Chatter: A Novel

Chatter: A Novel

by Perrin Ireland
     
 

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Michael and Sarah's marriage is already in trouble. But the revelation that Michael has a daughter he's never mentioned—and only just met—pushes their relationship to the breaking point. His secrecy about the past, his compulsion to visit his ex-lover, and the sudden presence of his beautiful, grown daughter in their lives drives Sarah to search for the

Overview

Michael and Sarah's marriage is already in trouble. But the revelation that Michael has a daughter he's never mentioned—and only just met—pushes their relationship to the breaking point. His secrecy about the past, his compulsion to visit his ex-lover, and the sudden presence of his beautiful, grown daughter in their lives drives Sarah to search for the truth—a search that takes her from Washington, D.C., to Latin America.

Chatter is a snapshot of a marriage taken against the landscape of our frenetic culture, where invasive news reports, overheard conversations, and screaming headlines punctuate our days. Its dead-on dialogue captures the collapse of communication and the tension created when discussions go unfinished and questions go unanswered.

Balancing humor and terror, Ireland brilliantly depicts the elusiveness of security—globally and in our own homes—and the longing to find that safe place in a loved one's arms.

Editorial Reviews

The Boston Globe
The novel's touch is light, the dialgogue funny . . . Still, the novel is more than merely clever. Ireland treats her characxters with tenderness, portraying how they experience the world, and ultimately holding out a note of hope. She wrings meaning from the slightest of gestures . . . Sarah wins our sympathy, as an everywoman seeking, against the odds, a place of safety and comfort.
Charleston Post and Courier
Perrin Ireland has created a wonderful novel that balances humor and terror, growing apart and finding the way back. She has a deft touch and a great ear for dialogue, delivering complex and memorable characters.
Publishers Weekly

After a career at the NEA and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Ireland published her debut novel, Ana Imagined, in 2000, and follows it with this intriguing, sophisticated look at talk in marriage. Comfortable Bostonians Sarah and Michael are sorting out their childless 18-year marriage (the second for both) when Camila, a beautiful 30-something Latina, turns up claiming she's Michael's daughter. Michael, who already has a daughter from his first marriage, is "great-looking and mischievous and charming," but hot-tempered and uncommunicative about his past, including his Latin American Peace Corps stint. As the consequences of Michael's continued stonewalling spin out, he prepares to visit Camila's mother. Sarah, meanwhile, seeks comfort in the arms of a man she meets on a train. Ireland is less after their story than the ways Michael and Sarah communicate, a pointed staccato rife with missed connections, misdirection and blithe ignoring. That chatter is also bombarded from the outside by TV, radio, periodicals and other organs of the culture at large, often with complex effects-especially for novelist Sarah, and particularly given the pointedly post-9/11 setting. So while the plot is contrived and the characters honed to razor-thin dimensions, Ireland gets uncomfortably close to what people say about what they do. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Having been married for 18 years, Bostonians Sarah and Michael have learned to adapt to each others' imperfections-namely, Sarah's persistent insecurities and Michael's secretive business trips. Hints of an immediate post-9/11 world-e.g., hotel evacuations, emptied restaurants, circling helicopters-brilliantly frame Sarah and Michael's world, which is tested when the beautiful young Camila lands amid their fragility, claiming to be Michael's daughter, conceived during his youthful Peace Corps days. Michael goes in search of Camila's mother, who may be able to help unravel the disappearance of Michael's old Peace Corps buddy, while Sarah dances along the edges of adultery with a man she meets on a train even as she begins her own search for Michael's long-lost friend. It's a lot to juggle, but Ireland (Ana Imagined), who keeps readers engaged even while making clear that not every question has an answer, is more than up to the task. Strongly recommended.
—Beth E. Andersen

