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In this emotionally charged first novel, meet Catherine Kelly, a young cocktail waitress on the brink of her first trip alone to Madrid, Spain. From the beginning she is a feisty young woman, hard-edged and honest; yet as she leaves a world she knows and enters one she does not, a softer side comes through, a self-conscious vulnerability.
The most monumental loss in her life, her father abandoning her as a child, is revealed slowly as she navigates her way through the city of Madrid, through its heat-filled splendor, its oldworld cobblestone neighborhoods, its crammed, car-filled streets, its grandiose Palacio Real, which sits outside her window like a vision of perfection.
In her detailed reflections about her father, Catherine remembers a man who was charming and alcoholic, a man who regularly took his seven-year-old daughter to a bar and played games with her, amused her -- who instilled her with such adoration, such comfort, that she will spend the rest of her life, once he leaves, forever pining for him.
In the distant world of Madrid, Catherine finds an almost equaled symbiosis with an amusing older man named Esteban, who serves as her Spanish host. He introduces her to the glamorous city, to its culture and nightlife, and encourages her to revel in the exhilaration, the miraculous thrill, of being young and far from home. It is only after Esteban makes a certain disturbing proposal that Catherine ends up calling home and prompting an emotionally explosive visit from her father.
Christina Fitzpatrick's new novel explores the effects of a parent's abandonment on a child in spare, masterful prose. These conflicts demonstrate with luminous intensity what it means for a young woman to finally face the father whom she has missed and forever hoped for, the father who is as foreign to her as this newfound country, the beautiful, bright world of Spain.
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Christina Fitzpatrick received her MFA in 1999 from Sarah Lawrence College. She has worked as a bartender for the past ten years. The author of Where We Lived, she has also taught writing at Iona College, Gotham Writers' Workshop, and Valhalla's Women's Prison. She currently teaches ESL in Rome and remains affiliated with Teachers and Writers Collaborative in Manhattan. She divides her time living in New York City and abroad.From Publishers Weekly:
Conflict between mother and daughter is a staple of fiction today. But conflict between father and daughter the core of Fitzpatrick's absorbing if long-winded first novel (after the story collection Where We Lived) is less frequently dissected and certainly not with the sharpness Fitzpatrick brings to the project. Her narrator and protagonist, Catherine Kelly, is putting herself through Boston University by working as a cocktail waitress. Wary of men because her father left her when she was a child, she shares an apartment with the only man she can get close to, an adoring and adorably fey gay man. The year she turns 20, Catherine takes a summer internship in Madrid. The job is negligible, but her roommates are charming, introducing Catherine to their circle of friends, who sweep her up into Madrid's nightlife. But halfway through her stay, her father shows up, and in the week he visits, Catherine begins to know, and to confront, him. Fitzpatrick ably weaves scenes from Catherine's past through those set in Madrid, building suspense in a story that could have become a travel journal. With incisive description and biting, lively dialogue, Fitzpatrick nails her characters, especially the men in Catherine's life. Both Harlan, the gay man Fitzpatrick rescues from stereotype, and Catherine's father, with his toupee and Aqua Net, are unforgettable. Moreover, Fitzpatrick captures precisely the peculiarities of bar life, while never veering far from her themes: how men value women and how Catherine values men. Fitzpatrick does go on, however: too many bars and far too many headlong sentences explaining Catherine's thoughts. As a witness and narrator, though, Catherine is completely credible, which is why the reader keeps reading and cheering her on.
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