Domestic Life: A Novel in Parts

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9780671744335: Domestic Life: A Novel in Parts

Houston artist Ellen finds her already hectic life further complicated by the arrival of her nine-year-old stepdaughter, Tenny, and Tenny's psychotic biological mother, Raylene.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

First-novelist Webb delivers a hip, funny, and warmhearted look at uncharted areas of domestic life featuring a Houston artist who decides to have a baby with the low-key man of her dreams--and inherits a monster stepdaughter as part of the package. ``I don't think I would have been in this mess if my ovaries had held up.'' Ellen is nearly 35 in 1980. Although she considers herself a painter, she is holding down a ``day job'' in an art museum that consumes her nights and days. Ellen is an ``overcompetent'' woman with a taste for antique pottery and good handmade rugs. In 1980, however, she loses an ovary and decides that she'd better ``fish or cut bait'' as far as having a child is concerned. Enter Kenneth, a laid-back, balding musician she'd met years ago. Ellen agrees to have his baby, but what she doesn't expect is Tenny, Kenneth's daughter, a little girl so troubled that she overturns Ellen's antique punch-bowl and slashes her own wrist with a glass shard just to get attention. As the 80's roll on, Ellen succeeds in having her own wonderful baby boy and moves with Kenneth to an interesting if ramshackle old house. Through it all, Tenny--as well as Tenny's shrieking mother, Raylene--manipulates and destroys all the objects Ellen thought she loved. Ellen and Kenneth give and give, until even the blindly loving Kenneth gets tired of hearing Tenny's demands. In the end, however, Ellen becomes a painter, a real working artist, forsaking the museum and her love of good Italian shoes and good everything-else for part- time teaching work and the love of a good man. Webb kicks in the myth of the wicked stepmother, bringing Texas-style wit and good writing to this postmodern tale of love and survival. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

This flip, hip case-study of contemporary domesticity zeros in on Ellen, a painter putting in 80 thankless hours a week to run an art museum in Houston. Home is no more restful, however--she's the stepmother of a uncontrollable girl. Six years ago, when Ellen fell in love with Kenneth, a musician playing a string of dives, his three-year-old, Tenny, was part of the deal. Now Ellen and Kenneth have a baby, Kenneth is a suit-wearing nine-to-fiver and Tenny lives with them Tuesdays, Thursdays and alternate weekends. She is supposed to spend the remaining days with Raylene, her impossibly irresponsible mother, who refuses to divorce Kenneth. ("Understand: Raylene is Nutssic cap N ," advises narrator Ellen). First-novelist Webb focuses on the long, triangular battles of Ellen, Raylene and Tenny, quoting Ellen's exchanges with lawyers and therapists as well. Tenny breaks Ellen's heart along with her antiques, doing her best to destroy as much as possible. But Ellen's parents have taught her to "adapt or die," and the way she puts up with Tenny becomes both funny and poignant in Webb's bravely breezy telling.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Paula Webb
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