, Sep 1, 1993
- 231 pages
Susanna Moore's two previous novels have been met with the highest praise. My Old Sweetheart published in 1982, received both the PEN/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction. And when The Whiteness of Bones appeared in 1989, Jonathan Yardley, writing in the Washington Post, hailed it as "magic...magic that lures the reader with the seductions of passion and wit and then rewards him with the surprises that can only come when the home truths of human existence are disclosed through the eyes of a writer with a large and understanding heart". Now, with Sleeping Beauties, Moore gives us her most vividly drawn and emotionally charged novel yet. It is the story of Clio, a thirteen-year-old runaway - from an indifferent father and cruel stepmother - who shows up, "unexpected and uninvited", at the Honolulu home of her eccentric aunt Emma: "Clio hoped only that the mysterious ties of blood...would wrap their strong tendrils around her". Emma takes her in - and, in exchange, Clio agrees to "talk-story" and to learn the past. Emma is a collector of the legends, myths, and rites of their native Hawaii. Weaving together the history of the islands and the rich, convoluted legacy of their mixed white-and-Hawaiian family, Emma teaches Clio what it means to "swim out of the currents of time", helping her to exchange her "small past" for a grand one. But as she enters adulthood, that same past begins to take on a crushing weight: "If she could leave the islands...perhaps she'd be able to figure out just what she was meant to do with all of the secrets, all of the chants, and songs, and legends that so filled her head that she could no longer distinguish what was realfrom what was myth". An impulsive marriage to a well-known Hollywood actor finally provides Clio with a reason to leave the entanglements of island life and her family. But when her new life in California begins to reveal its own increasingly violent entanglements, Clio is forced to return home. Now she must find a way to embrace the difficulties of her past without forfeiting her future, and without denying her profound attachment to the extraordinary world that is her heritage.