From the Publisher
“One of the year's edgiest books.” Teen Vogue
“[A] potent grown-up tale about an everyday suburban familyincluding two well-drawn teenage daughtersteetering on the edge of destruction. Affecting and insightful!” US Weekly
“This precocious debut by a 17-year-old author bears unblinking witness to an ordinary family's plunge into folie a quatre…Spellbinding…Marquit skillfully interweaves recurring motifs…Sure to attract a Gen-Y following and further traumatize parents.” Kirkus
“Marquit's dark subject matter…echo[es] Joyce Carol Oates…[a] youthful feat.” Publishers Weekly
“A prismatic page-turner about the lies we tell ourselves and each other, and the inventions we cling toall from a young scribe who's well on her way to brilliance.” Caroline Leavitt, author of Girls in Trouble
"To Mom, Dad, and Adam, for being the family upon which this book is based-just kidding." With this tongue-in-cheek dedication, 16-year-old Marquit displays a sense of humor that her blunt, melodramatic profile of a dysfunctional family otherwise mostly lacks. When restless head of the family Harry flies off on a business trip to Cleveland ("For once he felt free. And he loved this feeling"), his wife, Beatrice, is consumed by her need for him and comforts herself by robotically cooking his favorite meals ("Guess what? I'm making brisket tonight"). In the meantime, she neglects 16-year-old Lilli and 17-year-old Vivian-a bad move, because sexpot Lilli develops a crush on a college boy and a nasty habit of cutting herself, while awkward Vivian abruptly gets dyed, pierced and tattooed, and cultivates an eating disorder. It's to Marquit's credit that she makes an effort to get inside the heads of all four of her characters, and her breathy, italics-heavy narration and dark subject matter occasionally echo Joyce Carol Oates. Still, there's an emotional flatness to the story of Harry's eventual fling and Bea's nervous breakdown, and Lilli and Vivian's misadventures are only slightly more convincing. Marquit is at least as talented as fellow precocious teen author Nick Donell, but like Twelve, this is more youthful feat than fully fledged fiction. (Jan. 5) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Middle-class family in free fall. This precocious debut by a 17-year-old author bears unblinking witness to an ordinary family's plunge into folie a quatre. Harry, Beatrice, and their teenaged daughters, Vivian and Lilliana, alternate points of view in a narrative composed of frantic interior monologues, punchy declarative sentences, repetitive fragments, beaucoup italics, and stretches of dialogue only-all spellbinding at first but later tedious, since all the voices sound alike, minus the profanity in the case of goody-two-shoes Beatrice. Never was a mother so maligned. Just ask her. Bea's only crime is to be a prudish, conscientious housewife whose prime mission in life is making hubby's favorite meals. Which she continues to do, even though he's away on a two-week business trip. Lilli, 16, blithely fornicates with older boys in her bedroom. But her self-possession flags when she falls in love with the stubbornly seduction-proof Paul, her guitar teacher. She copes by mutilating herself with a formidable array of sharp objects. Meanwhile, older sister Vivian, 17, is reshaping her studious image and plotting virginity loss. A little anorexia, one piercing, a dye-job, and a butterfly tattoo later, she gains provisional admittance to the court of the high-school mean girl, glossy-lipped Katerina. After Kat manipulates her into posing for lesbian-porn Polaroids, Vivian becomes a social pariah but achieves her ultimate goal: a neat role reversal with Lilliana. The incredibly mean-spirited Harry bemoans his ennui with Bea's too-chaste adoration and brisket dinners all these years as he skips business meetings to revel in the fleshpots of-Cleveland? Marquit skillfully interweaves recurringmotifs, including the room that isolates the characters-the teenagers' bedrooms that Bea avoids (they threaten her denial), Harry's hotel room, Bea's kitchen. There are also the stains on Lilli's rug and Bea's blue dress. In a shocking close, implacable ironies descend on the family, but the heavy-handed, one-dimensional portrayals cheapen the thrills. Sure to attract a Gen-Y following and further traumatize parents. Agent: Arthur Klebanoff/Scott Meredith Literary Agency
Read an Excerpt
Shut the Door
She felt awkward without him there. As if her movements were newer, more different, emptier. Blind and without meaning. And she had never known about missing him before. He had always just been there, asking nothing of her but his breakfast, the paper, a cup of tea (he never drank coffee). And now he was gone.
