It had to be you : the Joan and Ernest story /

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Malouf, Melissa.
Edition:1st ed.
Imprint:Greensboro [N.C.] : Avisson Press, c1997.
Description:169 p. ; 23 cm.
Format: Print Book
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ISBN:1888105194 (cloth)
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In a novel as thin and cool as a disaffected socialite, Malouf (whose No Guarantees was published under her then-married name, Melissa Lentricchia) strings together scenes that are like crisp snapshots of a world in which the surface of things is more important than underlying values. Joan works in the fashion industry. Ernest is a geologist. She was sexually educated by a male prostitute. He has a thing for guns. She was smothered by her mother. He was abandoned by his. She is tormented by memories of rape and abortion. He is flailing through midlife crisis by pursuing a family friend. While scenes at the beginning and the end of the novel frame it with deep and moving poignancy, most of the tale is remarkable for its drop-dead irony punctuated by moments of poetic insight. Exploring metaphysical ground familiar to Joan Didion, Malouf sets up mirages of successful emotional life (represented here by chapter titles using the names of old standard songs such as "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Me And My Gal" and the title song) that dissolve before her struggling characters, leaving only emptiness. There is an unappealing flatness to these characters and their lives, but it's made bearable by Malouf's keen observations and fine writing. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

This slight and elliptical portrait of a marriage, set in southern California, mimics the brittle repartee of Joan Didion's early fiction, and those are the good parts. Otherwise, the author of No Guarantees (1990, published under the name Melissa Lentricchia) fails to shape this narrative into anything significant. In fact, Malouf seems to just give up at the end, providing several different and equally fanciful endings. But none of this self-conscious play disguises a novel with no direction. Aside from their terse dialogue, Ernest Warner and Joan Stuart are less interesting than their phantom parents: His include a cutting, campy Hollywood voice-over actor father who lives with an equally sharp roommate, and a mother who returns stateside from self-exile in Paris for her husband's funeral, only to announce that she's not really completely lesbian. No less colorful are Joan's doctor father and her glamorous mother, who sets up her daughter with a male prostitute on her 21st birthday so that she'll be properly schooled in the boudoir. No wonder Joan doesn't want children; she even heads to Mexico for an abortion in the early '60s. A geologist, Ernest can't penetrate his wife's cool exterior--she's a smart MBA who owns a successful dress shop in Palm Springs, where they build a beautiful house. Ernest dallies with others, meanwhile, loses his eye in a fishing accident, and seeks renewal in the desert. Joan welcomes menopause, and throws her family mementoes into the sea. Together, they attend a murder trial. A fiction that mirrors its subjects: passionless and pointless.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Review by Kirkus Book Review