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Big as life : three tales for spring
Maureen Howard
Adult Fiction HOWARD

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From Publishers' Weekly:

With a sharpshooter's eye and brilliantly attuned sensibility, Howard considers the implications of the spring season in the second in a projected series of works (after A Lover's Almanac) inspired by the natural world. In tensile, beautifully articulated prose, she reveals the souls of people who reflect on renewal and redemption in three richly conveyed settings. In the "April" section, a young woman inherits the house where she lived for a while as a child with two eccentric maiden aunts and brooded in a secluded turret. Ruminating on her ancestors and the play of nature in their lives, the adult Marie Claude also muses on her own life and the future of a new relationship. A rich, elegiac tone pervades "May." Nell Boyle, an 18-year-old Irish beauty with secret shames and hidden sins, is sent to live with her wealthy cousins in America and becomes a wary observer of their dysfunctional family. Watching as her innocent young cousin Mae's burgeoning religious fervor is squelched by the reserved, upper-crust Boyles, Nell contrasts the adult Mae's conventional but heartbreakingly empty existence with her own unhappy past. In the tripartite "June" section, Howard examines the sacrifices required by passionate commitment. The extraordinary life of nature artist John James Audubon is seen through the eyes of his long-suffering wife, Lucy. "Salvino" revisits Artie and Louise, from A Lover's Almanac, again reflecting the interplay of nature against a background of academia in its most political incarnation. The final panel, "Myself," is a crisp quasi-memoir, revealing Howard's own "landscape of memory" of the flora and fauna that had a significant impact on her imagination. Howard's language is fresh and energetic, her metaphors luminous. Her narrative method filtered vignettes, shadowy implications, layers of complexities, delayed explanations results in challenging, adventurous literary fiction. Agent, Gloria Loomis. (May 21) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

The second installment in Howard's cycle of fictions based on the four seasons, this work revolves around awakening and the urge to go forward. The first story in this challenging if beautifully written collection is "Children with Matches," in which Marie Claude, recounts her strange childhood. Complete with eccentric aunts and a housewith a mysterious and sometimes scary tower, it is the stuff of magic, but Howard's frequent, mercurial flights between time frames and characters sometimes leave the reader confused. In the second story, the beautiful but besmirched Nell is sent from Ireland to live with relatives who have little patience with her, but Nell takes charge and goes forward. Again, Howard's use of language is incredible, but the seemingly excessive entanglement of so many plotlines disrupts the narrative's flow. The third story is about John James Audubon, who suffered no obstacles in his quest for success. This is followed by the author's thoughts on her relationship to nature and a modern couple's search for spiritual balance; the connections to Audubon are tenuous. Though Howard's language is often enjoyable, the stories themselves lack cohesion. For larger collections. Patricia Gulian, South Portland, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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