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Polly's Ghost: A Novel (edition 2000)
by Abby Frucht
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684835894, Hardcover)In life, Polly Baymiller was the breezy, good-looking mother of three improbable sets of twins. She laughed easily, shrugged off the envy of other women, and seemed to want no life other than the one she was living. In death, however, Polly's disembodied spirit shuttles between longing and detachment--not missing her other children much, or even her husband, but aching to touch her last-born, Tip, the boy she died giving birth to, and whom she never held. Becoming aware of herself again years after death--part of the wind, now, and sometimes joining with leaves or raindrops or fence posts, for a moment or two, in some teasing approximation of a physical body--Polly struggles to get close to Tip, and unwittingly (almost clumsily) sets in motion events that change his life.
In her slow accretion of details and her precise renderings of the visual world, Abby Frucht manages to avoid the sentimentality that would have killed Polly's Ghost as surely as the birth of Tip kills Polly Baymiller. Polly's much-loved husband Jack, for example--unaware that she lives on, in an altered state, and sometimes watches him--goes about his mourning in the quiet, competent way he might plane a piece of wood or design a bookcase.
Then there was the kitchen, Polly's room, which was as steamy and moist and mysterious to Jack as the cooking that once went on there, which nevertheless seemed to belong to him as much as it did to Polly when he zipped up the back of her dress or brushed her hair for a moment after she'd washed it, when it was wet and sweet smelling, when she'd have to brush it again by herself, laughing at him for having parted it the wrong way. Even her comb, a version of Jack's, was slimmer than his and more decorative, and the ornate handle of Polly's brush, adorned with cast silver roses, was like an accessory to Jack's elegant, simple, fluted silver brush, just as Eve's rib had been a smaller, more decorative version of Adam's.Although Frucht's vision of life after death is appealing, she is at heart a realist. The strongest passages in her fifth novel are earthy in every sense, whether Polly is describing her perch in a rain-soaked tree, or listening in on other people's sexual thoughts, or watching Tip's friend Johnny as he kisses his unattainable girlfriend and catches a "shadowed glimpse of inside her body" in her "prayerfully flaring nostrils." With its gravity and lyricism punctuated by a sharp-focus sexuality, Polly's Ghost calls to mind writers as remote from each other as Toni Morrison and John Irving. Demanding but deeply enjoyable, the novel is filled with unexpected connections and quirky satisfactions. --Regina Marler
(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 16 Jan 2013 19:22:38 -0500)
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