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The Beginners by Rebecca Wolff

"The Beginners" by Rebecca Wolff

A review by Trinie Dalton

Poet Rebecca Wolff's first novel, The Beginners, draws on a long lineage of American stories either riffing on witchcraft in American history (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Shirley Jackson) or witchy fairy tales (Lorrie Moore's "The Juniper Tree," short stories by Kelly Link and Aimee Bender). In all these works, including Wolff's, the possibility of witchcraft looms specter-like in the background, and it's the text's job to parse out how deeply magic actually informs reality. The balance between fantasy and realism in The Beginners (it ultimately leans toward the latter) is its greatest sophistication, a feat that the author accomplishes by creating a split in the narrative itself. Narrating part of the book is fifteen-year-old Ginger Pritt of Wick, Massachusetts, who with her best friend, Cherry Endicott, becomes obsessed with her shadowy and possibly magic-practicing new neighbors, Raquel and Theo Motherwell. But if this adolescent perspective features scenes of nascent fabulism, such as...

Previously Reviewed by Bookforum
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The Beginners by Rebecca Wolff

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