Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Reviews On the Novel Are In

ABNA Expert Reviewer

Judy's narration that begins the excerpt is engaging and wry. However, as soon as she mentions suicide, plus psychiatric treatment, the tone turns abruptly somber. Since the narrator describes what sounds like severe depression, other details would be helpful. Does Judy live alone, and if so, how does she make her living? Or, as it's implied, her relationship with her mom, is causing her major problems, does she have any one besides the dog to take care of her?

The question raised is obviously why the daughter and mom have a strained relationship, which gets answered in the next chapter. It's hard to predict where the novel is going after that.

The anecdotes and descriptions used in the flashbacks are enough (to me) to illustrate the problems between mother and daughter. The part about the Dobermans appearing in Judy's Baby Book, nicely illustrates their friction, just as well as all Judy's explanation of why she hates/loves Maggy in the first chapter.

It seemed a little unbelievable that Judy would describe her sexual assault so dryly and then tell how she was suddenly hysterical. The aftermath rang true, but I didn't get a sense of how the child really felt as it was occuring. In other scenes the "child's eye view" was believable.

I'd either use "Chuck" or "Daddy" not go back and forth. The fight between him and Maggy is awfully ugly, especially coming right after the rape scene, and then the flight of Maggy and Judy. It's a lot of drama to give the reader so early in the book.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

"Maggy" is a story of a woman (Judy) and her narcissistic mother (Maggy). After the opening scene establishes the unhealthy releationship between Judy and Maggy (after a visit from her mother, Judy spends a month in bed recovering), we go to flashbacks of Judy's messed-up childhood. Some of the details are confusing: Judy first says she was set to live with grandparents at a very early age, but then goes on to give details of living with her parents from toddlerhood on. There's a pretty upsetting scene in which a stranger (whom Maggy stupidly trusts) sexually abuses a four-year-old Judy. Judy's father abuses her mother; there's no love in her family. This excerpt was compelling, though Judy is more pitiable than likeable. (She says she's had therapy. She needs more. A lot more.) I would probably keep reading, because I'm curious where the story is going.

Well, it's back to the drawing board. I have MRMacrum's edit, and these "reviews" of my first three chapters. I will soon start working on them again. For now, I'm a limp rag.


darkblack said...

'It is impossible to achieve the aim without suffering' - J. G. Bennett.

Keep at it, Utah. The story needs to be told.

Randal Graves said...

Sure it's a lot of drama. Sometimes real life has more drama than the run-of-the-mill, off-the-rack novel.

What I get from the reviewers, and not having lived your life, is that they want a pretty straightforward narration with internal continuity. I'd wager a lot of us don't have that, that our stories aren't self-contained slow builds or perfectly framed like a Molière play, but haphazard and all over the place, and stylistically, especially in such a powerful story, it can make more sense than paring it down to fit in a box.

If one wants to quibble with the actual prose/grammar, fine, but aren't too many novels already A to B to C as it is?