Synopses & Reviews
A beautifully wrought new novel about marriage and family from the acclaimed author of Mr. Potter
In See Now Then, the brilliant and evocative new novel from Jamaica Kincaid — her first in ten years — a marriage is revealed in all its joys and agonies. This piercing examination of the manifold ways in which the passing of time operates on the human consciousness unfolds gracefully, and Kincaid inhabits each of her characters, a mother and father and their two children living in a small village in New England, as they move, in their own minds, between the present, the past, and the future — for, as she writes, “the present will be a now then and the past is now then and the future will be a now then.” Her characters, constrained by the world, despair in their domestic situations. But their minds wander, trying to make linear sense of what is, in fact, nonlinear. See Now Then is Kincaid's attempt to make clear what is unclear, and to make unclear what we assumed was clear: that is, the beginning, the middle, and the end.
Since the publication of her first short-story collection, At the Bottom of the River, nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction, Kincaid has demonstrated a unique talent for seeing beyond and through the surface of things. In See Now Then, she envelops the reader in a world that is both familiar and startling — creating her most emotionally and thematically daring work yet.
"In her first novel in a decade, Kincaid (Autobiography of My Mother) brings her singular lyricism and beautifully recursive tendencies to the inner life of Mrs. Sweet, who is facing the end of her marriage, and who, over the course of the book, considers the distinctions between her nows and her thens, particularly when recounting what was while the memories bleed with a pain that still is. Particularly touching is Kincaid's rendering of motherhood. The immediacy of Mrs. Sweet's small son's toys Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers creates a significant foil to the ethereal interior echoes. Such is the reality of parenting: what is imagined or remembered loses every battle against plastic warriors and the demands of children. What's startling is the presumably autobiographical nature of the plot. The family lives in Bennington, Vt., like Kincaid, and Mr. Sweet is a composer who leaves his wife for a younger musician, as was the case with Kincaid's former husband. While evidence of fictionalization is obvious (naming the children after Greek myths), the book feels precariously balanced between meticulous language and raw emotion. The distinction between life and art is not always clear, but only a writer as deft as Kincaid can blur the lines so elegantly. Agent: The Wiley Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Ms. Kincaid writes with passion and conviction, and she also writes with a musical sense of language, a poets understanding of how politics and history, private and public events, overlap and blur.” Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Hers is a voice you have never heard before....Exhilarating to read and impossible to forget.” Doris Grumbach, The Washington Post Book World
“Sensuous and funny, by turns compassionate and cruel; her eye is never wrong.” Mary Gordon
“Kincaid continues to write with a unique, compelling voice that cannot be found anywhere else. Her small books are worth a pile of thicker — and hollower — ones.” Jeffrey Rodgers, San Francisco Chronicle
“Kincaid conscientiously and expertly manipulates language the way a photographer adjusts a cameras lens, bringing her characters into clear focus and accentuating their profiles against their natural backdrop.” Liza Weisstuch, The Boston Sunday Globe
“Cool and fierce....The toughness and elegance of Kincaid's writing is all that one could want.” Susana Moore, The Washington Post Book World
“Kincaid's lyricism ascends into the realm of the sublime.” Andrew Roe, San Francisco Chronicle
In See Now Then
Jamaica Kincaid has created a modern myth about a universal, contemporary subject: a marriage in crisis, a fracturing family. Mr. and Mrs. Sweet and their two children, Heracles and Persephone, live in the Shirley Jackson house in Vermont. Mr. Sweet, a frustrated composer, hails from New York's upper echelons, where women are always condescending to their maids and cabs are always hard to get on upper Fifth Avenue; Mrs. Sweet arrived in the country on a banana boat, chose yellow countertops, and likes to read books no one else cares about. Kincaid — through the heroic children Heracles and Persephone — evokes the bitterness of love gone sour and turned to contempt, the intensity of the bonds between parents and children, and the profound unknowability of all individuals.
Since the publication of her first short story collection — At the Bottom of the River, nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction — Kincaid has demonstrated a unique and piercing talent for seeing beyond, seeing through, the surface of things, which has made her one of our essential writers. In See Now Then, her powerfully original style has produced a work of searing originality and insight.
About the Author
Jamaica Kincaid was born in St. John's, Antigua. Her books include At the Bottom of the River, Annie John, Lucy, The Autobiography of My Mother, My Brother, and Mr. Potter, all published by FSG. She lives with her family in Vermont.