Hula

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For two young girls in the early 1960s, the family backyard is both playground and prison. Steamy, verdant, cloistered - the yard's secret places tantalize the imagination, but also reveal disturbing glimpses of a war-haunted father and dreamy, distant mother. The younger sister narrates, introducing us to her older sister's ritual taunts, her mother's increasing withdrawal, her father's volatile temper. Told over the course of two hot summers, the story builds in power and portent as the girls' sexuality ...
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Overview

For two young girls in the early 1960s, the family backyard is both playground and prison. Steamy, verdant, cloistered - the yard's secret places tantalize the imagination, but also reveal disturbing glimpses of a war-haunted father and dreamy, distant mother. The younger sister narrates, introducing us to her older sister's ritual taunts, her mother's increasing withdrawal, her father's volatile temper. Told over the course of two hot summers, the story builds in power and portent as the girls' sexuality surfaces and the parents' marriage strains toward its end. Voyeuristic, at times surreal, Shea's lyrical first novel probes the dark corner where adolescent fantasies and terrors converge.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
A strikingly gifted writer.
Boston Sunday Globe
Sensuous, harrowing and mesmerizing...from the beginning, she a establishes a tension that builds almost unbearably as the novel progress.
Elle
An example of that rarity, an authentic child's voice...haunting, poetic...
New Yorker
The tenacity of the narrator and the imaginative resources she brings to bear on day-to-day survival literally make you ache.
Francine Prose
Sophisticated and shockingly pure, artful and seemingly artless....I have never read anything quite like it.
Kaye Gibbons
What a finely tuned and frighteningly real version of an American childhood!
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In her remarkable first novel, Shea hauntingly evokes the spirits and sensations of childhood. The lives of two sisters at the crossroads between childhood and adolescence are described in lyrical, hypnotic prose. Set in the early 1960s, nearly all the action takes place in the backyard of the girls' suburban Virginia home, to them a surreal, adventurous place in which they act out their wishes, hopes and dreams, and try to cope--often ritualistically--with family dysfunction. Their father, whose mind has been ravaged by war, is given to drunken gunplay and sudden explosions of rage. Their mother is whimsical and distant; the marriage is disintegrating. The girls are forced back upon their inner resources and each other for a sense of security. Convincingly portraying the budding sexuality of early adolescence in sometimes shocking situations, Shea re-creates the numinous landscape of childhood in which animals and vegetation possess immanent intelligence and personality. The nameless terrors in their home life counterpoints the irrepressible optimism that is native to childhood and that, Shea implies, can see children safely through the grimmest of circumstances, such as the searing climax of this quiet, expertly told novel. (Jan.)
Library Journal
This tale of the conflict between two sisters in the early 1960s marks the fiction debut of a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in such wide-ranging publications as Esquire , the New York Times Book Review , and People.
Donna Seaman
The family members remain nameless in this claustrophobic and often cryptic tale, an anonymity that lends a certain mythic terror to events and personalities. The father, a violent and crazy man, is a war casualty with a metal plate in the back of his head that glints ominously in the harsh Virginia sunlight. His two daughters, the prepubescent narrator who clings to her dog for comfort, and her often jeering and tentatively lascivious older sister, take out their fears and anger on dolls, mangling them and stuffing their body parts down a drainpipe. The mother, a former dance teacher fond of the hula, is an elusive and unhelpful presence. There are many similarities between Shea's first novel and Elizabeth Berg's lyrical "Durable Goods" , another tale of two sisters abused by a mentally disturbed father, but Shea's is by far the darker and more surreal and mysterious of the two, a curiously unsettling and indelible creation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393035896
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Pages: 155
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 8.12 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa Shea, winner of a Whiting Writers' Award, lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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    Posted January 16, 2009

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