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The Changeling by Joy Williams
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The Changeling

by Joy Williams

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it's challenging to spend a whole book in Pearl's mind, Pearl who herself seems to be hardly there at all. yet the book, swimming in gin and thereby skimming over so much of the real world outside herself until she achieves the condition, by refusing to engage, of transcending, transforming the real, creates its own reality in the drift, in the wild children who may or may not exist, who tell her everything and protect her, willingly caught inside her/their stories. it begins as a plane wreck, Pearl floating, rescued/not rescued, resurfacing on an island she cannot bear to inhabit or to leave. it's a force of life, caught perhaps in a moment of death or self-destruction, connected and tragically unconnected to the world around it, even to the inner life it still feels. first published in 1978, it resides in a profoundly female consciousness, set in another time we hardly can (manage to)(bear to) inhabit, where the mother splits, dissolves, after childbirth, and the child left behind is perceived as loved, as other, and as gone. ( )
  macha | May 13, 2019 |
A tough but unique and ultimately worthwhile read. The sustained confusion of a disoriented narrator might turn off some, but there is enough here for a close reading of Pearl's perspective. ( )
  albertgoldfain | Aug 16, 2018 |
This is a re-release of a book written in the 70s (and severely panned by the critics). I finished the book two days ago and am still thinking about it. Did I read a book about a cult? An alcoholic woman's crazy thoughts? A dream? The truth or a bunch of lies? If you enjoy books with creepy children, a gothic horror sensibility and no true resolution of what you've invested hours in reading, then this is your book. ( )
  ouroborosangel | May 22, 2018 |
"People try living without knowing what it is they're supposed to be doing, and then one is changed and it is over. There is one side and there is the other. And one travels back and forth and it becomes simply too much to bear, the moving back and forth between advent and farewell." Wonderfully weird tale fully grounded in deep human insight with an intoxicating, shapeshifting twist of the uncanny. Unfortunately went off the rails a bit for me at the end.

"Oh the idea of the infinite is always present, the marvelous is so near, and then one gets bogged down in the arbitrariness of life. It is all hopeless. Absurd." ( )
  beaujoe | Nov 23, 2017 |
The Fairy Tale Review Press of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, reprinted this 1978 novel in a 30th Anniversary Edition. It is a strange and wondrous breed of tale, part parable, part fairytale, part cautionary tale written in tantalizing elliptical language.

While shoplifting, Pearl, the protagonist of the novel, is herself shoplifted by Walker, who takes her off to his family-owned island, Saddleback, inhabited solely by him, his siblings, their spouses, and a dozen children, most of them adopted. The eldest brother, Thomas, is in charge of the children's education until they reach adolescence when they are sent off to boarding school. All the children are remarkable; they read by the age of four and have quirky talents and personalities, and are allowed the run of the island.

After Pearl's son, Sam, is born, she tries to escape with him to Florida -- she wanted him to be "normal" -- but they are quickly retrieved by Walker to be brought back to the island. She and Sam miraculously survive a plane crash in the Everglades, in which Walker is killed, and she is reunited with the baby in the hospital. Or is she? There is something strange about the child. Returned to island by Thomas, Pearl retreats into a haze of wine thoughout the afternoon and gin in the evening, becoming the favorite of the children. But strange things are afoot:

She knew that the children were not what they seemed. She knew that many of the things that visited her in the long wasted hours of the day were not children at all. They were phantoms, aspects only of her fatuous, remorseful and destructive self.

Once Pearl had wanted death but since she had come to the island she realized death was hopeless reolution at best. The soul separated from the body at last, yet still retaining memories and having hungers. That's the way she saw it. Yes. And what would be the use of it -- to be dead yet still to have the hungers -- the different hungers for love.
( )
1 vote janeajones | Apr 6, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 097999540X, Paperback)

This 30th Anniversary Edition of THE CHANGELING by Joy Williams includes a Foreword by Rick Moody. An overlooked and spectacular novel, THE CHANGELING is a visionary fairy tale, a work of mythic genius. Terrifying, poetic, revelations follow THE CHANGELING's abandoned heroine Pearl everywhere she goes, whether by air, land, or sea. Joy Williams has won the Rea Award for the Short Story, the Harold and Mildred Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, among other prizes. Her first novel, State of Grace, was a National Book Award Finalist. The 3oth Anniversary Edition seeks to reintroduce this novel to contemporary readers as one of the most original and alarming fairy-tale books ever written.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:45 -0400)

"When we first meet Pearl?young in years but advanced in her drinking?she?s on the lam, sitting at a hotel bar in Florida, throwing back gin and tonics with her infant son cradled in the crook of her arm. But her escape is brief, and the relief she feels at having fled her abusive husband, and the Northeastern island his family calls home, doesn?t last for long. Soon she?s being shepherded back. The island, for Pearl, is a place of madness and pain, and her round-the-clock drinking spurs on the former even if it dulls the latter. And through this lens?Pearl?s fragile consciousness?readers encounter the horror and triumph of both childhood and motherhood in a new light."--Amazon.com.… (more)

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