Paradise Close

Persea. Apr. 2022. 224p. ISBN 9780892555512. $25.95. F
DEBUT In her debut novel, poet Spaar (Orexia) depicts an artist’s coming of age with the vibrant language readers have come to expect from her verse. As the novel opens, 14-year-old Marlise Schade is forced by lack of funds to leave the psychiatric hospital where she has been living after her parents were killed in a car accident and is taken to the ancestral family home, appropriately called the Close. The long-neglected house stands empty, and she ends up living in a tiny attic room. Marlise has taken the ultimate control of her life and body by starving herself, but as the narrative travels back and forth in time, she emerges from her troubled youth and changes her name to Emma, becoming a noted artist and creating an “Incarnation Series” that focuses on the turning points in her life. Along the way, readers meet several extraordinary individuals who helped shape her, and her story is paralleled by that of an older man in recalling a startling young artist he loved and lost.
VERDICT Ranging from the 1970s to the 2010s, this forthright and exuberant tour-de-force effectively plumbs a young woman’s artistic and sexual awakening.
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