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Split Estate by Charlotte Bacon
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Split Estate

by Charlotte Bacon

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Very powerful novel about a grieving family. After his wife commits suicide, a husband moves himself and his two teenage children back to Wyoming for the summer where they live with his mother. The way the story unfolds, as each character pursues a path toward healing is profoundly moving. Beautifully written with a real eye for the natural world. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
From its "split" cover illustration to its "split" chapters, the author, Charlotte Bacon, has fine-tuned the art of prose while dealing with a number of characters, locations, and points of view in her novel, "Split Estate". Though the title has its literal meaning, a reference to many Western ranches splitting their estate titles between the range land they possess for their livestock and feed and the mineral rights below ground that are sold and are often what sustain these slowly-shrinking estates, it might better describe the lives of the King family as being split between their life 10 floors up in a NYC apartment and the rest of the story which unfolds in the dusty western town of Callendar, Wyoming. The turning point comes in the book's opening event, Laura King, wife of Arthur and mother of teenagers Cam and Celia, has just jumped to her death from that fateful upper window, an event that succeeding pages painstakingly reveal was unstoppable and unpredictable to all of her loved ones. The "split" to Callendar, Wyoming, childhood home of Arthur and his stalwart mother Lucy, is only an escape that grows more fragile with time. Bacon's characters are allowed to reveal their feelings and hidden secrets in large , expansive narratives, giving the reader plenty of time to soak up the depth of emotions bottled up in each one. Her poetic language is evident throughout her storytelling, such as describing one of Arthur's childhood buddy's way of talking as, "His voice was all battered pickup." or an image of early morning near Lyon Creek when she writes, "Mist curled off the water like pencil shavings of moisture.". Her ability to reveal her character's inner thoughts are clear, but imaginative as she describes Celia, whose compulsive behaviors often get the best of her, in these words... "She also knew she could keep counting and counting and no number would ever mask what wasn't there, the open zero of no mother."
"Split Estate" is a beautifully written book that will add to your library of reading , helping each of us cross the gulf we might encounter when life goes astray. For like Cam and Celia and Arthur, we are often suspended between the past and the future....trying to connect the two sides just as Celia tried with her mother's beloved Pentax camera...for "There was still the widest of canyons between Laura alive and Laura dead. Celia was taking pictures so she could show them to her mother." Jennifer Mastricola ( )
  jsiegcola | Apr 8, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A powerful, quiet novel about the lives of the King family after Laura King inexplicitly jumps to her death from their tenth floor NYC apartment. Arthur King and his two teenage children have difficulty coping and he decides to relocate the family to Wyoming to live with his mother on the family ranch. The author tells a story in spare prose of despair, family and hope. ( )
  grigoro | Jan 3, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A rough, raw story...riveting.
  kitkeller | Nov 3, 2009 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
How can a family reconcile their studied indifference to a deeply disturbed woman who provides daily sustenance to their lives? How will a husband, a son, and a daughter recover from her final self-destructive action: his wife and their mother jumping out of a window in the New York City apartment where they shared the seasons of their lives?
Overwhelmed by his own loss, Arthur is ill fit to render care and compassion to his teenage children, bewildered and confused in their efforts to decipher why fate has inflicted such a tragedy upon them.
Unable to envision New York City as a suitable place for his family to heal, Arthur packs up his family and drives to the small town of Callendar, Wyoming, his mother’s ranch, his beginnings.
There we meet the matriarch, Lucy King, who manages her dwindling ranch, and wonders whether this new arrangement with her son and her grandchildren will provide the solace, they sorely need. As ranching loses its luster, and neighbors sell mineral rights to their land, Lucy struggles with her own personal demons.
Charlotte Bacon persuasively captures each character’s persona as they undertake essential daily struggles and in so doing, discover the inner strength vital to work through their grief, and move forward. ( )
1 vote saratoga99 | Jul 13, 2009 |
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Epigraph
Everything only connected by "and" and "and." -- Elizabeth Bishop, "over 2000 Illustrations and a Complete Concordance"

//...we want the spring to come and the winter to
pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss--we want more and more
and more and
then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the
window glass,
say the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a
cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm
speechless:
I am living, I remember you.

--Marie Howe, "What the Living Do"
Dedication
For Rachel and for Nick and for John Charles Smith
First words
In April, the second woman jumped. "It happened again," was all Cam told Arthur.
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Book description
In this extraordinary new novel from the award-winning Charlotte Bacon, the question the characters ask—and that the reader must ask, too—is how on earth can one survive (let alone rise above) the pain and grief of an irrevocably destructive event? For the spirited, charming family at the center of Split Estate, that event is the suicide of a beloved wife and mother in New York City. What happens next to Laura King’s family—in New York and then in Wyoming, where the children and their father spend the summer, and whose stark beauties seem to mirror the difficulties they face as well as their sturdy resourcefulness—is both touching, reassuring, and in the end shocking. Like all of Bacon’s fiction, Split Estate is based on a deep knowledge and understanding of rural as well as urban life—and the blessings and dangers of both.
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"Split Estate opens with devastating scenes of a family at a horrific juncture: the wife of Arthur King and mother of his two teenage children, Celia and Cam, has recently committed suicide, jumping out the window of their New York apartment. Charlotte Bacon's new novel tracks the King family as it struggles to survive in the months that follow. Arthur, an attractive lawyer who has always been edgy about city dwelling, decides they must move back to his home state of Wyoming for the summer, where his mother, Lucy, welcomes her orphaned grandchildren and her wounded son to her much loved but diminished ranch. From the perspective of each protagonist in turn, we watch shy Celia and handsome Cam, distraught Arthur and brave Lucy face themselves and their future in a Wyoming that is beautiful and consoling, yet beset by new threats of destruction. A split estate is a form of real property in which the mineral rights have been split off from the other land uses to which the owner is entitled. This has transformed the landscape the Kings love and jeopardized Lucys independence. In truth, the Kings very lives have become split estates for Celia, on the brink of adolescence; for Cam, approaching independent adulthood; for Arthur, divided between the West and New York. Split Estate is a heartrending depiction of an American family struggling to deal with irrevocable damage to their lives and surroundings."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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