The Box Garden

The Box Garden

by Carol Diggory Shields
     
 

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Charleen is a divorcee in her mid-thirties, eking out a living as a poet and part-time assistant for an obscure scientific journal. Although she is quick to count her blessings - a son whom she loves, a blossoming relationship with a man, and friends who care about her - Charleen wonders how her life turned out the way it did. Is she a failure? Or is she still…  See more details below

Overview

Charleen is a divorcee in her mid-thirties, eking out a living as a poet and part-time assistant for an obscure scientific journal. Although she is quick to count her blessings - a son whom she loves, a blossoming relationship with a man, and friends who care about her - Charleen wonders how her life turned out the way it did. Is she a failure? Or is she still struggling to escape the limited world of her childhood? Her search for answers is as exasperating as the meager paycheck she takes to the bank every week. But when she returns home to attend her mother's wedding, Charleen is caught up in a series of unexpected - and terrifying - events. And in coping with these big and small emergencies, she is forced to come to terms with the life she has led and the decisions she has made.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Charleen Forrest, Judith Gill's sister (see Small Ceremonies, above), is obsessive and hyper-romantic, a poet who no longer writes because ``having given away the well of myself, there is nowhere to go''-except inward. Which is why she looks for deeper meaning in nylon slips and train berths. And why, when her lover describes his father's faltering attempt at sex education (``See The Prairie Lovelies-Only Twenty-five Cents''), she imagines his family as imbued with ``a sort of decency which surfaces unconsciously.'' It's also why she pictures her father's massive heart attack as ``a tidal wave of pressure, a blind wall-darkness crushing him as he lay sleeping.'' Today, a doctor would give Charleen Prozac and send her on her not-so-merry way. But in 1977, when Shields wrote her second novel (which, like Small Ceremonies, is making its first U.S. appearance), the more common treatment for such neuroses was to endure. Charleen not only endures but comes out stronger after one especially trying weeklong trip across Canada to attend her mother's wedding when she is confronted with more of her past than she-or the reader-expects. It's the sort of experience that should send her completely over the edge, but Charleen isn't quite as fragile as she seems. In less capable hands she'd be a caricature, her transformation contrived. But Shields makes Charleen and her experiences believable. Even more rewarding, she makes them endearing. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"Her sentences and subjects swerve in a matter of words from the poetic to the colloquial, uniting the dazzling and the ordinary, the domestic and the cosmic."
Joan Barfoot, London Free Press

"A shrewd and skillful storyteller."
Chicago Tribune

"Carol Shields is a name to set beside Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro."
—Anita Brookner

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140251364
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/28/1996
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
128
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.51(d)

Meet the Author

Carol Shields (1935-2003) is the author of The Stone Diaries, which won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Canada's Governor General's Award. Her other novels and short-story collections include The Republic of Love, Happenstance, Swann, The Orange Fish, Various Miracles, The Box Garden, and Small Ceremonies (all available from Penguin).

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