Author: Sandra Novack
Genre/Pages: Fiction; 288 pages
Publication: Random House; 2/17/09
Rating: 4.5 BOOKMARKS
I’ve been thinking about Precious ever since I finished it late last month; Sandra Novack’s lyrical prose had a profound impact on me, hence the longer-than-usual review—this book deserves it!
Set in rural Pennsylvania in the late 1970s, Precious tells the story of a family falling apart from the inside out. Unable to find balance in her roles as mother, wife, and woman, Natalia Kisch is tired of feeling overwhelmed and runs off to Italy with a lover. Shockwaves from Natalia’s decision ripple through her family, neighborhood, and community, fundamentally and irreparably damaging her children and spouse.
Eldest daughter Eva’s anger is tinged with fear and humiliation and sets her on a self-destructive path of promiscuity. She is powerless and can’t control anything except her own actions, which ultimately lead her to a heartrending decision.
9-year-old Sissy exists in a hazy world, hovering between fantasy and reality. She harbors guilt over her mother’s abandonment and over the disappearance of a former friend and neighborhood girl. Avoidance is the only way she can cope. At several points during the book I feared for her safety because she was so lost in her private, dreamy world.
Frank, father of the girls and Natalia’s husband, withdraws from his children, unable and unwilling to navigate the rocky waters of his emotions. He’s ill-equipped to handle the anger, embarrassment, and pain that comes with his wife’s betrayal and abandonment.
Novack’s use of figurative language and characterization actually gave me pause at several points during the novel. The simplicity and beauty of her diction helped to make this book one of the best novels I’ve read in the last ten months. Themes of abandonment and loss resonate on each page. Imagery is vivid– especially in the following passage—making Sissy’s terror palpable:
“After Eva leaves, the day grows as long as a shadow. By four the house will begin to feel ominous. In the kitchen, the basement door will become a gateway to a place filled with cobwebby terror, unspeakable dread. In the living room, Sissy will be certain someone lurks just outside the window: a mystery man, a murderer. Upstairs, the shuttered closet in Sissy’s room will suddenly hold too many secrets; each slat will cause her to worry.” (Novack, 22.)
I can’t recommend this book strongly enough. It’s worthy of so much more praise than it has garnered. I hope that with the exposure from TLC tours and book blogger word-of-mouth, it will finally receive the accolades it deserves. Thank you to Lisa and Trish of TLC Book Tours for inviting me to host Sandra Novack’s Precious—it was truly my pleasure.