Tumble Home

( 2 )

Overview

"Tumble Home" is narrated by people with skewed visions of home. Not exactly crazy, they become obsessed and irrational as their inner logic leads them astray. In the title novella, a woman living in a psychiatric halfway house writes to a man she has met only once. Proceeding in brief vignettes that link and illuminate, she recounts her peculiar life with the other patients. The accretions of anecdote lead deeper and deeper into the psyche and history of the narrator, gradually revealing the reason for her urgent letter.
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Tumble Home: A Novella and Short Stories

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Overview

"Tumble Home" is narrated by people with skewed visions of home. Not exactly crazy, they become obsessed and irrational as their inner logic leads them astray. In the title novella, a woman living in a psychiatric halfway house writes to a man she has met only once. Proceeding in brief vignettes that link and illuminate, she recounts her peculiar life with the other patients. The accretions of anecdote lead deeper and deeper into the psyche and history of the narrator, gradually revealing the reason for her urgent letter.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An eminent practitioner of the minimalist short story whose pieces are sometimes no longer than a page, Hempel ("Reasons to Live") flirts with a longer form in this third collection, her first in seven years, which includes a novella and seven stories. The short pieces, ranging in length from a paragraph to several pages, are perfectly captured moments. In "The Children's Party," casual dialogue and familiar scenes hint at the sadness and loneliness shared by the adults and children gathered for a summer party at a lake. Other tales evoke the knockabout fun of young families on a summer weekend, the torment engendered in a woman by the graveyard across the street from her house and the emotional impasse of a solitary female traveler visiting a familiar vacation spot. But the titular novella is the standout here. It's presented as an extended letter composed by a woman recovering from a nervous breakdown; the intended reader is a famous painter she once met. The epistolary form fits Hempel's stylistic strengths, allowing her to dismiss the requirements of narrative and, instead, link together, through carefully detailed vignettes, whatever wanders into the woman's fragile mind. Stories about the woman's life in an institution, recollections about her mother's suicide, questions about the painter's life and a devastating moment in which she notes that she sleeps in the same position in which her mother died are presented in spare, acutely focused prose that gradually reveals just how skewed the woman's connections to the world have become. A gentle but morbid humor, less present in the stories, permeates the novella, investing it with a tone that is wonderfully effective and true.
Kirkus Reviews
Hempel's third volume of precious miniatures ("At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom", 1990, etc.) includes a novella that reads like an inflated version of its short, fragile companion pieces, one no more than a paragraph long.

Which would be fine if that paragraph ("Housewife") were a finely etched, poetically dense bit of prose, but it's just short and rather silly. The six other pieces, some a page or two long, are offered in support of Hempel's claim that the miraculous abides in the ordinary, which here seems to mean scenes of domesticity, full of babies, children's games, and dogs. "Church Cancels Cow" and "The Annex" both concern the narrator's house, set across the street from a cemetery, where, we learn, one can watch dogs roaming and where a headstone for a dead baby is visible from every room. Summer resorts are the settings for three vignettes: "Weekend," an idyll spoiled only when the men leave for work on Monday; "The Children's Party," which features a moose sighting; and "The New Lodger," the narrator's return to the site of past loves. The longer "Sportsman" chronicles a rough patch in a marriage, which the husband deals with by heading east to stay with friends on Long Island. The title novella is an extended letter written by the narrator from a sanitarium, and reflects the bitter patter of mental patients, odd comments hinting of deeper meanings. She writes to a famous painter with whom she once had tea, and tells him about her fellow "guests" at the former girls' school, such as Chatty, the southern belle and telepathic healer. The narrator fills her time by walking dogs from a nearby shelter and brooding on her mother, a frustrated artist who committed suicide. These ramblings try to impress with their sensitivity to "objects in the world," but come across as an accumulation of scattered bits.

Tales much like the poetry Hempel quotes: imagistic with no emotional or aesthetic heft, nor even a particular sensitivity to language.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684838878
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 5/28/1998
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 668,083
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Amy Hempel is the author of Tumble Home, Reasons to Live, and At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom, and the coeditor of Unleashed. Her stories have appeared in Elle, GQ, Harper's, Playboy, The Quarterly, and Vanity Fair. She teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Bennington College and lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Weekend 13
Church Cancels Cow 17
The Children's Party 23
Sportsman 33
Housewife 49
The Annex 53
The New Lodger 61
Tumble Home 67
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Customer Reviews

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