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Morality Taleby Sylvia Brownrigg and Monica Scott
"Contemplating Sylvia Brownrigg's short new novel, the adjective quirky comes to mind time and again. Bold, dry, eccentric, Morality Tale cries out for a descriptive term that can pinpoint its oddness hand-in-hand with its likeability. Quirky it will have to be, for this curious, teasing, idiosyncratic and strangely charming book." Elsbeth Lindner, The San Francisco Chronicle (Read the entire Chronicle review)
Synopses & Reviews
When this novel's unnamed narrator meets the elusive but exciting Richard (an envelope salesman with a nice layman's line in Zen philosophies), he offers her a friendly escape from her dreary domestic life. Burdened by her husband's ongoing negotiations with his angry ex-wife, the strains of looking after two stepchildren, and the lingering ghost of her own past betrayals, she finds that the life of a "second marryer" leaves much to be desired. As their friendship develops, so grows the shadow cast over her marriage, and when they make a late, illicit bay crossing on a ferryboat, the story gathers momentum under California's Mount Tamalpais. There, in the fabled Golden State, Sylvia Brownrigg shows how even a layman's Zen can lead to some important revelations about the need to look forward, not back.
Bristling with honesty and wit, Morality Tale explores the triangular complications that can befall a modern marriage and the tragicomic forces that surround them.
"Pan, the curiously nicknamed narrator of Brownrigg's (The Delivery Room) trim latest, has come to realize the truth in the old saying, 'What goes around comes around.' It's been five years since her husband, Alan, left his wife for her, and she's disenchanted that their married lovemaking isn't as passionate as their adulterous action was. Plus, Alan barely helps around the house, Pan's not exactly enamored of her stepsons, and Alan is still hopelessly entangled with his combative ex, Theresa. So when Richard, a kindhearted envelope salesman, walks into the stationery store where Pan clerks, a harmless one-sided romance blooms in the form of letters Richard leaves for her. Of course, when Alan finds Richard's letters, he's less than understanding. The early charms of this novel, including an absorbing rendering of a suffocating and dreary marriage, soon wear thin: Pan becomes increasingly precious as an episode from her past is clumsily offered as an explanation for her disaffection, and her obtuseness about her meanness toward Theresa is frustrating. The setup is there, but the follow-through doesn't deliver." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[Brownrigg's] ability to lend an otherworldly feel to such a contemporary story...is commendable." Kirkus Reviews
"Brownrigg's mordant tale of modern marriage....Refreshingly honest, winsomely self-deprecating, Brownrigg's glib yet contrite heroine evinces both a saucy innocence and tortured anguish." Booklist
"A tragicomic tale of woe told in chirpy tones....Pan is spirited, with a talent for caricature. She sharply dissects the plight of a second wife. Surely, the moral she draws from her story — that husbands and wives need to treat each other with regard — is a worthy lesson." Los Angeles Times
"In this slim, devastating novel, the marvelously talented Sylvia Brownrigg tells us more about the emotional politics of modern marriage — and divorce — than I can remember reading in a long time. It’s a bulletin from the front lines: timely, true, and at its heart surprisingly tender." Ann Packer
"This novel is relentlessly thoughtful, a jittery and patient account of small acts and enormous repercussions. I read it in a day, but I'll think about it for many, many days to come." Daniel Handler
About the Author
Sylvia grew up in Los Altos, California, and Oxford, England, was educated at Yale and Johns Hopkins Universities, and lived for many years in London. She is married and lives in Berkeley with her husband and their children. The family continues to spend time in England.
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