Laura Rider's Masterpiece

Laura Rider's Masterpiece

3.2 15
by Jane Hamilton
     
 

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Laura and Charlie Rider have been married for twelve years. They share their nursery business in rural Wisconsin, their love for their animals, and their zeal for storytelling. Although Charlie's enthusiasm in the bedroom has worn Laura out, although she no longer sleeps with him, they are happy enough going along in their routine.

Jenna Faroli is the host of a

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Overview

Laura and Charlie Rider have been married for twelve years. They share their nursery business in rural Wisconsin, their love for their animals, and their zeal for storytelling. Although Charlie's enthusiasm in the bedroom has worn Laura out, although she no longer sleeps with him, they are happy enough going along in their routine.

Jenna Faroli is the host of a popular radio show, and in Laura's mind is "the single most famous person in the Town of Dover." When Jenna happens to cross Charlie's path one day, and they begin an e-mail correspondence, Laura cannot resist using Charlie to try out her new writing skills. Together, Laura and Charlie craft florid, strangely intimate messages that entice Jenna in an unexpected way. The "project" quickly spins out of control. The lines between Laura's words and Charlie's feelings are blurred and complicated, Jenna is transformed in ways that deeply disturb her, and Laura is transformed in her mind's eye into an artist. The transformations are hilarious and poignant, and for Laura Rider, beyond her wildest expectations.

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Editorial Reviews

Ron Charles
Amateur writers, along with the whole universe of advice books, workshops and conventions, also come in for some sustained ribbing, as though Hamilton were venting the frustration of a thousand tedious bookstore readings and summer writing seminars. It's a comedy, yes, but a meta-comedy, a romance novel that's very self-consciously about the nature of romance novels and the romance of writing…To the extent that this romantic intrigue is funny, it's also surprisingly sophisticated and frequently creepy. Hamilton's sharp eye for the private quirks of married life has always been a little unnerving, and now it seems odd that she didn't drop more wit into her previous novels.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Oprah-anointed Hamilton once again takes readers to the Midwest, this time lacing her narrative with winning humor. Laura Rider and her husband, Charlie, live in Hartley, Wis., where they own and run Prairie Wind Farm. After 12 years of marriage, Laura decides to stop sleeping with Charlie, and although lovemaking is his "one superb talent," she's convinced she's "used up her quota." Also, Laura has a secret fantasy: to be an author. After she meets local public radio host Jenna Faroli, Laura decides to write a romance and encourages a flirtation between Charlie and Jenna, an experiment that she thinks will help her write her book. Their flirtation quickly slides into an affair, with Laura's sly interference. Laura, at once jealous and pleased, benefits from the inevitable chain of events, while Jenna isn't so lucky. Though the plotting is a bit predictable, the female characters are sharply observed and delineated, and the humorous tone will be an appealing surprise to Hamilton's readers. (Apr.)

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Kirkus Reviews
Hamilton (When Madeline Was Young, 2006, etc.) reinvents the menage a trois via the Internet in her lively sixth novel. When stoically married Laura tires of her puppy-like husband Charlie's volcanic sexuality and swears off lovemaking, her energies are reawakened to look beyond the successful "farm nursery" they run together in rural Wisconsin. Laura's dream of writing innovative, grownup romance novels is realized in surprising ways after she meets Milwaukee Public Radio talk show host (and neighbor) Jenna Faroli. Laura engineers Jenna's friendship with chronically extroverted Charlie, then manipulates that friendship by first assisting, then appropriating her husband's e-mail correspondence with his new girl friend/girlfriend. The inevitable occurs, skeletons emerge from both women's marital and familial closets, and a plot cleverly linked to that of a favorite novel (Evelyn Waugh's elegiac Brideshead Revisited) gathers up Jenna and Charlie in its jaws. Laura pulls strings; risks wrecking lives she believes she's enriching; and finds bliss at a climactic writers' conference. This very unusual novel's ballsy premise and haywire momentum are juggled expertly by the accomplished Hamilton, who somehow circumvents legitimate objections (e.g., no reader will believe Laura would not have foreseen Jenna's and Charlie's reactions to being thus thrust together) and keeps us eagerly guessing what further craziness lies in pages ahead. The harrowing story of how her father died serves to explain the narrowness of Laura's vision; nonetheless, she's never fully credible as a mixture of unpretentious charm and emotionally stunted duplicity-it's as if Mary Pickford and Joan Crawford took turns playingthe same person in the same movie. Charlie, however, is a wonderful character and an irresistible enigma: "Dreamer, yes; underdog, yes; artist, yes; bonkers, yes."Eccentric, intriguing, almost perversely readable and entertaining. Hamilton never disappoints.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780446538947
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
03/03/2010
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
1,142,430
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

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