Cut Away

( 2 )

Overview

Cut Away is a novel that expertly entwines the lives of three characters struggling to understand the meaning of identity and its seeming mutability.Orbiting around the mystery of a missing teenager, a trio of narrators each tells her story in turn. ALexandra is a transgendered woman who has redused surgery and abandoned Los Angeles for a trailer at the desolate Salton Sea. Asas, the mother of the runaway, wants her grief-ridden face completely transformed. Elanor, a plastic surgeon, is fascinated with surfaces ...
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Cut Away

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Overview

Cut Away is a novel that expertly entwines the lives of three characters struggling to understand the meaning of identity and its seeming mutability.Orbiting around the mystery of a missing teenager, a trio of narrators each tells her story in turn. ALexandra is a transgendered woman who has redused surgery and abandoned Los Angeles for a trailer at the desolate Salton Sea. Asas, the mother of the runaway, wants her grief-ridden face completely transformed. Elanor, a plastic surgeon, is fascinated with surfaces amd wonders whether visual harmony has the power to change what lies beneath.

in a culture obsessed with transforming the body, do the incarnate fiction we create have the power to hide of reveal the truth of who we really are?this is a question that Catherin Kirkwood approaches in a stunning debut novel of desire, self -loathing, and the revisionary madness of our modern world.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A runaway teenager links the stories of a plastic surgeon, a transsexual and a kidnapper, in Kirkwood's debut. Alexandra, a man who has transformed himself into a woman using hormones, but who stopped short of surgery on principle, lives in a trailer on the shores of the Salton Sea, a lake in the middle of the desert which was once a resort destination but is now largely a haven for recluses, outsiders and refugees from Southern California craziness. Eleanor, a lesbian, is a successful L.A. cosmetic surgeon whose ex-partner, Clarissa, is suing her for palimony. Eleanor faces the prospect of losing half of everything she owns just when her practice is beginning to flag from too much cut-rate competition. Olivia, a strikingly beautiful adolescent, wants Eleanor to diminish her prettiness. When the doctor balks, Olivia flees to the desert and camps out near the Salton Sea. Eleanor's own disquiet manifests itself in the home addition she's having built. The new room doesn't fit, no matter how architecturally superior its construction. Asa, a mousy woman who, unbeknownst to Eleanor, cleans her clinic at night, consults the doctor about an eyelift. As a gangly, pimpled teenager living in foster care, Asa snatched enfant Olivia in South Dakota, fled to California and raised her as her own. Ultimately Asa will ask Eleanor for a new face: Olivia's, aged 20 years. In neat counterpoint to Olivia's concerns, Asa thinks beauty will win the love she's never experienced. The search for Olivia leads Eleanor and Asa to Alexandra, who acts as a catalyst for change for both women, not least by finding decorating solutions to rescue Eleanor's addition. Such situations, handled with less finesse, could recall a hackneyed plot from Nip/Tuck, but Kirkwood's prose is sure-handed and her characters' inner lives are as artfully reconstructed as the features Eleanor enhances.
Publishers Weekly
Kirkwood's slender, desolate-feeling first novel, set between the California desert and L.A., hinges on an intricate emotional triangle revolving around a teenage runaway. Alexandra, a middle-aged transvestite living a celibate life on the Salton Sea, befriends the runaway, Olivia, at the girl's desert campsite before Olivia disappears. Eleanor, an L.A. plastic surgeon and a lonely lesbian, saw Olivia once in her office and later unknowingly gives a consult to Olivia's unstable mother, Asa, who has for several years cleaned Eleanor's office at night and begins to track the surgeon's whereabouts once she discovers the doctor's connection to Olivia. Meanwhile, Alexandra, enjoying a flirtation with the surgeon that begins after a body that might be Olivia's is found, stays at Eleanor's canyon home for a month, visited occasionally by Asa, disguised as a door-to-door cosmetics saleswoman. Once Kirkwood maps out the particulars, every maneuver on the part of these characters is fraught with tension. Kirkwood's exploration of personal and spiritual metamorphosis is all the more powerful for its surprising subtleties. (Apr.)
Library Journal
A teenage girl runs away from herself. A mother runs away from her past. A cosmetic surgeon runs away from her need for intimacy. A transgendered woman runs away from society. Their paths cross ever so briefly in this taut novel of image and identity. Set in Southern California and navigating the gap between scenes of beauty and scenes of desolation, the story poses many questions. Is anatomy destiny? Is identity fixed or fluid? Does one's past predict one's future? Kirkwood's unsettling debut novel is tightly woven, with each passage revealing just a few threads. By the end, the characters each find what they were searching for, but the questions remain. VERDICT Published by Arktoi Books, which features works by lesbian authors, this brief, intense look at issues of personal identity may appeal to readers of literary fiction, especially within the GLBT community.—Susanne Wells, P.L. of Cincinnati & Hamilton Cty., Cincinnati
Courtney Gillette
Kirkwood has a command of the craft of fiction that is arresting ... The book begins with an epigraph from Jeanette Winterson, which sets the tone for Kirkwood’s precise language, erotic and transfixing mood, and characters who reveal themselves just enough without breaking any of the mystery that lies taut across this satisfying novel.
Debra Ginsberg
While slim, Catherine Kirkwood's debut novel (published by Arktoi Books, a new imprint of Red Hen Press dedicated to publishing works by lesbian authors) reads like a much longer work in terms of its thematic scope and intricate character development. Set in Los Angeles and the Salton Sea, Kirkwood's parched and illusory outer landscapes reflect perfectly the emotional aridity and confusion that permeate the inner lives of the characters in her story.
Justin Bauer
In her odd trio of narrators — a transgendered woman, the plastic surgeon she briefly lives with, and one of the surgeon's patients — Catherine Kirkwood's Cut Away literalizes and embodies these issues of self-definition and genuineness.
Susanne Wells
Kirkwood's unsettling debut novel is tightly woven, with each passage revealing just a few threads. By the end, the characters each find what they were searching for, but the questions remain.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780980040791
  • Publisher: Red Hen Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2010
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 152
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Catherine Kirkwood holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard University, a PhD in Women's Studies from the University of York, England, and a BS in psychobiology. Her work has appeared in the Pitkin Review, and in the fiction anthology New Voices. Her acclaimed feminist work, Leaving Abusive Partners, has been translated and sold internationally. Cut Away is her debut novel.

