The Law of Falling Bodies

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Jill Ciment's tough, tender first novel tells an unlikely, utterly beguiling love story. Both laugh-out-loud funny and heartachingly poignant, it is not only a delicate, loving portrayal of a daughter's fierce devotion to her wildly unconventional mother, but a surprisingly magical story of a true May/December relationship. Gloria is a modern-day "snake oil" saleswoman, a quixotic entrepreneur who sells everything from metal detectors to aphrodisiac perfumes but whose real stock-in-trade is hope. "I am not ...
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Overview

Jill Ciment's tough, tender first novel tells an unlikely, utterly beguiling love story. Both laugh-out-loud funny and heartachingly poignant, it is not only a delicate, loving portrayal of a daughter's fierce devotion to her wildly unconventional mother, but a surprisingly magical story of a true May/December relationship. Gloria is a modern-day "snake oil" saleswoman, a quixotic entrepreneur who sells everything from metal detectors to aphrodisiac perfumes but whose real stock-in-trade is hope. "I am not dealing with the banal arithmetic of earning a couple of bucks," she says, "I am dealing with the aerodynamics of human dreams." She and her teenage daughter, Kim, drive throughout the Southwest, pulling their trailer home from town to town, just one step ahead of the postmaster general ("I imagined him as a successful mailman with epaulets") and the FDA. It is the only world Kim has ever known - until Arthur literally comes crashing into their lives, demolishing the trailer and taking Kim's heart hostage. As the young girl and the gentle widower thirty years her senior begin to fall in love, a new home no less improbable than the first takes shape - an embodiment of the magic Gloria has tried all her life to peddle in a bottle. Meanwhile, Gloria has a vision in a car wash and launches into the scheme she hopes will bring her greatest triumph. . . By turns lyrical, droll, and hauntingly sad, this larger-than-life love story distills the ingredients of the only aphrodisiac that really works: one part mad dream, one part chance, and three parts genuine humanity.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The narrator of Ciment's quirky, sometimes funny, lyrical but disappointing love story is 15 when she falls for a kind widower 30 years her senior: Arthur accidentally rams his car into the trailer in which Kim and her loopy mom, Gloria, live. Kim's life has been bedlam; Gloria sells mail-order aphrodisiac perfumes, canine treadmills, weight-reducing solvents and other harebrained products while keeping constantly on the move in order to evade angry customers, the Food and Drug Administration and the postmaster general. Mother and daughter briefly join Arthur at his rented house in California, but when his relationship with Kim approaches the sexual, he flees. Several years later, after Kim has graduated from UC-Berkeley, she and Arthur meet again and become lovers, and she moves in with him. Meanwhile, Gloria's entrepreneurial world collapses, and in 1969 she crash-lands into their blissful household. Ciment ( Small Claims ) doesn't tell us enough about Kim's feelings or her sexual rivalry with her mother. Kim never comments on the age difference between herself and the too-gracious and considerate Arthur; their May-September union is simply a given. The offbeat ending, which telescopes the next 25 years, is anticlimactic and unconvincing. (Mar.)
Lindsay Throm
"The anomaly of childhood is that despite its brevity, childhood takes up a lot of square footage in memory's tight quarters." So says Kim, the narrator of this coming-of-age novel, whose childhood was a harried experience of chasing after the next golden opportunity, the one that would pay off. Kim's mother, Gloria, is an entrepreneur who sells her products through ads in the tabloids; though Gloria's products range from aphrodisiac perfumes to metal detectors to imaginary airplane rides in a pyramid scam, Kim figures out that her mother's real product is hope. Kim watches Gloria plan her businesses and sees that her motive is not money but the passion of dreams and that her primary customer is herself. Despite all she endures because of her mother's "idiosyncratic view of the world," Kim generously tries to understand Gloria. Through her understanding, she attains sympathy for the woman she ends up mothering. "The Law of Falling Bodies" is a story of survival and compassion told in a direct style that is comfortingly conversational.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671794514
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/2/1993
  • Pages: 192

Meet the Author

Jill Ciment
Jill Ciment was born in Montreal, Canada. Her books include two novels, Teeth of the Dog and The Law of Falling Bodies; a collection of short stories, Small Claims; and a memoir, Half a Life (available in paperback from Anchor Books). She has been awarded two New York State Foundation for the Arts Fellowships and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Ciment is a professor of English at the University of Florida. She lives in Gainesville, Florida.
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