A fearful sense of unnamed and unnamable disaster haunts the pages of the 11th novel by this acclaimed New Zealand writer ( Faces in the Water, Living in the Maniototo ), whose topsy-turvy vision of a world beyond bearing reminds us uneasily of our own. News of the Gravity Star, so-called because the nearer it hovers, the farther it recedes, and of the Memory Flower, Puamahara, which unleashes the land's memories and unites them with the future, so stirs rich New Yorker Mattina Brecon that she flies to New Zealand to visit the town of Puamahara, where the Memory Flower took palpable form. Driven to possess places that capture her fancy and the people therein, she rents a house on Kowhai Street, and sets out to know, possess, her neighbors. But they, like Mattina herself, are strangers, imposters, activated by the memory of another time and place. Increasingly, Puamahara resembles a graveyard, silent, unmoving, except for the great lolling exotic flower heads. As Mattina begins to discover the secrets of Kowhai Street, she senses in her bedroom a shape, quiescent but clearly there, akin to the formless pain inside her body. The grace and power of Frame's prose illumines this inventive, delicately structured narrative. (October)
This novel within a novel within a novel raises questions about the nature of identity, narrative, and language itself. Protagonist Mattina Brecon temporarily moves from the hub of New York City to a small town in New Zealand, edge of the civilized world. As she does so, the conventional dichotomies between center and periphery, self and other, crumble. Focusing our attention on the life of suburban Kowhai Street, the novel is a thought-provoking exploration of the connections among language, memory, and identity. Yet it also entertains with its whimsical descriptions of suburban life and its gradual unfolding of supernatural events in an apparently ordinary town. A book that will be enjoyed by a wide range of readers. Julia Duffy, CUNY Graduate Sch. Lib.