Serpent in the Garden of Dreams by Robin Messing

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A lyrical and, at times, refreshingly humorous journey of one woman's search for her truth, this debut novel unfolds in a sequence of two alternating narratives.

In the first story line Tildy Glick recounts the moment her boyfriend, Ray, ends their year-long relationship. The event is experienced as a trauma more painful than even Tildy believes may be warranted. Unwilling to accept the loss, she spends the next year attempting to hold onto Ray by methodically recalling the minutest memories of their time together.

In the course of this obsessive process, she begins to observe that her own longings are rooted in a painful and emblematic childhood summer thirty years earlier. About to turn 13 she is obsessively attached to a mother who showers her with intrusive attention and, alternately, abandons her due to her interest in a married lover. Tildy is unprepared when her father, a man with a simmering sense of failure and an inability to express himself, leaves the family in the middle of the night after a fight with his wife, leaving Tildy and her older brother, Kenny, to contend with their mother's unraveling.

These narratives resonate and play off one another in the way that memories intrude on, inform, and punctuate present experiences. The characters are profoundly human and profoundly flawed, hoping for greater things, helpless in the face of their own failings, yet determined to make sense of their own lives.

About Robin Messing

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ROBIN MESSING's fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and magazines including Washington Square, The Sycamore Review, North Atlantic Review, The Brooklyn Review, and New York Newsday.
Published May 1, 2008 by The Permanent Press. 169 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Tildy’s adult attempts to capture and hold her incandescent mother through memory make for the most vivid and immediate scenes in the book, but the switching among recent memories in the first person and other childhood memories in the third is jarring, and keeps the childhood events at a distance.

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