The thing that caught my eye about U.S.! was the blurb on the back cover from Heidi Julavits, who was at Dartmouth when I was there. I am not sure if I ever actually met or even saw her in the flesh, but I do remember always hearing people refer to her by her nickname, “Heidi the ’90.” (She was also at the center of my now infamous toast of Bill Chisholm the night before Graduation, although it really had nothing to do with her at all.) I saw her first novel, The Mineral Palace, briefly noted in Briefly Noted, and read it on the floor of the bathroom of our little bungalo one night when I couldn’t sleep on a scuba diving trip to Little Cayman. Alexandra was two at the time, and I remember thinking to myself, at the end of the book, that I bet she (as in Heidi Julavits) doesn’t have kids. Which is not really a criticism of the book, which I thought was good; but it’s the kind of thing I could have seen myself come up with (although obviously not as good) when I was in college or law school, or whatever, but not after Alexandra was born. I don’t think I can explain it, really, but, while I wouldn’t call the plot “unrealistic”, it’s hard for me to imagine the desire to write that type of story. Which is perhaps the genius of it. In any event, I really enjoyed The Effect of Living Backwards. Although, again, I assumed, at the end of the book, that she did not have any kids, (this time on grounds of “realism”), I liked the structure, loved most of the dialogue, and thought it was a really poingant reflection of what it means to be a sister, so much so, in fact, that I gave it to one of my sisters. Anyway, back to U.S.! I thought it was pretty much crap.
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