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Waterbaby: A Novel [Paperback]

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Item description for Waterbaby: A Novel by Cris Mazza...

As children, Tam and her older brother were swimming when she suffered her first epileptic seizure. He pulled her from the water and was crowned a hero. Tam was labeled "disabled" and never swam again. And so began 30 years of vigilance, never allowing her body to betray her, never allowing her brother or her family or anyone else to influence her path. Now, in middle age, a lifetime's worth of control has taken its toll. Exhausted, she heads to Maine where, while working on a genealogy project, she falls under the spell of two dead women: an ancestor, Mary Catherine, who died at 33; the other, the town ghost. Through their cloistered, tragic lives Tam relives her own life over and over --- until a distant cousin forces her to see herself in a new light. Tam's quest to transcend self-imposed limitations is superbly crafted and richly satisfying.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   320
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 6.1" Height: 0.9"
Weight:   0.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 28, 2007
Publisher   Soft Skull Press
ISBN  1933368845  
ISBN13  9781933368849  

Availability  0 units.

More About Cris Mazza

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Mazza was named an NEA Fellow in 1999 and is a professor in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Cris Mazza currently resides in Chicago, in the state of Illinois.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Waterbaby: A Novel?

New territory for Mazza  Mar 19, 2008
"Waterbaby" is somewhat of a departure for Cris Mazza. While she generally sets her stories in Southern California, or at least populates them with people from that region, this novel takes place in a Maine coastal town. The other side of the country though has some similarities to the hardscrabble desert; the landscape becomes a character as much as any person in this novel. The continuity of the rocky shore and lobster industry across generations makes up a large part of the main character Tam's dilemma. As she tries to find her place in her own family, the various family dynamics of past generations intrudes on her psyche as well. The story then incorporates several lost baby stories as Tam investigates her ancestors and her relationships with her family, especially her brother. As in several of Mazza's works, the theme of regret and the conflict that arises from trying to negotiate being a woman play a large role in the novel. Additionally, like other American writers (i.e. Cormac McCarthy, Annie Proulx, Faulkner), Mazza merges style and place in a masterful way. Family relationships, sex, and self-reliance might be as dangerous as the rocky shore of Maine. Mazza does a wonderful job of portraying these dangers with honesty and engaging storytelling.
Her best yet  Jan 22, 2008
Cris Mazza has for many years now been on the radar of readers who admire technical skill and innovation. Her latest, Waterbaby, demonstrates the same technical mastery of her earlier writings, but adds an imaginative dimension to result in her most satisfying effort to date. She begins, not unusually, with a character flawed in body as well as spirit. Tam suffers from epilepsy and has been tormented since childhood by the memory and consequences of a seizure during a swim-meet. She would have drowned had her athletic brother Gary not saved her--or possibly he selfishly used her to appear the hero, in the process dahsing Tam's own girlhood dreams of athletic excellence. Tam has been haunted by this early memory and its consequences for the long forty-something years before the novel begins. Through another series of mishaps (also perhaps resulting from personal failings) she ends up in the rich setting of a Maine lighthouse, haunted by her memories, by a hard-luck single mom and kid she chooses to harbor, by a distant ancestor she researches, and, finally, by an actual ghost. Mazza pieces the various stories together in a pastiche of different verbal media (including letters, emails, websites, and traditional past tense narrative). So much for the technical mastery, which is accomplished and assured as usual. The great achievement of Waterbaby is the investment the reader comes to feel in Tam, in wanting her to accept/transcend her past and become a more whole person. The magnetism of this main character keeps the many different quirky minor characters, asides, episodes, from eroding reader interest.
Deliciously conceived novel  Nov 28, 2007
What a deliciously conceived novel about personal redemption! The protagonist, Tam, suffers her first epileptic seizure at 12. Her condition will steal her swimming career and estrange her from her brother, Gary. But it will not impede her journey into her troubled family's complicated past, a journey that takes her to the Maine coastline, going back to the early nineteeth century. Here tales of thwarted love and shipwrecked babies haunt the landscape. Tam will unlock more than one story, connecting newspaper acounts, oral history and her own search for understanding until she unfolds a broad historical panorama, a fascinating past. Particularly terrific is Mazza's interweaving of contemporary tools of communication, from websites, to blogs, to email mixed with archival accounts. Reading Waterbaby is a thrilling intertextual adventure that feels immediately ours, but simultaneously layered with a fresh understanding of nineteenth century economic and legal conditions for women and their children. As always, Mazza, is a wise voice, deeply concerned. This novel is a thrilling non stop read.
Her Best Keeps Getting Better  Nov 26, 2007
The greatest pleasure of "Waterbaby" is the sense of being in the hands of a master storyteller. The voice alone, deceptively simple and straightforward, intrigued this reader to relax and let it take me. This is a rare quality, quite independent of compelling character or driving plot. Yet "Waterbaby" provides characters and plot aplenty. It has been called a ghost story, which it is, even an erotic ghost story; but of a surprising post-9/11 kind. (One character, a search-and-rescue professional, is more than haunted by what he and his search-dog find in the still-burning ruins of the World Trade Center.) In Shakespeare, ghosts are the past penetrating the present. In Mazza the present invades, recreates the past, in every sense. One ghost, Tam, the main character herself, a relatively young (late 40's) retired stockbroker, takes imaginative and spiritual possession of an unremembered, long-dead ancestor who once helped keep a light-house on the dark and stormy coast of Maine. Family is the mysterious presence disturbing Tam - not only the hostile "hero" brother who disappears to pursue her, but all the alien great-great aunts and uncles, grandfathers and grandmothers who never knew her but now will not leave her in peace. Central to her exploration of who they were and how they persist in her are a shipwrecked baby, a newborn found in a toilet, and a drowned woman whom the locals continue to see walking at twilight the light-house rocks. Not the least ghostly of the people leading Tam into her terra incognita is the graveyard lover who insists she play the drowned woman - for prospective renters of the modernized light-house. No one writes with more comic poignance about the guerilla warfare of intimacy between women and men than the author of "Your Name Here_____" and "Is It Sexual Harassment Yet?" But I have long hoped she would enlarge her canvas and here she does: reaching out to the loves and wars of siblings, children, and parents - Maine to California - and 21st century back to 20th and 19th, with assurance, depth, compassion, and inexhaustible, penetrating wonder.
Ecstatic Truths  Nov 3, 2007
Filmmaker Werner Herzog has written, "There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization."

Cris Mazza takes this one step further with her seductive book Waterbaby, giving us a protagonist who seeks to create a present by recreating her past -and the possible pasts of her ancestors as well. Tam not only attempts to piece together her ancestor's lives through research and genealogy, she delves into lore so thoroughly she finds herself literally recreating the sea-legends that are intertwined with her own familial history. Mazza is able to juggle the various stories and mix them with imagined pasts and historical pasts, even using the occasional cutaway page of a blog or an electronic archive. Links between legend and historical fact--as well as Tam's personal past and her family's history--begin to accumulate pretty quickly, leaving the reader dazzled by Mazza's ability to keep all the plates spinning without wobble.

All this plus Waterbaby is a funny and compelling page-turner to boot.

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