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Our Lady of the Prairie

por Thisbe Nissen

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422588,771 (3.13)Nenhum(a)
"A sharp and bitingly funny novel about a professor whose calm-ish midwestern life gives way to a vortex of crises--and her attempts to salvage the pieces without going to pieces herself...In the space of a few torrid months on the Iowa prairie, Phillipa Maakestad--long-married theater professor and mother of an unstable daughter--grapples with a life turned upside down. After falling headlong into a passionate affair during a semester spent teaching in Ohio, Phillipa returns home to Iowa for her daughter Ginny's wedding. There, Phillipa must endure (among other things) a wedding-day tornado, a menace of a mother-in-law who may or may not have been a Nazi collaborator, and the tragicomic revenge fantasies of her heretofore docile husband. Naturally, she does what any newly liberated woman would do: she takes a match to her life on the prairie and then steps back to survey the wreckage. Set in the seething political climate of a contentious election,Thisbe Nissen's new novel is sexy, smart, and razor-sharp--a freight train barreling through the heart of the land and the land of the heart"--… (mais)
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Our Lady of the Prairie has so much going on, it's hard to make heads or tails of what's happening in the narrative. Thisbe Nissen is an undeniably talented writer, but sometimes she gets so preoccupied with the minutiae that each page feels unbearably dense. Take this excerpt, for example:

"I'd just arrived in Ohio for my semester's teaching exchange; he was recently back from a year and a half in France, a research sabbatical he'd extended with an additional six-month leave. His work was on Nazi collborationists of the Vichy regime, and he'd be headed back to France that summer, but when he met it was only July. The Democrats hadn't even nominated someone to run against Dubya and bar him from a second term. Bernadette-the mother-in-law whose belligerent existence I'd suffered for more than half my life-was still alive and kicking me at every available opportunity, and Ginny wasn't yet married to Silas Yoder, or pregnant and off her psych meds and once again as miserable as she'd been before the electroshock. Orah and Obadiah Yoder were already dead-Silas and Eula's parents, hit head-on and killed by an SUV, in their own buggy in front of their own Prairie farm-and a year had done little to dissipate that pain..."

And the paragraph goes on and on and on. So much information is being thrown at the reader that it's hard to digest all the details. The book is not terrible per se, but it could have used another round of editing. One star feels unnecessarily harsh since there are some great moments within the story. Therefore, I'd rate Our Lady two stars.

Full disclosure: I received an advance reading copy of this book via Goodreads. Our Lady of the Prairie is currently available in bookstores. ( )
  hianbai | May 28, 2020 |
In the opening pages of Our Lady of the Prairie the author throws a whole lot at you – and it escalates from there. Phillipa Maakestad is due to drift into contented late-middle age. She has a career as a professor teaching musical theatre, a stable marriage and her daughter has found equilibrium – and a fiancé – after years of psychiatric problems. Then Phillipa starts an affair, leaves her husband and throws everything into disarray.

What follows is a romp through Midwestern life against the backdrop of the Bush/Kerry election. We see the effect on Phillipa’s husband, of course, and her evolving relationship with her daughter, Ginny, as well as getting a sense of the wider community – as she leaves her middle-class enclave and hangs out in bars and motels. In true musical theatre fashion, there are dramatic set pieces and reversals (invariably when she meets up with her lover, Lucius, you know they are not going to enjoy the uninterrupted intimacy they crave).

I liked the humour and the quirky characters, the odd vignettes (there’s a whole chapter where the narrator imagines/dreams a backstory for her difficult and enigmatic mother-in-law in Vichy France, which also happens to be Lucius’ area of academic expertise) and the willingness to answer questions you never dared to ask. (How do you cope if you have a heavy period while swathed in layers of white tulle on your wedding day? Read on and find out.)

But beneath the frenetic pace, there is a shrewd restraint. There are elements of the story that are left open, leaving the characters room to grow, and the reader space to reflect. Is Phillipa’s affair a reaction to her sudden liberation from caring for a seriously ill daughter, is it a perimenopause-induced rush of hypersexuality, or is it true love?

There is a sense of almost tipping into chaos in this book which mirrors Phillipa’s life, but the author does a great job of keeping the plates spinning while you hold your breath. This is an energetic, earthy, audacious novel asking us about the relationship between happiness, stability, and taking risks to pursue the life you want.
*
I received a copy of Our Lady of the Prairie from the publisher via Netgalley.
This review first appeared on my blog katevane.com/blog ( )
  KateVane | Jan 19, 2018 |
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"A sharp and bitingly funny novel about a professor whose calm-ish midwestern life gives way to a vortex of crises--and her attempts to salvage the pieces without going to pieces herself...In the space of a few torrid months on the Iowa prairie, Phillipa Maakestad--long-married theater professor and mother of an unstable daughter--grapples with a life turned upside down. After falling headlong into a passionate affair during a semester spent teaching in Ohio, Phillipa returns home to Iowa for her daughter Ginny's wedding. There, Phillipa must endure (among other things) a wedding-day tornado, a menace of a mother-in-law who may or may not have been a Nazi collaborator, and the tragicomic revenge fantasies of her heretofore docile husband. Naturally, she does what any newly liberated woman would do: she takes a match to her life on the prairie and then steps back to survey the wreckage. Set in the seething political climate of a contentious election,Thisbe Nissen's new novel is sexy, smart, and razor-sharp--a freight train barreling through the heart of the land and the land of the heart"--

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