Book summary: Nine Months in the Life of an Old Maid

1969 BY JUDITH ROSSNER

To Beth, who tells this story, Yiytzo, the house on Cape Cod where she lives with her older sister Mimi and her husband Barney, is a ""Van Gogh tree with its branches that didn't actually end."" With Van Gogh she also shares a precarious emotional disequilibrium (she's been hospitalized four times), and the house presided over by serene, solicitous and steady Mimi (""Saint Joan"" according to a hostile half-brother Vincent) is also a sanctuary. Except for the visitations of her outrageous absentee mother Lily, from Hollywood, and the unbridled Vincent, from France. During the nine months here of Mimi's unexpected pregnancy in her late 30's, their fractious and not altogether wholesome interdependence comes apart at the seams, stitch by imperceptible stitch; Vincent, once too exclusively Beth's, becomes Mimi's; Beth begins to question their love and need in the uglier light of possession; and Miss Rossner who wrote an earlier To The Precipice (1966) is highly sensitive to other kinds of involutional and inbred deadfalls. However she writes about this household where everyone is slightly offsides in a fashion which is lively, volatile, and attractive, retaining your sympathy while extending the margins of what appears or does not always appear on the surface.

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