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Knock Knock (edition 2012)
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This fictional memoir establishes Suzanne McNear as a distinctive voice in American literature. Written with the same quirky, ironic sensibility that brought praise for her story collection, Drought, it carries the reader through the upheavals of the sixties and seventies - the impact of Betty Friedan, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the Vietnam War - in a style that is comic and painful and true. It traces March River's journey from before birth, through her early years in a small Midwestern city where she felt always slightly out of step, east to boarding school in Connecticut, and finally to Vassar, where she finally felt at home. Unfortunately, on graduation, and unlike most of her classmates, she has no engagement ring, nor promise of one. "Perhaps you're one of those people who will never marry," her mother , a woman known to rattle her pearls and hit a mean golf ball announces. After various jobs in New York and a love affair that ends abruptly she follows what seems the only practical path; pregnancy, marriage, children and life in Chicago. Seven years later, after many upheavals, there is a divorce and a terrifying breakdown. Her husband's chief occupation was writing mystery novels and opening bottles of Heaven Hill bourbon. Life was marked by the birth of three daughters and economic disaster. This is a portrait of a woman who is fragile, uncertain, sometimes overwhelmed by life, but also fiercely committed to the survival of herself and her daughters. With courage, black humor, and unusual literary friendships, which included Saul Bellow, she eventually becomes an editor at Playboy and finally finds a sense of peace and accomplishments. "Former Playboy fiction editor McNear's memoir recounts the life of an indecisive character, 'March Rivers', so constantly conflicted it seems extraordinary that she ever finds her way. Her self-effacing wit, pointed observations, and purposefully stilted dialogue are instantly relatable and charged with dark humor. Readers will get the sad sense of time passing McNear's directionless life: a relatively long, horrendous marriage; the subsequent divorce; depressions and nervous breakdowns all impenetrable barriers to success. McNear's book is a deeply pleasurable read and a reminder that not everyone worth admiring has a plan." --Publishers Weekly
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