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Notes in Solitude
Comment: The writer of these notes is, by profession, a tester of hospital software. So, ye readers should take whatever is written with a big grain of salt. A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, he studied Literature and thought he was a poet. His passion for Literature remains over these past eons.
Catherine “Moonie” Madison is a quiet woman, as silent as the growing corn in the Nebraska fields. It is the book long paradox that the narrator of this story is really a woman of few words, yet Jami Attenberg is able to sustain that paradox in her fine novel The Melting Season.
I must admit that I am always nervous when I start stories told in the first person. If I can’t relate to the narrator in some way, I just don’t finish the book. Yet Moonie is easy to like in her honest, quiet self-appraisal. She is a wonderfully uncomplicated character, as even and smooth as her beloved Nebraska. Attenberg’s strong command of her story and her even prose continually place us in the quiet, straight-forward soul of Moonie.
This story is a coming of age story somewhat reminiscent of Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Moonie has the usual assortment of dysfunctional family members: an alcoholic, melancholy, abusive mother and a cold, distant, uninvolved farther. Moonie’s inability to achieve satisfaction sexually via coitus with her husband is the metaphor for her inability to fully open to her husband and, in many ways, to life. I think she may understand that. It makes for interesting reading, a la John Irving. Valka, a woman who quickly becomes her best friend, is the Moonie we will never see…loud, adventurous, and worldly. Valka becomes the catalyst for Moonie’s coming of age and eventual escape from her life in the quiet Nebraska cornfields. (Valkyrie is, as we know, a female Norse warrior who dies in battle so I perhaps Attenberg intended for us to identify Valka with the warrior).
It is a well told story by a talented writer. Read it!