From the author of The Kept Man comes an uneven road story about a woman fleeing from her past. Catherine “Moonie” Madison, 25, runs away from her stifling smalltown Nebraska life with a suitcase full of her husband's money, ending up in Las Vegas, where she finds a confidante and partner in crime in Valka, who, like her, is looking for escape. As the story progresses, Attenberg fills in Moonie's backstory via flashbacks; unfortunately, Moonie's hard-luck story is far less interesting than her adventures in Las Vegas. What resonates is her friendship with Valka, her dreamlike evening with a crew of hedonistic celebrity impersonators and her sometimes naïve observations on being outside of Nebraska for the first time. There's a promise of redemption as Moonie begins piecing together an unconventional life and stand-in family, but there's a certain deliberateness to the empowerment theme that makes it feel less than real. There are some nice moments, and Attenberg has a knack for poignant description, but the author seems distracted from the story she set out to tell. (Jan.)
Catherine Madison is on the run, headed west with a suitcase full of cash. We know little more than that she's leaving rural Nebraska to escape marriage and family troubles. Catherine winds up in Las Vegas, where her story slowly comes out as she befriends Valka, a cancer survivor abandoned by her fiancé. Thematically, Attenberg's latest (after The Kept Man) is akin to the "young woman finds her own path to overcome abusive family and adversity" genre exemplified by Jane Hamilton's The Book of Ruth and Janet Fitch's White Oleander. Unfortunately, Catherine is not a particularly engaging character, and quirky plot twists that could have been rendered darkly humorous are delivered in such flat prose that the reader's not sure if they were meant to be funny. VERDICT While the final revelation is heartbreaking, one feels more sympathy for Catherine's mother than the two daughters she psychologically damaged. Still, Attenberg's previous books have been popular, so her fans will be looking for her latest. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/09.]—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Young Nebraska farm wife flees marital and family troubles for a Las Vegas adventure. For Catherine Madison, stealing nearly $200,000 from her estranged husband Thomas was the easy part; it's what to do with herself afterward that proves tricky. Hoping for a fresh start, or at least a chance to bide her time, she drives, trancelike, to Las Vegas and checks into a suite. At the hotel casino Catherine meets Valka, a cancer-survivor bombshell who takes pride in her reconstructed breasts and glamorous wigs. Valka takes the troubled younger woman under her wing and out on the town. They party with a troupe of celebrity impersonators, including a gender-bending Prince look-alike who takes a shine to naive Catherine, who has never been with anyone except Thomas. Soaking up the Sin City debauchery while claiming to still be in love with her husband, Catherine, egged on by Valka, slowly reveals the complex issues (one of them a doozy) that drove her and Thomas apart. Needy, sexually-insecure Thomas does not come across well, but Catherine has plenty of her own baggage, including an abusive alcoholic mom, emotionally remote dad and promiscuous teenage sister. No wonder she clung to Thomas like a life-raft, making their separation especially traumatic. Ultimately, concern for her pregnant sister gives Catherine the courage to face her family and its painful secrets before they destroy the happiness of another generation. Talented Attenberg (The Kept Man, 2008, etc.) deftly keeps things from getting too maudlin, and damaged, quirky Catherine makes for an especially convincing heroine. Intelligent, moving portrait of a journey to self-awareness, with meaty characters and a refreshing absence ofpsychobabble.
"Attenberg's narrative voice - a lean, straight-ahead, deadpan tone that cuts cleanly through Catherine's hypocrisy and self-pity like a laser-guided strike - makes The Melting Season singular and disquieting."
"A rich novel, one that begins as a road-trip yarn but then contains enough twists to form a complicated emotional journey."
-Time Out Chicago
"Attenberg's imagery is picture perfect and, many times, tragic.Her complex characters are not only relatable but share a journey we have all traveled: leaving home and discovering for the first time who we really are and where we belong."
"With a trail of whiskey and Diet Cokes in her wake, Catherine heads west to leave behind a damaged marriage. Reading about her life in Vegas and her road to self-discovery in this novel feels like peeking at a friend's diary."
"Attenberg is a brave, honest writer with scary talent, and this novel about a young woman heading west to escape a failing marriage and a small town is her best yet."
"An intelligent, moving portrait of a journey to self-awareness, with meaty characters and a refreshing absence of psychobabble."
"[Attenberg] renders poignant prose and portrays the desperate behavior of her characters with verve."