Eva knows she has to step up for her mother as wedding preparations continue, despite the grief she feels over her best friend's death and her realizations about the secrets her parents kept from her as well as from each other. For Eva, the convergence between her past and present comes to a head in the weeks leading up to her mother’s wedding. A mother-daughter last hoorah at a New Jersey spa culminates in Eva’s understanding of the truth, the truth she tried to keep from surfacing as well as the discovery of a secret that could be impossible for her to move on from.
On the Rocks is a novel about mother-daughter relationships, betrayal, annoying relatives, the power of laughter, family secrets, and a love that lingers from childhood even after the beloved’s death. It is both hilarious and poignant, and its heroine’s observations are laugh-out-loud funny at the same time they break your heart. Brad Watson has described Theodora Ziolkowski as descending “from a line of writers including the late-greats Eudora Welty (in her sometimes-under-appreciated comic mode), Flannery O'Connor, Charles Portis, and Lewis Nordan, and more recently the great George Singleton. She's darkly funny with a fine eye for the everyday bizarre absurdities that make you want to lie about some of the people you come from.” According to the judge for the Next Generation Indie Book Award, “The strength of the voice in [On the Rocks], the humor layered over the pain, the need to turn away from the pain and yet confront it make this fast, funny, poignant [novella] memorable.”
The Revised and Expanded Edition includes a foreword by Antonya Nelson, a preface by the author, a reading guide, and the author’s preferred version of the text.
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From On the Rocks . . . To cope with Sebastian’s death, a tragedy that continues to teach me how differently humans grieve, my mother cut off her hair and let it go gray. Before she laid her Facebook account to rest, she posted pictures of all the clothing she’d amassed, volunteering them to any takers who fit a size 6. If that wasn’t drastic enough, she resigned from her book club. Her wardrobe now consisted of peasant tops and maxi skirts with botanical patterns. Also, wide-legged rompers that gave her the appearance of an overgrown toddler. The real cherry happened when I told her I was taking a leave of absence and she thought I was pregnant. “I’m going to be a baba!” she cooed. Watching her face light up, I was almost tempted to sustain the charade. Stuff a pillow under my jumper and beg her to come to my aid. My mother, Leonora Marino, was in no mind to lessen the time we spent together. In fact, though I sometimes wanted her to give me space, leave me to hibernate in the fort of pillows and blankets I’d made in front of my TV, it ultimately did not matter how exasperating she could be. We were an inexorable force when we were together. I needed her more than ever.Now it was springtime, almost a year after Sebastian died, when my mother phoned to tell me she was throwing a bridal shower for herself, and that I’d sure as the chickens come home to roost better be there. “You’re the Maid of Honor, Eva. So no excuses, m’kay?”Leonora Marino was betrothed to the owner of a used car dealership called the Lemon Tree. One unfortunate detail about her fiancé’s claim to fame being that its office and lots were painted an aggressive yellow. This meant it was only natural that, upon crossing into the Lemon Tree’s domain, you became restless, pervaded by a wild urge to flee. I often noticed potential customers swaying as they waited to be assisted, bouncing on their heels. Their conduct an outcome not of impatience, but rather of an effort to disguise their discomfort. It occurred to me that Ted Turbine might have designed the space precisely so that the hooey of swapping countless tons of metal for the big bucks was done swiftly. If that were the case, Sherwin-Williams shade Big Bird was a strategic decision, and not at all outside of the realm of techniques used by a person in his position . . .