She pretended not to notice the emptiness. The silence. She switched on the radio, hoping to fill the empty seat with music that would replace the concave shape his body had left in the cushion. Years he'd sat there. Just yesterday he'd sat here. She had made her coffee already. Sat noiselessly in her seat, sipped, and stared at nothing.
She stood up and began to boil water on the stove.
It was routine. She'd been doing it for the last eighteen years, and would continue to do it for her entire life to come. No matter what happened, he'd be there, and she'd be there. She would make his tea, and he would smile that same weary, worn-out, drab smile that was almost too familiar to her now. But she loved it. She loved the monotony. Longed for it. She knew he would smile at her in the morning. She knew it every morning she had woken up fifteen minutes earlier than he had, to cook his breakfast. She knew it when they were newlyweds. And when they had gone to bed angry. She knew it when he was overtired, when he was stressed. And although she always knew he would do it, sometimes there was a slight tinge of fear that he wouldn't.
He always does.
And there was nobody there.
She laid the mug down at his place. Just where he likes it: the left side of the plate. She laid his paper on the right and waited. She waited as if she were expecting him, as if he were only late or in a traffic jam or caught in the rain. But it was sunny outside, and he was not there. He was not in the house. Was not outside. He was not in the garage or off to work early. He was not there.
Bea never prepared breakfast for Vivian and Lilliana. They always managed to feed themselves, or went out with friends, she supposed. She didn't really say very much to them in the morning. Sometimes she didn't even see them, but it didn't matter. As long as he was there, everything was fine. Harry, drinking his Earl Grey and reading his paper in the same way every time. And giving her that halfhearted smile that seemed to consume more and more of his gradually depleting energy with each day that passed. But that was enough. More than enough even. All she wanted was that, but this day, she couldn't have it.
She stared across the table at the cup, the paper, the clean white plate, and the emptiness. She wasn't hungry, but decided to cook breakfast anyway. She never ate it; she was always on a diet. But he did, and often he finished the scrambled eggs that she had only picked at, after he had cleaned his own plate. "This is good," he would say.
She made French toast and scrambled eggs.
At first she felt funny dumping the food onto the white china, but then a sense of comfort, of regularity, seemed to guide her through the familiar movements. It felt good to have a routine. To be involved in something she knew so well. To continue things as they were meant to continue. And she sat in her seat, and stared at the plate of food that she knew would not move until she moved it. She filled up her own plate as well, and picked at the eggs, waiting to give him her half-eaten meal.
He wasn't there though. She knew it. She saw the empty space, the full cup of tea, the plate, the neatly sectioned paper fresh with the morning's headlines. And she smiled back at him. She smiled as she did when he gave her his weary grin, and suddenly, as if the words had taken on a life of their own and sprung from her lips, she said, "Glad you like it."
For a moment, her breath caught in her lungs, her heart bounced in her chest, her eyes bulged. He was not there. Harry is not here. But it had felt good to speak. To carry out things the way they always wereand always had been. She'd felt the familiar sigh of relief when she'd said it. He'd liked the breakfast. He was eating the breakfast. He was drinking his tea, and he'd just smiled at her. And she always replied in that same way.
She spontaneously ran to the kitchen door and swung it shut. She didn't want the girls to hear this. She didn't want anyone to hear. She didn't want anyone to see, so she yanked down the shades on both windows. Switched onthe harsh white lights, and took her place again. She was safe now. Safe from the world. Safe from her daughters. Safe from prying neighbors, from people who might wonder. She was just there, living. Alive. Getting on with things that need to be done.
She checked the date on her watch. Thought about how he'd never been away for more than a weekend. He'd be back from Cleveland in ten days. She missed him more than she'd missed anything in her whole life.
SHUT THE DOOR. Copyright © 2005 by Amanda Marquit. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y 10010.