Such fastidious recall is a Proustian gift. With all due regard for her achievement as a novelist, Harrison appears Proust-like in another respect: She is her own truest subject, an unending wellspring of emotion and restless quest. If to write means to share the full measure of one's experience, any reader of these essays is well-served. — Kai Maristed
Harrison's affinity for vivisecting the soft underbelly of social mores-displayed in The Kiss, The Binding Chair, etc.-is vividly apparent in this series of autobiographical essays. Detailing aspects of a privileged girlhood lived with eccentric maternal grandparents while yearning to be with her beautiful but promiscuous mother (Harrison's parents married at 18 because Harrison's mother was pregnant; her father, the subject of The Kiss, vanished soon after), Harrison reveals bouts with eating disorders as well as an attraction to religious fervor (the rapture of the title). Raised concurrently with Christian Science and Catholicism, Harrison is fascinated by the complications wrought on the spirit by the body. She records bodily functions-e.g., vomiting, lice picking, childbirth-as avidly as she recounts the grisly mortifications of the flesh inflicted upon the saints. (In describing her mother's early death from breast cancer and her reaction to it, she illuminates the tale of St. Catherine of Siena's drinking of the cancerous pus of an enemy.) At times the prose sings, at others it merely plunks. Many of these essays are more self-revelatory than self-exploratory. The most evocative piece, the title essay, shows Harrison at her thoughtful, provocative best, mindful of the flaws and desires within everyone, while the essay on nitpicking for lice depicts an almost callous disregard for racial and class differences. Agent, Amanda Urban. (On sale May 13) Forecast: Harrison's previous controversial works will create a ready audience for this memoir, especially among the literary-leaning boomers and well-read soccer moms for whom many of these essays have appeal. An author tour and interviews will stoke interest further. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
In this autobiographical collection of snapshots from her life, Kathryn Harrison is unabashedly honest about herself and her experiences. From her childhood, when she lived with her grandparents after her teenage mother in essence abandoned her, to her own experiences as a mother of two children, Harrison exposes herself and lays open her wounds for all to experience with her. Harrison's prose is razor sharp and incredibly descriptive. Throughout her life, she has been obsessive about different things, from food to time to religion. She relates the experience of "transcendence" (rapture) she felt through religion at an early age, the return to which consumes her and even forms the title of this work. Captivated by the lives of the saints, Harrison began to mortify her own flesh and became anorexic, all in attempts to gain control over her life and to win her mother's attentions. Harrison grew into womanhood without the guidance many of us have as we mature. Thus, as a wife and mother, she floundered at times, openly admitting in one chapter that she had no idea of what makes a home. She makes writing her home, building "interior castles" where she lives. The "scenes" that Harrison chooses to share are often difficult to get through, aptly illustrating the author's struggle to make her way through childhood, adolescence, and now, adulthood. Such a brutal, honest portrayal of oneself and one's family is rare, and is to be admired. KLIATT Codes: ARecommended for advanced students and adults. 2003, Random House, 186p., Ages 17 to adult.
This intimate collection of essays primarily tackles two broad topics: a woman's experience as a granddaughter, daughter, wife, and mother and a journey from unhappiness to happiness. Novelist Harrison does not deal here with the incestuous adult affair with her father she described in her novel Thicker Than Water and in her nonfiction The Kiss, which created a storm of controversy. Although she does not gloss over her many family problems, such as her mother's desertion when she was very young and the psychological difficulties it caused her, she treats the problems matter-of-factly, as if to say that she has risen above them. The essays gain strength from this understatement. Happy moments, such as those with her own children, are captured here, too: "But the baby is in my hands, and my husband takes a picture as I start to weep. How beautiful she is." The title essay concerns her experiences with religion as she followed her mother from church to church. Appropriate for public, academic, or special libraries, especially those with women's studies or psychology/counseling collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/03.]-Nancy P. Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, NC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From memoirist and novelist Harrison (The Seal Wife, 2002, etc.), a collection of personal essays on love, longing, loss, and childhood. Having revealed her incestuous relationship with her father in The Kiss (1997), the author here explores how her life was transformed by longing for her mother, who abandoned her early to the care of her grandparents. Mom left her behind, Harrison learned, as a replacement daughter, in essence using her as a hostage to buy her own freedom. Now a parent herself, Harrison writes from a safe distance of her mother and grandmother, the two women she loved, and of her own childhood. At age six, a transcendent experience in the arms of Christian Scientist practitioner made her believe that the spirit could conquer matter and that it was within her power to transform herself into an object worthy of her remote mother's love. From this conclusion followed such self-destructive behavior as mortification of the flesh, bulimia, and shoplifting. Harrison's childhood and youth were lonely times when she strained to be loved and, failing that, escaped into an interior landscape of her own creation. Yet her writing also contains humor: a vivid account of her grandmother's passion for cats and their futile attempts to breed Himalayans at home, for example, and a delightful description of their misadventures at the DMV, where she twice helped her aging grandmother cheat to get her driver's license renewed. Scenes from Harrison's life as an adult show her working to be the kind of mother she never knew. Some depict quiet, introspective moments as she ponders the difference between her children's lives and her own childhood; others are fraught with anxiety as she fights toprotect them from the world's evils, though the enemy may be merely a single blood-bloated tick or an invasion of recalcitrant head lice. Poignant glimpses into the life of a survivor.
“Seeking Rapture is the biography of a hungry heart. . . . Affecting, beautifully crafted autobiographical meditations.”
—The Boston Globe
“Revealing . . . [Harrison] has produced enthralling essays that bring to mind the robust metaphysics of Kathleen Norris and Patricia Hampl. Kathryn Harrison has challenged herself—and won—with her passionate, rigorous thinking on family bonds and family bondage, and the mysterious intersections of body and spirit.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“[A] rich collection . . . Harrison aims, over the distance of time and often with dazzling accuracy, for unflinching display of motivations. . . . Such fastidious recall is a Proustian gift. With all due regard for her achievement as a novelist, Harrison appears Proust-like in another respect: She is her own truest subject, an unending wellspring of emotion and restless quest.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Harrison remains a master of her craft, with musings that are lyrical, insightful, and haunting.”
“It’s her fierce devotion to her absent mother that gives this book its shimmering grace.”
“Poignant glimpses into the life of a survivor.”
“The prose sings....Harrison [is] at her thoughtful, provocative best, mindful of the flaws and desires within everyone.”