking too hard at the wrong thing, and missing the point. He needs to do something else, maybe even give up for the day, find a bar and a motel, and start fresh in the morning. He should have realized that she wouldn't live here; she wouldn't want to be too near the post office. Yet she wouldn't want to travel too far. This is the sort of zero-sum compromise she makes all the time; Frazer knows this about her, having been subjected to the same flawed formulation. Trust Frazer or spurn him? A little of both? He notices, thinking of the man in overalls from over-river, that there aren't so many bridges: just four in the 150-mile stretch from the city to Albany. One lies due west of here, but Frazer's willing to bet that Jenny wouldn't cross the river for her mail. Too much traffic concentration, too confined; there's no good exit from a bridge. He puts an X on Red Hook, then estimates a half hour's driving distance and draws a circle around Red Hook with that radius. He does this mostly to amuse himself, but also because he believes in the inflexibility, predictability, knowability of people. They never stray far from their familiar realms of being. The most shocking act, closely examined, is just a louder version of some habitual gesture. No one is ever "out of character." That idea just makes Frazer laugh.

The next morning he rises early and nearly pulls theroom down in the course of his exercise. He usually travels with a pair of very small, very heavy barbells, but when he finds himself without them he does other things. Five hundred jumping jacks. One-armed push-ups. He'll stand on his head for a while, and feel the pressure of the blood in his skull and the fumes of last night's alcohol steaming out of his pores. On this day he's well into the spirit of things when he grabs the bathroom door frame and pulls himself into the air, legs thrust forward a little because he's tall and the door frame is small. Then the molding around the frame — after holding him for a beat during which he does nothing but hang there, blinking confusedly, as if sensing what's coming — peels away with a terrible shriek of nails extracting from wood. Although the disaster is preceded by that beat, when it happens it happens all at once, before he can think or find his legs, and he lands heavily on his ass like a sack of grain. There is abrupt, alarming pain. He keels over sideways and lies there curled up, half of him on one side of the door and half of him on the other. He has the yellowish linoleum of the bathroom floor against his ear, and his face is contorted, partly an effort to keep the tears that have filled his eyes from streaming down his cheeks, but they do anyway.

He gives up and cries a little, quietly. In truth, sacrosanct as his exercise is, he is a little embarrassed by it — perhaps because it is so sacrosanct. He remembers being surprised once by Mike Sorsa, in the apartment they'd shared in North Berkeley. He'd always waited until Sorsa left for class, and he'd heard the door slam downstairs and Sorsa's footsteps cross the creaking woodporch and drop onto the sidewalk, but on this morning, almost an hour after Sorsa had left, he'd unexpectedly come home. Frazer had been so deeply enveloped in his routine and in the music he'd put on to accompany himself he hadn't heard anything until Sorsa was standing there in the doorway ...

Product Details

Choi, Susan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Rock, Peter
New York
Young women
Psychological fiction
Social isolation
Women radicals
Fugitives from justice
Women revolutionaries
Women terrorists.
Hudson River Valley
Kidnapping victims
General Fiction
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
August 19, 2003
1 piece of line art
9 x 6 in 1 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

American Woman Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$5.95 In Stock
Product details 224 pages HarperCollins Publishers - English 9780060542214 Reviews:
"Review" by , "[G]rainy psychological depth and texture....While the unfolding enthralling, it is Choi's skill at getting inside the heads of her protagonists that gives the novel its particular, unsettling appeal."
"Review" by , "[A]mbitious...intellectually provocative and vividly imagined but weighed down by its intentions. Despite some fine writing, [it] seems as much like a it does a novel....Earnest but disappointing."
"Review" by , "[M]esmerizing....[S]ustains its own unwavering, original voice....Choi crafts complex, believable characters....How it all comes together in an engrossing and emotive story is testament to Choi's deft narration. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "With uncompromising grace and mastery, Susan Choi renders the intimate moments which bring to life a tale of prodigious sweep."
"Review" by , "Few writers since Graham Greene have brought such tender, insightful, poetic, intelligent, darkly comic writing to the political thriller."
"Review" by , "Enthralling, it is Choi's skill at getting inside the heads of her protagonists that gives the novel its particular, unsettling appeal [and]...grainy psychological depth and texture."
"Review" by , "Enthralling."
"Review" by , "A hypnotic, winding route through the scorched emotional landscape of 1974."
"Review" by , "Intellectually provocative and vividly imagined."
"Review" by , "Prepare to be held hostage by Susan Choi's mesmerizing American Woman."
"Review" by , "Riveting...Choi has the rare gift of bringing sycg notorious moments of history back to life and making them altogether new."
"Review" by , "A brilliant read...astonishing in its honesty and confidence American Woman is a haunting book."
"Review" by , "Brilliant...Choi's insightful understanding vivid description, lyrical use of language and deft dialogue make it an overall reading pleasure."
"Synopsis" by , Francine and Colville were childhood friends whose families belonged to an extreme religion, the Church Universal and Triumphant, whose members built elaborate underground shelters to protect themselves from a nuclear apocalypse that never came. Reunited twenty years later by the search for an abducted girl, Francine and Colville must reckon with the powerful memories of their former church's teachings, and the haunting feeling of leading adult lives in a world they once believed would be destroyed.
"Synopsis" by ,
An American original, Peter Rock brings our strangest beliefs to vivid and sympathetic life in this haunting novel inspired by true events.

The Shelter Cycle tells the story of two children, Francine and Colville, who grew up in the Church Universal and Triumphant, a religion that predicted the world could end in the late 1980s. While their parents built underground shelters to withstand the impending Soviet missile strike, Francine and Colville played in the Montana wilderness, where invisible spirits watched over them. When the prophesized apocalypse did not occur, the sectand#8217;s members resurfaced and the children were forced to grow up in a world they believed might no longer exist.

Twenty years later, Francine and Colville are reunited while searching for an abducted girl. Haunted by memories and inculcated beliefs, they must confront the Churchand#8217;s teachings. If all the things they were raised to believe were misguided, why then do they suddenly feel so true?

"Synopsis" by ,
An intimately charged novel of desire and disaster from the author of American Woman and A Person of Interest

Regina Gottlieb had been warned about Professor Nicholas Brodeur long before arriving as a graduate student at his prestigious university high on a pastoral hill.  He’s said to lie in the dark in his office while undergraduate women read couplets to him. He’s condemned on the walls of the women’s restroom, and enjoys films by Roman Polanski. But no one has warned Regina about his exceptional physical beauty—or his charismatic, volatile wife.

My Education is the story of Regina’s mistakes, which only begin in the bedroom, and end—if they do—fifteen years in the future and thousands of miles away. By turns erotic and completely catastrophic, Regina’s misadventures demonstrate what can happen when the chasm between desire and duty is too wide to bridge.

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