Where She Went

Where She Went

by Kate Walbert
     
 

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The first half of Where She Went chronicles the life of Marion Clark, a "company wife" who repeatedly packs the household and accompanies her husband around the globe with a "melancholy view before her of what seemed like endless houses with endless garages and endless kitchen windows." In the stories that follow, her adult daughter Rebecca dutifully

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Overview

The first half of Where She Went chronicles the life of Marion Clark, a "company wife" who repeatedly packs the household and accompanies her husband around the globe with a "melancholy view before her of what seemed like endless houses with endless garages and endless kitchen windows." In the stories that follow, her adult daughter Rebecca dutifully attempts to fulfill her mother;s thwarted aspirations, "but isn't sure where to go, whom to pray to, what to say. She hears voices rising in no epiphany only confusion, repeating Marion;s wishes."

From the patchwork of communication that unfolds between mother and daughter, Walbert creates a narrative that is both fractured and lyrical. The stories are linked not only by characters but also by the repetition of certain haunting and idiosyncratic images-Marion's yellow nightgown, "l'heure bleue"-that rise mysterious as talismans.

Rebecca continues her family legacy of wandering, traveling farther and farther afield. But hers is a world viewed with a slightly off kilter eye, one that invokes Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, Mohammed's faithful followers at Topkapi Palace, as well as the landscapes of Italy and Jamaica, Istanbul and Paris. Ironically, if Marion had no free will, Rebecca has an excess. This mother and daughter, each uniquely of her own generation, remain locked, firmly, in longing.

Where She Went is an epic for our times-an Odyssey that takes home on the road.

Kate Walbert was born in New York City and raised in Delaware, Georgia, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Japan. She has degrees from Northwestern University and New York University. Her fiction and articles have appeared in numerouspublications, including The Paris Review, DoubleTake, Fiction, The Antioch Review, Ms., and The New York Times. Walbert also writes for the theater, and her play, Year of the Woman, has been produced at the Yale School of Drama and at Villanova University. She is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts as well as fellowships from MacDowell and Yaddo. She currently lives in New York City and Connecticut, where she teaches writing at Yale University.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Where She Went contains many quick flashes of beautya Japanese boy glimpsed squatting naked in the snow, an incandescent photo of a white-faced stranger turning up in Marions roll of film, like some kind of angel sent to warn her, a blind man lying in the Arno like a dog to drink, his tongue turning blue then rose red then gold. . . . Where She Went goes far, and takes us with it.
Glamour
A small press wonder, Kate Walberts Where She Went chronicles the complicated bond between a daughter and mother, both of whom are deeply affected by the latters career as a company wife, dutifully following her executive husband around the globe. These interlocking stories read like a novel, in which images and characters appear, disappear, and finally, blur into a haunting collage of fractured lives.
Small Press Review
Walbert successfully creates two voices to communicate the very different lives of these two women. Each story is complete within itself, yet as a whole they have the power to convey the bond that holds these women together even as their lives pull them further apart.
Ploughshares
The fourteen pieces that make up the book are more vignettes than stories, largely elliptical and fragmentary in style. Individually, they are not quite complete, but they accumulate in power, Walberts prose always lyrical, images and phrases recurring to great effect. . . .
The Village Voice
Told sometimes in third and sometimes in first person, the linked stories in Kate Walberts first collection shift their . . . focus between a mother, Marion, and her daughter, Rebecca. . . . Marions New York is keenly observed; her fresh-out-of-Indiana optimism decked out in white gloves, hat, and wholesome trepidation; and her Japan incisive, eerie, sensual, and threatening. Whats finally apparent is that these stories include all the technique, orginality, and control necessary to the creation of a fine collection. . . .
The Hartford Courant
Kate Walbert has a painters eye and a poets voice. In Where She Went, . . . she has composed a work as fragile and melancholy as a watercolor bleeding in the rain. . . . The book abounds with quick impressions, odd and startling images of beauty or grotesquerie that enhance its otherworldliness. This is a book whose wistfulness enchants as it discomfits. It may be the perfect reading for a rainy summer day.
San Francisco Bay Guardian
In this debut collection, . . . Walbert produces a feast from a few choice ingredients, deftly illuminating a handful of characters, their ways of life, and the places that held them. . . . The judicious use of evocative, believable detail (the pattern of wallpaper, details of clothing and personal experience) punctuates the dreamier landscape of a mother and daughters dovetailed experiences.
Choice
Walbert is a master of technique. . . . The metaphor that most aptly applies here is of a magnificent cathedral over which the scaffolding still stands, partially obstructing the view. . . . These stories of two lives depicted in a series of journeys is a worthwhile read.
BookLovers
Walbert has devised an unusual interconnected series of stories based upon what might be described as locational dysfunction. . . . The communication which evolves between mother and daughter throughout the individual stories is at once disjointed and poetic. Rebeccas attempt at fulfillment remains eerily vacant; her life ultimately a mere shadow of her mothers, but for her greater free will. Mother and daughter are decidedly of their own generations, yet fused in an interrelated yearning.
Molly Giles
. . .Where She Went contains many quick flashes of beauty. . . .Where She Went goes far, and takes us with it.
New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Moving through a series of slow-motion vignettes, Walbert's meticulous, unshakably sad collection of linked stories provides glimpses into the lives of two women: one condemned by her husband's career to wander from one middle-sized American city to another; the other her daughter, who takes a series of European vacations in the doomed hope of living up to her mother's dreams of fun and romance. Trapped in a conventional, 36-year-old marriage, '"hollowed out' by depression after the cradle death of her second child, passionate Marion Clark imagines a world of glamour through the postcards and letters of her first and only surviving child. The distinction between traveling for pleasure and traveling by necessity is analogous to other distinctions between the lives and opportunities of mother and daughter. As Marion once did, 30-something Rebecca goes to New York in search of love and success, but without the husband-hunting sense of purpose that guided so many working women of the 1950s. Aimless and melancholy compared to her mother, Rebecca glides from one lonely, lazy affair to another before drifting into marriage (she asks for a divorce on her honeymoon), wishing all the while that she could live up to her mother's expectations of the 'adventurous'" life. Sometimes these enigmatic stories are precious and overworked, straining toward a hush of despair. At their more frequent best, however, they resonate with surprising pathos, and these moments establish Walbert as one of the season's most promising, idiosyncratic new writers.
Library Journal
Walbert offers a debut collection of linked stories about a mother and her daughter. Marion accompanies her husband on a series of job transfers, her rootless existence made all the more painful by loneliness and isolation. We see Marion as a woman of great spirit who lacked the opportunities to realize her potential. Daughter Rebecca, supposed to fulfill Marion's dreams, sends Marion postcard accounts of her travels across Europe and elsewhere. But the Rebecca stories are less compelling: what we get are mostly fragmented accounts of bizarre happenings in foreign countries. We assume that Rebecca's upbringing, along with a family tragedy, has left her unable to commit or find direction, but this connection is never made clear, and the character's self-absorption makes her unsympathetic. -- Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, University of Idaho Library, Moscow
Molly Giles
. . .Where She Went contains many quick flashes of beauty. . . .Where She Went goes far, and takes us with it. -- The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Walbert's spare first fiction takes the shape of compellingly linked stories—the splintered mosaic of a mother and daughter. Each story, titled by city and date, traces the dual journeys of Marion Clark and her daughter Rebecca, two women possessed by restlessness and entrapped by an unspeakable ennui. Marion's 'life' begins in 'Niagara Falls 1955,' opening appropriately on her honeymoon with the dashing Robert, corporate executive and the era's answer to Mr. Right. Her previous life as a young typist in Manhattan evokes images of Holly Golightly and beatnik clubs in the Village—making Marion's eventual years spent dutifully following Robert from city to city all the more poignant. Tokyo, Rochester, Norfolk, Baltimore—Marion all but withers on the vine as each new move further fragments her identity, until the birth and subsequent death of her second daughter finally ease her over the edge into a suicide attempt and to 'A Place on a Lake 1966' to recover. Yet when she returns, she hasn't really healed—instead, she's picked up the skill of disappearing inside herself. The young Rebecca recognizes her as an imposter.'