Born in Los Angeles, she grew up in a family of physicists and engineers who taught her to inquire about the world deeply, methodically, and rigorously. Her mother passed on a love for wilderness by taking her into the backcountry as soon as she could walk, teaching her to trust passion and instinct to find her way.

Catherine now lives in Seattle in a small, yellow cottage with her partner, a border collie mix, and two vintage cats. When she's not writing, she works as a systems analyst in cancer research.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 3, 2010

    Psychologically Astute and Cinematically Rendered

    Catherine Kirkwood's new novel, CUT AWAY, is set in the California desert as well as in L.A. Against this stark landscape, four characters--a lesbian plastic surgeon, a transsexual woman, an unstable mother and a runaway daughter--all get a bit of an existential makeover. On first glance this might seem the material of a ha-ha reality program. Not so. Not even a little. In Kirkwood's steady hand, questions of identity and beauty are brought delicately to the fore by way of character, each of which seems familiar and fresh at the same time. It's as though the author has taken someone we all know and drawn her while looking through a high-powered lens of compassion that yields a portrait with fresh angles. Who is that, we wonder. Are we really so different?

    This is a spare novel, and its barren landscape makes the messiness of life pop. What we think we need, what we think we want, how we stumble trying to get them both, this is what the characters struggle with here. Psychologically astute and cinematically rendered, the arduous metamorphosis of these characters will be with you long after the story ends.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2010

    Cut Away is a cut above

    Catherine Kirkwood manages in a few short pages to do what many authors take hundreds of pages to miss - she makes us care about her characters. Where many of us would be quick to hang labels, she clothes her characters with an easy humanity that allows the reader to set aside easy judgments and embrace that which is other. With the economy of a poet, she tackles sensitive issues with dignity and grace. A quick and easy read, Cut Away is hard to put down and will leave you wishing you had more time to spend with these remarkable characters and hoping that the second novel is in the works.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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