Kirkus Reviews
Literary fiction picks apart politics and a marriage, often confusing the two. Sarah is a nervous wreck. A homebound writer who is having trouble naming her novel-in-progress, she's afraid of being alone, of terrorism and of her husband Michael leaving her, a legitimate possibility. The couple have each been previously married, and two years earlier Michael had "announced his intention to leave," reconsidering only after looking around his "beloved backyard" and realizing "we'd lose EVERYTHING." The realization that her marriage stands on such rocky, materialistic ground has prompted Sarah to censor her speech, if not her actions, and although she suspects Michael is having an affair, rather than confront him she invents excuses to follow him on a business trip. The truth she uncovers about Michael-that he has a grown daughter from an early liaison-turns out to be more troublesome than a simple affair. His daughter, the exotic, beautiful Camila, is oddly seductive and seems to harbor ill will toward Sarah; her absent mother, Magdalena, is another threat. Sarah's one good friend, Rachel, is undergoing treatment for colon cancer, but while Sarah accompanies her to chemotherapy and doctor's appointments, Rachel throws herself into the mystery of Michael's earlier life, spurring Sarah on to research Michael's time in the Peace Corps and the mysterious Magdalena's subsequent, perhaps violent life. Ireland (Ana Imagined, 2000) makes connections between the personal and political, showing how Sarah externalizes her insecurities into a near-constant fear of terrorist attacks. But her protagonist is so fearful and rigid that her first-person narration is annoyingly choppy. Much of the dialoguecomes in non sequiturs, and too many highbrow references stand in for characterization. Ultimately so narcissistic she believes she killed her first, Vietnam-era fiance because she "hadn't protested the war," she never garners sympathy. Self-conscious analysis of a cooling marriage fails to work as a metaphor for world affairs.
Booklist
"Chatty in tone, this appropriately titled debut novel features a cast of characters who converse and think in clipped sound bytes. Initially distracting, the author's peripatetic pacing mirrors the media-generated background noise that accompanies contemporary life. As the story of Michael and Sarah, a middle-aged couple whose marriage is challenged by the appearance of a daughter Michael never knew he had, evolves, the slice-of-life plot is bolstered by the almost omniscient television and radio reports chronicling the political and cultural fallout of a landscape steeped in the tensions generated by the ever-present threat of global terrorism. When the quirky, dialogue-heavy narrative is read between the lines, an eventually affirmative portrait of a modern relationship resonates with hidden depths."—Booklist
More
"Reading Chatter is not unlike using the television remote to flip back and forth between a compellingly hour-long dramedy and CNN; it's a dark romantic comedy punctuated by bursts of post-9/11 chatter, a novel that conjures the discomforting way news flashes and other bits of information peck at our psyche every day. . . . Ireland's clever, believable voice expertly conveys the uncertainty of life and love, at home and in the terror-crazed world."—More magazine
Charleston Post & Courier
"[Perrin Ireland] has crafted a wonderful novel that balances humor and terror, growing apart and finding the way back. She has a deft touch and a great ear for dialogue, delivering complex and memorable characters."—Charleston Post and Courier
New York Times Book Review
"[A] humor-terror nexus that Ireland so charmingly brings to life"—New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565127142
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
10/23/2007
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
245
File size:
3 MB

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Ireland masterfully crisscrosses the public with the private to wring meaning from the simplest exchanges. . . . Chatter is a consoling and hopeful novel in its vision of man's compassionate, resilient nature."—Christine Schutt, author of NBA finalist Florida

"An extremely well-written novel that conceals its profundities so deftly that they insist on returning long after you have finished reading. A wonderful book."—Brian O'Doherty, Booker Prize finalist for The Deposition of Father McGreevy

"Smartly plotted and stylishly paced, Perrin Ireland's Chatter shows us just how the domestic and the political are entangled. The novel is alert with suspicion and heightened surmise; it gives us a bright Doppler reading of the way we live now."—Sven Birkerts

Beth E. Andersen
"Having been married for 18 years, Bostonians Sarah and Michael have learned to adapt to each others' imperfections-namely, Sarah's persistent insecurities and Michael's secretive business trips. Hints of an immediate post-9/11 world-e.g., hotel evacuations, emptied restaurants, circling helicopters-brilliantly frame Sarah and Michael's world, which is tested when the beautiful young Camila lands amid their fragility, claiming to be Michael's daughter, conceived during his youthful Peace Corps days. Michael goes in search of Camila's mother, who may be able to help unravel the disappearance of Michael's old Peace Corps buddy, while Sarah dances along the edges of adultery with a man she meets on a train even as she begins her own search for Michael's long-lost friend. It's a lot to juggle, but Ireland (Ana Imagined), who keeps readers engaged even while making clear that not every question has an answer, is more than up to the task. Strongly recommended."--Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

Smartly plotted anda stylishly paced, Perrin Ireland's Chatter shows us just how the domestic and the political are entangled . . .It gives us a bright Doppler reading of the way we live now. --Sven Birkerts

Ireland masterfully crisscrosses the public with the private to wring meaning from the simplest exchanges . . .Chatter is a consoling and hopeful novel in its vision of man's compassionate, resilient nature. --Christine Schutt, author of National Book Award finalist Florida

An extremely well-written novel that conceals its profundities so deftly that they insist on returnig long after you have finished reading. A wonderful book. --Brian O'Doherty, Booker Prize finalist

Meet the Author

Perrin Ireland is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Ana Imagined. Previously a senior program officer for the National Endowment for the Arts and an associate director for drama and arts for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, she divides her time between Boston, Massachusetts, and Charleston, South Carolina. For more information, see www.perrinireland.com.

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