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140283631
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/01/1999
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
1,451,685
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

The first half of the book chronicles the life of Marion Clark, a company wife who repeatedly packs the household and accompanies her husband around the globe with a melancholy view before her of what seemed like endless houses with endless garages and endless kitchen windows. In the stories that follow, her adult daughter Rebecca dutifully attempts to fulfill her mothers thwarted aspirations, but isnt sure where to go, whom to pray to, what to say. She hears voices rising in no epiphany only confusion, repeating Marions wishes.

From the patchwork of communication that unfolds between mother and daughter, Walbert creates a narrative that is both fractured and lyrical. The stories are linked not only by characters but also by the repetition of certain haunting and idiosyncratic images Marions yellow nightgown, lheure bleuethat rise mysterious as talismans.

Rebecca continues her family legacy of wandering, traveling farther and farther afield. But hers is a world viewed with a slightly off kilter eye, one that invokes Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, Mohammeds faithful followers at Topkapi Palace, as well as the landscapes of Italy and Jamaica, Istanbul and Paris. Ironically, if Marion had no free will, Rebecca has an excess. This mother and daughter, each uniquely of her own generation, remain locked, firmly, in longing. Where She Went is an epic for our timesan Odyssey that takes home on the road.

What People are saying about this

Edwidge Danticat
Lyrical, sad, beautiful, and triumphant stories of journeys deep inside ones soul.
Marly Swick
In the spirit of such luminous, haunting classics as James Salter's Light Years or Evan Connell's Mrs. Bridge, Kate Walbert's Where She Went is an impressionistic mosaic that somehow, as if by magic, brings to life the complex shape of a family's history over the course of decades. It's fresh, funny, and heartbreaking all in the same breath.

Meet the Author

Kate Walbert's fiction and articles have appeared in numerous publications, including the Paris Review, Doubletake, Fiction, the Antioch Review, Ms., and the New York Times. She currently lives in New York City and Connecticut, where she teaches writing at Yale University.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, New York, and Stony Creek, Connecticut
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Education:
M.A. in English, New York University
Website:
http://www.katewalbert.com

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