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Cleave by Nikki Gemmell

Cleave (1998)

by Nikki Gemmell

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Cleave tells the story of Snip, a thirty-year-old woman with a fierce need to be alone to pursue her art. She also has a strong attachment to her father, who she has rarely seen in the past 23 years. As her maternal grandmother dies, her final wish is that Snip "hunt down" her father. This is the story of her quest to understand what happened between her parents.

The story takes place in the Australian desert, with its brutal temperatures and unforgiving landscape. The writing style matches the landscape: it is sparse, jarring and vivid. The writing is absolutely amazing. I found myself unable to stop reading. What a story, so well told. ( )
  LynnB | Aug 24, 2014 |
If you have ever read The Bean Trees or Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver you might be reminded of Taylor Greer when you read Nikki Gemmell's Alice Springs. There are definite similarities between Taylor Greer and Phillipa "Snip" Freeman, the heroine of Alice Springs. For starters, both characters are fiercely independent; both have a wanderer spirit and a devil-may-care attitude about what anyone thinks of them. Neither of them can commit to a love interest. But, Snip is older, and takes more risks sexually than Taylor does. Snip rules her world with her body. She is used to loving and leaving the men she meets.

It is after her grandmother's death that we first meet Snip. She has been given an inheritance check with the three word instruction "hunt him down." Snip knows the him is her father and hunting him down will be the easy part, for he isn't hiding. It's the why that has Snip puzzled. What is she supposed to do once the hunted has been successfully hunted? To get to her father, Bud, Snip travels to the Aboriginal outback. Along the way Snip takes a traveling companion who gets under her skin more than she expects.Then, a surprising thing happens. The longer Snip stays rooted in one place the more she is exposed to the powers of belonging somewhere.

Gemmell writes like the ocean. The words flow with rhythmic intensity, pounding with violence, soothing with consistency. The storyline is liquid and slippery; it washes over you again and again. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Apr 7, 2011 |
I really liked this book. It's the story of Snip Freeman, a young woman who has some demons in her past that she needs to exorcise. As the title suggests, it's set in and around Alice Springs in Central Australia. I'm glad I read the book immediately after I read Tony Horwitz's One For the Road. The Horwitz book really gave me a feel for the landscape and people of Central Australia, and taught me the meaning of quite a bit of Aussie slang. Without having read it, I might have felt a bit lost while reading this one.

Gemmell's style is unlike anything I've read lately. She's got a singsong rhythmic way of writing, especially when she's dealing with the Aboriginal community or descriptions of the countryside. She's also very graphic in writing about normal bodily functions, including, but definitely not limited to, sex. So, I don't know that it's a book I'd recommend to everyone (depends on how delicate their sensibilities are). I thoroughly enjoyed it though.

Here's a passage that will give you a taste of Gemmell's unique style:

Over the McDonnell Ranges lightning flicks and sparks in a cloud like some super-fast mosquito trapped in a net. It's a fluffy-white, sunny-day cloud but it's night and the rest of the sky is star-stained and clear. The lightning flicks and flicks, trying to get out. The air in the night is odd, stamping Snip's memory with its vividness.

And I loved this description of Snip's father's home. I think I know other Bookcrossers like this:

The books have overrun every spare bench and chair and resting place, like a cluster of cats taking over a house and infusing it, absolutely, with their presence and smell. Snip's hands run over the volumes, she picks them up and feels them and smells them. Their dryness, the covers curling and ripped, the pages fanning out like accordians. There are wisps of paper floating from them, covers coming off, stacks teetering at her disturbing hand. The smell of reading is thick in the room. ( )
  jennyo | Mar 24, 2006 |
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Raise the stone, and there thou shalt find me, cleave the wood and there I am. -- Oxyrynchus Papyri
If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. -- Prayer Book 137:1
For Clare Alexander
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This is an account of six months in the life of Snip Freeman, a woman who turned her back on a man who was drowning.
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Solitary Australian painter Phillipa Freeman, the child of a violent and broken marriage, uses money inherited from a grandmother to find her father in the Outback. She learns the truth about her family and finds love with a man.

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