The Whiteness of Bones

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Mamie Clarke, raised on the sacred Hawaiian island of Kaua' i, is imbued with a sensuousness as potent as that of the island itself. But as she nears adulthood, Mamie is determined to find her place in the alluring world outside the palm groves of her home, determined to free herself from the island's ancient spell.

She leaves college to visit her worldly aunt in New York, where she is joined by her younger sister, Claire. Claire's self-destruction becomes a foil to Mamie's ...

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The Whiteness of Bones

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Overview

Mamie Clarke, raised on the sacred Hawaiian island of Kaua' i, is imbued with a sensuousness as potent as that of the island itself. But as she nears adulthood, Mamie is determined to find her place in the alluring world outside the palm groves of her home, determined to free herself from the island's ancient spell.

She leaves college to visit her worldly aunt in New York, where she is joined by her younger sister, Claire. Claire's self-destruction becomes a foil to Mamie's earnest and romantic nature as they make their way through the treacherous decadence of a society obsessed with money, power, sex, and drugs.

Mordant, funny, and magical at once, Susanna Moore gives an uncompromising look at New York in the eighties, and a moving, true portrait of a young woman coming to terms with herself and with her past.

Looking for her place in the alluring world outside the palm groves of her idyllic home in Hawaii, Mamie Clark visits her aunt in New York. As she makes her way through the treacherousness of a society obsessed with drugs, sex, money, and power, she seeks a reconciliation with her own island truths.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Returning to the Hawaiian setting of her highly praised first novel, My Old Sweetheart , Moore here evokes also the fashionably decadent milieu of the idle rich in 1980s Manhattan. Mamie Clarke grows up on the island of Kauai, desperately seeking the attention of her remote, ``benignly distracted'' mother. When she is 12, Mamie is sexually fondled by a trusted servant, a traumatizing event for which she feels she is to blame, and which leads her to despise her body and her femininity. Socially inexperienced and naive, at 21 she goes to New York to live with her scatty Aunt Alysse, one of a group of free-spending, indolent, vacuous, boozy and much-married womenall of them out to snare yet another man. Mamie is able to resist Alysse's meretricious values, but her younger sister Claire, who has reacted to their upbringing by becoming as irresponsible as Mamie is preternaturally guilty and responsible, eagerly enters into Alysse's sophisticated circle, where she falls prey to the drug culture. While Moore's spare but lyrical prose is compellingespecially when she describes the rhythms of island lifeher psychological portrait of Mamie eventually takes on an overwrought and rather hysterical tinge. Nonetheless, this is an engrossing novel, profoundly disturbing in its message of feminine guilt, yet satisfying in Mamie's eventual recognition of how to ``purify'' her soul. Mar.
Library Journal
In this coming-of-age novel by the author of My Old Sweetheart LJ 10/15/82, 20-year-old Mamie Clarke moves from Maui to New York, hoping to exorcize childhood ghosts that have left her emotionally numb. She achieves peace after a series of alternately amusing and sordid adventures with assorted urban cosmopolites. Unfortunately, few of the potentially interesting characters are fully realized; Moore's justly praised spare prose style here serves her ill as the dry vocalizations of an omniscient narrator. Repeatedly, the reader is told about rather than shown the characters' inner lives. When Mamie and her companions do speak for themselves, they command attention, as do vivid descriptions of Hawaii, but these moments are all too few. Not an essential purchase. Starr E. Smith, Georgetown Univ. Lib., Washington, D.C.
Michiko Kakutani
Ms. Moore possesses a finely tuned radar system for phoniness and pretension, and many of her cameo portraits glitter with a Waugh-like humor. Indeed, she demonstrates in this novel that she not only has a gift for deliniating the tragedies of domestic life -- our loss of innocence, our discovery of the disparity between the public and private selves -- but she also has the capacity for comic invention, for showing what happens when our vanities run amok. -- The New York Times
From the Publisher
“An utterly wonderful novel. . .I envy everyone who enter, for the first time, its world.” —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World

"A remarkably sly balancing act: a deeply sensual, richly imagined coming-of-age story that manages to use a wickedly satiric portrait of the uppercrust in the Manhattan of the early 1980s." —The Philadelphia Inquirer

"An alluring novel, sure in its embrace of the reader. . .who is swep away by Moore's eye for detail."—Newsday

"Ms. Moore possesses a finely tuned radar system for phoniness and pretension, and many of her cameo portraits glitter with a Waugh-like black humor. Indeed, she demonstrates in this novel that she not only has a gift for delineating the tragedies of domestic life...but that she also has a capacity for comic invention, for showing what happens when our vanities run amok."—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"An engrossing, sensual novel whose characters seem to live from the moment of their introduction and whose plot is both believable and satisfying. In short, The Whiteness of Bones is the kind of book you'll read, re-read, and remember."—West Coast Review of Books

“So evocative you can almost feel the mud between your toes. . . . Moore makes her story as real and mysterious as any island legend, as powerful as the scent of the white ginger flowers.” –Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Moore’s controlled prose maintains her ambitiously serious intent. As much as women love Colette’s and Virginia Woolf’s portraits of adored mothers and their daughters, many will identify more with this wounded pair.” –Ms.

“Spare but lyrical. . . . An engrossing novel, profoundly disturbing in its message of feminine guilt.” –Publishers Weekly

“A remarkably sly balancing act: a deeply sensual, richly imagined coming-of-age story that manages to use a wickedly satiric portrait of the uppercrust in the Manhattan of the early 1980s.” –The Philadelphia Inquirer

“An engrossing, sensual novel whose characters seem to live from the moment of their introduction and whose plot is both believable and satisfying. In short, The Whiteness of Bones is the kind of book you’ll read, re-read, and remember.” –West Coast Review of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385260794
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/1/1989
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 277

Meet the Author

Susanna Moore is from Hawaii but now lives in New York City. She is the author of the novels In the Cut, The Whiteness of Bones, Sleeping Beauties, and My Old Sweetheart, which won the Ernest Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for First Fiction, and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. A nonfiction travel book, I Myself Have Seen It, will be published by the National Geographic Society in 2003.

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