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A women traumatized by her past creates a new identity for herself with the help of friendship, music, art, the Psalms, and the poetry of Paul Celan. A first novel. 20,000 first printing.
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Mary Rakow has a Masters degree from Harvard University Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Theology from Boston College. She is a native Californian and currently lives in Los Angeles. The Memory Room is her first novel.From Publishers Weekly:
With subtlety, restraint and an extraordinary eye for detail, Rakow has constructed a breathtaking debut that avoids the clich‚s of abuse narratives as it tests the boundaries of prose and poetry. When Barbara Harris is stuck alone in an elevator, she experiences a torrent of long forgotten childhood memories, most of which involve the torture and neglect of Barbara and her two siblings by their monstrous parents. Barely able to function, she takes leave from her university job, but her condition worsens as she realizes that the people and things she once relied on cannot help her. She smashes her beloved cello; even her pastor dismisses her: "There's a lot of this going around. People saying they're remembering things." The man she loves, Daniel, has moved to England, and although her elderly neighbor, Josephine, attempts to coax her back into the real world, these good intentions have the opposite effect, putting pressure on Barbara to heal. With the gentle guidance of a psychologist, Barbara gradually puts herself back together, accepting her worth as an individual and taking renewed joy in what she loves. Drawing from the Psalms and the poems of Paul Celan, Rakow has written a novel that distills the mysteries of suffering, faith and salvation into a complex yet accessible whole. The horror of her tale is ultimately redressed by the sensitivity and skill with which it is told. (Apr. 15)Forecast: Readers who enjoyed Alexander Chee's well-received Edinburgh will be impressed by Rakow's handling of abuse, and fans of Anne Carson will be drawn to Rakow's style, a hybrid of poetry and prose. Strong reviews will have to set things in motion for this excellent small press offering.
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