Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Cure for Grief by Nellie Hermann

The Cure for Grief by Nellie Hermann is a lovely book that sinks into the skin and simmers. When I read that Hermann has a MFA from Columbia I almost cringed. I’ve read far too many novels by MFA graduates that read like dissertation attempts at brilliance. Full of gorgeous language and overwrought metaphors, the story rarely lives up to the hype and I end up shelving the book wondering why I bothered reading it. How rare is it, therefore, to come across a book that I immediately wanted to reread as soon as I had closed the cover, to read it with a new awareness, explore the foreshadowing and metaphor Hermann uses with true mastery. Her ability to move through narrative time, using flashbacks with a grace and ease that makes the transitions so smooth as to be flawless. This is brilliant writing without being pretentious. As the story of Ruby Bronstein unfolds, as her father’s past overshadows the family’s more immediate anguish, as tragedies, both past and present, smother the ability for Ruby to speak, the danger of silence becomes increasingly evident. In light of my recent conference experience in which the power of words and their healing effect was explored and described by various professionals, I ached to just hold Ruby and listen. There was something cathartic about reading the novel and that there is something artistic happening in how Hermann uses her imagery is so evident as to make this the sort of novel I would easily recommend and encourage others to read. My only complaint is the authorial intrusion that occasionally occurred. It was unfortunate and absolutely unnecessary. Hermann is clearly too talented a writer to fall into lazy habits. I look forward, with eagerness, to reading her next novel.

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