Portrait of My Mother, Who Posed Nude in Wartime: Stories

Overview

"These beautiful stories freeze the sweep of the hands of the clock, they stop the beat of your heart, with the precision of their language and their generous emotion."—Frederick Busch

Linked stories follow a Jewish-American family across several generations. Clara comes from a restrained, secretive family lending the book a taut narrative tension. The big secret—her husband’s adultery during World War II—is not revealed until the last story. Sandor’s prose is quiet, moving, ...

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Overview

"These beautiful stories freeze the sweep of the hands of the clock, they stop the beat of your heart, with the precision of their language and their generous emotion."—Frederick Busch

Linked stories follow a Jewish-American family across several generations. Clara comes from a restrained, secretive family lending the book a taut narrative tension. The big secret—her husband’s adultery during World War II—is not revealed until the last story. Sandor’s prose is quiet, moving, psychologically acute.

Marjorie Sandor is the author of The Night Gardener (Lyons) and A Night of Music (Ecco). Her fiction has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize XIII, and The Best of Beacon. She teaches at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Ten connected stories, heavily doused with family secrets, are served up in this eclectic collection by Sandor (The Night Gardener and A Night of Music). Young Rachel Gershon is intent on ferreting out the family secrets, from those rife in Grandmother Eve's house in Indiana in the 1930s to those that still reverberate in her parents' home on the oceanfront in California. In "Elegy for Miss Beagle," Rachel's mother, Clara, grows up in a sterile environment, where the doors and curtains are drawn at all times; she fantasizes about death, until her piano teacher commits suicide. Marriage to Abe, "a skinny young man with a sad face" who is haunted by a pack of war memories, doesn't liberate Clara. She is bored and, in the title story, poses nude for an artist while she is pregnant. Later, in "God's Spies," Rachel sees how good adults can be at keeping secrets when her mother signs up to pose again, this time covered from head to toe in gold paint for a local arts festival. There are many confessional moments when Grandma Eve and Clara and Abe, as grown parents, tell Rachel bits and pieces of the family lore. This Jewish family saga, though well written and intriguing, can get bogged down in all the cloak and dagger. Recommended for larger collections.-Molly Abramowitz, Silver Spring, MD Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A powerful second collection (after A Night of Music, 1989) of ten connected stories about family and history in the tradition of Alice Munro's The Beggar Maid. Sandor's distant first-person permits an examination of the repetition of history in a single family. "They named her Clara," begins the first story, "Legend," which follows Clara's mother through the aftermath of giving birth and serves as launching pad for a wandering treatise on motherhood, the past, and "the future, that perverse and squirming bundle whose gaze tells you nothing you can count on, but watches your move with unblinking eyes." "Capacity" catches up with Clara, now grown, on her first failed attempt to leave home for situations she isn't prepared for; and "Gravity" follows a much older Clara, now married to Gabe, who, despite Clara's vertigo, arranges for her to go up in an airplane to spread his ashes when he dies. The title piece switches to Gabe's family for another daughter's recollections of her mysterious mother. It coalesces around the time when her mother is pregnant with the narrator, but not so far along that she can't commit the vague sin of posing for a painting that will never be seen. "It was a year of maiden-lady suicides," begins "Elegy for Miss Beagle," a piano teacher. Music is a theme throughout the Sandor's writing. She is sentimental and nostalgic in the best of ways: you sense an unblinking affection for characters, a positive regard even in the face of error and sin. Their sadness is real, their regret tangible: "Closing my window, I wished myself in her place, going north on that bus, leaning my cheek against the cool window while other passengers, men and women with unknowable lives, sleptor told each other stories, making them better or more horrible than real life . . . . " A step forward for a strong talent. Agent: Colleen Mohyde/Doe Coover Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781889330822
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books
  • Publication date: 5/1/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 196
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Legend 11
Capacity 21
Elegy for Miss Beagle 43
Orphan of Love 63
Portrait of My Mother, Who Posed Nude in Wartime 87
The Handcuff King 113
Annunciation 135
God's Spies 153
Gravity 179
Malingerer 189
The Author 213
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