The Resource Chatter : a novel, by Perrin Ireland

Chatter : a novel, by Perrin Ireland

Chatter : a novel
Title remainder
a novel
Statement of responsibility
by Perrin Ireland
Sarah's and Michael's troubled marriage is pushed to the breaking point by the revelation that he has a daughter whom he has never mentioned, his secrecy about his past, and his compulsive need to visit his former lover. By the author of Ana Imagined
  • Chatty in tone, this appropriately titled debut novel features a cast of characters who converse and think in clipped sound bytes. Initially distracting, the author's peripatetic pacing mirrors the media-generated background noise that accompanies contemporary life. As the story of Michael and Sarah, a middle-aged couple whose marriage is challenged by the appearance of a daughter Michael never knew he had, evolves, the slice-of-life plot is bolstered by the almost omniscient television and radio reports chronicling the political and cultural fallout of a landscape steeped in the tensions generated by the ever-present threat of global terrorism. When the quirky, dialogue-heavy narrative is read between the lines, an eventually affirmative portrait of a modern relationship resonates with hidden depths. -- Flanagan, Margaret (Reviewed 09-01-2007) (Booklist, vol 104, number 1, p)
  • After a career at the NEA and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Ireland published her debut novel, Ana Imagined , in 2000, and follows it with this intriguing, sophisticated look at talk in marriage. Comfortable Bostonians Sarah and Michael are sorting out their childless 18-year marriage (the second for both) when Camila, a beautiful 30-something Latina, turns up claiming she's Michael's daughter. Michael, who already has a daughter from his first marriage, is “great-looking and mischievous and charming,” but hot-tempered and uncommunicative about his past, including his Latin American Peace Corps stint. As the consequences of Michael's continued stonewalling spin out, he prepares to visit Camila's mother. Sarah, meanwhile, seeks comfort in the arms of a man she meets on a train. Ireland is less after their story than the ways Michael and Sarah communicate, a pointed staccato rife with missed connections, misdirection and blithe ignoring. That chatter is also bombarded from the outside by TV, radio, periodicals and other organs of the culture at large, often with complex effects—especially for novelist Sarah, and particularly given the pointedly post-9/11 setting. So while the plot is contrived and the characters honed to razor-thin dimensions, Ireland gets uncomfortably close to what people say about what they do. (Oct.) --Staff (Reviewed August 20, 2007) (Publishers Weekly, vol 254, issue 33, p44)
  • Having been married for 18 years, Bostonians Sarah and Michael have learned to adapt to each others' imperfections—namely, Sarah's persistent insecurities and Michael's secretive business trips. Hints of an immediate post-9/11 world—e.g., hotel evacuations, emptied restaurants, circling helicopters—brilliantly frame Sarah and Michael's world, which is tested when the beautiful young Camila lands amid their fragility, claiming to be Michael's daughter, conceived during his youthful Peace Corps days. Michael goes in search of Camila's mother, who may be able to help unravel the disappearance of Michael's old Peace Corps buddy, while Sarah dances along the edges of adultery with a man she meets on a train even as she begins her own search for Michael's long-lost friend. It's a lot to juggle, but Ireland (Ana Imagined ), who keeps readers engaged even while making clear that not every question has an answer, is more than up to the task. Strongly recommended.—Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI --Beth E. Andersen (Reviewed October 1, 2007) (Library Journal, vol 132, issue 16, p61)
  • Literary fiction picks apart politics and a marriage, often confusing the two.Sarah is a nervous wreck. A homebound writer who is having trouble naming her novel-in-progress, she's afraid of being alone, of terrorism and of her husband Michael leaving her, a legitimate possibility. The couple have each been previously married, and two years earlier Michael had "announced his intention to leave," reconsidering only after looking around his "beloved backyard" and realizing "we'd lose EVERYTHING." The realization that her marriage stands on such rocky, materialistic ground has prompted Sarah to censor her speech, if not her actions, and although she suspects Michael is having an affair, rather than confront him she invents excuses to follow him on a business trip. The truth she uncovers about Michael—that he has a grown daughter from an early liaison—turns out to be more troublesome than a simple affair. His daughter, the exotic, beautiful Camila, is oddly seductive and seems to harbor ill will toward Sarah; her absent mother, Magdalena, is another threat. Sarah's one good friend, Rachel, is undergoing treatment for colon cancer, but while Sarah accompanies her to chemotherapy and doctor's appointments, Rachel throws herself into the mystery of Michael's earlier life, spurring Sarah on to research Michael's time in the Peace Corps and the mysterious Magdalena's subsequent, perhaps violent life. Ireland (Ana Imagined, 2000) makes connections between the personal and political, showing how Sarah externalizes her insecurities into a near-constant fear of terrorist attacks. But her protagonist is so fearful and rigid that her first-person narration is annoyingly choppy. Much of the dialogue comes in non sequiturs, and too many highbrow references stand in for characterization. Ultimately so narcissistic she believes she killed her first, Vietnam-era fianc because she "hadn't protested the war," she never garners sympathy.Self-conscious analysis of a cooling marriage fails to work as a metaphor for world affairs. (Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007)
Cataloging source
Dewey number
no index present
Literary form
Target audience
by Perrin Ireland
Chatter : a novel, by Perrin Ireland
Control code
23 cm.
1st ed.
X, 245 p.

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