Morality Tale

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"The narrator of Morality Tale, Sylvia Brownrigg's comic new novel, has been finding domestic life something of a strain. She's tired of her husband's ongoing negotiations with his angry ex-wife and fretful over her two stepsons, tossed around on the rough waters of their parents' divorce." When our heroine meets Richard, an amiable envelope salesman, she finds the man's warmth and his nice lines of Zen philosophy a little too hard to resist. So begins an adventure of the heart and the home that will eventually take her across the San Francisco
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Morality Tale: A Novel

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Overview

"The narrator of Morality Tale, Sylvia Brownrigg's comic new novel, has been finding domestic life something of a strain. She's tired of her husband's ongoing negotiations with his angry ex-wife and fretful over her two stepsons, tossed around on the rough waters of their parents' divorce." When our heroine meets Richard, an amiable envelope salesman, she finds the man's warmth and his nice lines of Zen philosophy a little too hard to resist. So begins an adventure of the heart and the home that will eventually take her across the San Francisco Bay and into the shadows of Mount Tamalpais - where ghosts of her past betrayals still wander, and important revelations await.
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Editorial Reviews

Elinor Lipman
divinely deadpan…Brownrigg's writing will remind readers of Carol Shields, whose quirky adjectives gave texture to her writing in a way that seemed effortlessly engaging and astute.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Pan, the curiously nicknamed narrator of Brownrigg's (The Delivery Room) trim latest, has come to realize the truth in the old saying, "What goes around comes around." It's been five years since her husband, Alan, left his wife for her, and she's disenchanted that their married lovemaking isn't as passionate as their adulterous action was. Plus, Alan barely helps around the house, Pan's not exactly enamored of her stepsons, and Alan is still hopelessly entangled with his combative ex, Theresa. So when Richard, a kindhearted envelope salesman, walks into the stationery store where Pan clerks, a harmless one-sided romance blooms in the form of letters Richard leaves for her. Of course, when Alan finds Richard's letters, he's less than understanding. The early charms of this novel, including an absorbing rendering of a suffocating and dreary marriage, soon wear thin: Pan becomes increasingly precious as an episode from her past is clumsily offered as an explanation for her disaffection, and her obtuseness about her meanness toward Theresa is frustrating. The setup is there, but the follow-through doesn't deliver. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Emma Bovary wannabe ponders an alternative to her mundane domestic lifestyle in this dreamlike but grating modern fable. The unnamed narrator of Brownrigg's fifth work of fiction (Delivery Room, 2006, etc.) has grown tired of the life that her husband Alan has constructed for them, seemingly with little input from her. She quietly passes her days working in a stationary store; she puts up with Alan's constant contact with his ex-wife Theresa; and she reluctantly though tenderly helps him raise his two sons, Alan and Ryan. While she doesn't like admitting that anything is wrong with her marriage, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to Richard, a burly envelope salesman who visits her at work and initiates a series of weekly lunch dates at a nearby falafel stand. The two grow increasingly attached, though they don't act on any physical impulses, and the narrator is hard pressed to understand her attraction to Richard or his place in her life. Things unravel when Alan catches them holding hands in a park, then finds a pile of affectionate notes from Richard in her purse. His jealousy leads to a spiral of squabbles, spying and joint therapy sessions. But just when the narrator seems ready to rebel and run, a trip to her childhood home with Richard and the news that he is moving back to Chicago makes her understand that her life with Alan hasn't ended, that it just needs work. Because Brownrigg seems so dedicated to pinpointing the minute details often to blame for the downfall of a marriage, the melodramatic climax and optimistic ending seem inconsistent and a bit contrived. Her ability to lend an otherworldly feel to such a contemporary story, however, is commendable. Slow plotting and anexhaustingly cerebral narrator muffle the impact of the author's interesting experiments with tone.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582434049
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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