On the heels of her mesmerizing bestseller, The Lake of Dead Languages, Carol Goodman has written a brooding, captivating novel that skillfully weaves fairy tale themes into a modern web of intrigue.It is a novel about the secrets mothers keep, and the daughters who must live in their shadows.Iris Greenfeder, ABD (All But Dissertation) has just turned forty, lives in Manhattan, and works three teaching jobs to support herself.Recently she's felt that the "buts" are taking over her life: all but published, all but a professor, all but married (to Jack, her boyfriend of ten years). Yet the sudden impulse to write a story about her mother leads to a shot at literary success. The piece recounts an eerie Irish fairy tale her mother used to tell her at bedtime -- and nestled inside is the sad story of her mother's eath.More than fifty years ago, Iris's mother, Katherine Morrissey, arrived at the Catskills' grand Hotel Equinox penniless, with almost no belongings.
An aspiring writer delves into the long-buried mystery of her novelist mother's death in this silky-smooth novel by the author of The Lake of Dead Languages. Water, from Iris Greenfeder's perspective, is the Hudson River. She has a view of it from her five-story walkup in New York City's westernmost Greenwich Village, and it shimmers in the distance from the Equinox, the Catskills hotel where Iris grew up. Her father, Ben, was the manager at the Equinox; her mother, Kay, a former maid, wrote two fantastical novels there.Driving the plot is the not-so-simple question: did Kay write a third novel,and is it hidden at the Equinox Back at the hotel for the summer, Iris plans to write the story of her mother's life and search for the missing manuscript.As she attempts to solve the mystery, she is abetted and thwarted by a large cast of characters, including her mother's famous literary agent, the mega-millionaire owner of a hotel chain, the daughter of a famous suicidal poet, an all-knowing gardener and the delicious Aidan Barry, whom Iris meets while he's still in prison. The novel's first-person, present-tense narrative fosters intimacy, though it somewhat undercuts suspense. More effective is the use Goodman makes of the Irish myth of the selkie-half-seal, half-woman-as told by Iris's mother. Mystery, folklore, a thoroughly modern romance, a strong sense of place and a winning combination of erudition and accessibility make this second novel a treat. (Jan.) Forecast: This novel is tailor-made for book clubs, as Ballantine is well aware. It will later be issued as a Ballantine Reader's Circle trade paperback, and it should build handily on the success of The Lake of Dead Languages.Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 30, 2003
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Excerpt from The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman
My favorite story when I was small, the one I begged for night aftenight,was "The Selkie."
"That old story," my mother would say. She'd say it in exactly the same tone of voice as when my father complimented her dress. Oh, this old thing, she'd say, her pale green eyes giving away her pleasure. "Wouldn't you rather something new?" And she'd hold up a shiny book my aunt Sophie, my father's sister, had bought for me. The Bobbsey Twins or, when I was older, Nancy Drew. American stories with an improving message and plucky, intrepid heroines.
"No, I want your story," I would say. It was her story because she knew it by heart, had heard it from her mother, who had heard it from hers . . . a line of mothers and daughters that I imagined like the image of me and her when I stood by her side in front of the mirrors in the lobby.
"Well, if it will help you sleep . . ."
And I would nod, burrowing deeper into the blankets. It was one of the few requests I stuck to, perhaps because my mother's initial hesitation came to be part of the ritual-part of the telling. A game we played because I knew she liked that I wanted her story, not some store-bought one. Even when she was dressed to go out and she had only come up to say a quick good night she would sit down on the edge of my bed and shrug her coat off her shoulders so that its black fur collar settled down around her waist and I would nestle into its dark, perfumed plush, and she, getting ready to tell her story, would touch the long strands of pearls at her neck, the beads making a soft clicking sound, and close her eyes. I imagined that she closed her eyes because the story was somewhere inside her, on an invisible scroll unfurling behind her eyelids from which she read night after night, every word the same as the night before.