Item description for Small Acts of Sex and Electricity by Lise Haines...
Beauty and privilege, a charming, handsome husband and two promising young
daughters, money, a beach house on the Pacific---Jane has everything that Mattie
thinks she wants. But Jane always works to damage what she's given. Mattie
knows that better than anyone.
But even she is caught off-guard when Jane leaves her whole life behind one broken
morning before dawn. And it will take Mattie awhile to see that, by driving
away, Jane has forced open the questions that have always hung in the air
between them---the ones that are hardest to answer---questions about desire and
envy and integrity. These are the issues of the heart that reveal themselves, not
through the bold and dramatic gestures of a woman like Jane, but in even the
briefest moments and the smallest of acts.
With the same rich language and keen, compassionate eye that
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.4" Width: 5.5" Height: 1.2" Weight: 1.05 lbs.
Release Date Sep 10, 2006
Publisher Unbridled Books
ISBN 1932961275 ISBN13 9781932961270
Availability 0 units.
More About Lise Haines
Lise Haines has published a book of poetry, "Thin Scars/Purple Leaves," and her work has appeared in many journals. She grew up in Chicago, earned her MFA at Bennington, and lived for a time in Santa Barbara.
Reviews - What do customers think about Small Acts of Sex and Electricity?
"That's like assuming you're willing to mutilate yourself because you sell knives for a living." Aug 31, 2007
Imagine two friends so close they could be sisters, one married with a fabulous husband and two daughters, an innocent four-year-old and a contentious fourteen-year-old. Imagine that the wife, in an act of generosity or something more complex, walks away from her happy family one cloud-shrouded early morning on the Santa Barbara coast, leaving her friend to step into her life. When Franny is killed by a train while attempting to save her dog, Jane, her granddaughter, asks Mattie, an appraiser, to help sort through Franny's collectibles. Mattie and Jane, best friends since childhood, are thrown together, long-buried memories intensified by the grandmother's death. Such grief is unpredictable, Mattie accustomed to orbiting her friend's perfect life until Jane takes Franny's classic Jaguar and drives into the sunrise, Mattie handed the man of her dreams under impossible circumstances: "I understood the mind's attraction to the poison wish."
Sorely conflicted, Mattie is clearly enamored with Mike, but Jane intrudes on every thought, every action. There is no time when the absent Jane isn't present, burdening them all with unanswered questions, fear kept at bay by minutiae. While Franny's loss permeates the house, Jane's exit has upstaged even that tragedy, pulling all into the vortex of her inexplicable behavior. All are hostage- husband, daughters, friend- an impossible, tension-filled present with an unpredictable future. Like a suicide, Jane's departure seems inordinately selfish, as though her great idea of "trading lives" with Mattie is an act of revenge. Left to untangle Jane's damage, Mattie does not judge; meanwhile each family member retreats, hoarding their emotions, in stasis. Mattie is left to care for them all, aware of the impossibility of the situation. Now she "has" Jane's coveted family, but on untenable terms: "For a time we experienced life at an altitude-sick elevation."
Rather than plunging into the banal, Haines carefully dissects the outwardly-happy, inwardly-troubled dynamic of two long-term friends. Reconstructing the earliest days of the relationship, sharing Franny's largesse, boyfriends and finally Jane's husband, Mattie examines her attraction to the quixotic Jane since they first met. The painfully convoluted emotional ties to Jane are part of Mattie's adult identity, but Mattie can no longer indulge in immature what-ifs. Nor can she substitute herself for her friend. I specifically did not give the novel five stars: by the end, the long unraveling began to wear, each character obsessed with her own discomfort to the exclusion of all else. Dripping chlorinated water on an expensive Persian carpet, pouring bottles of bubble bath into the ocean, Mattie and the girls remain oblivious to their surroundings: "We left candy wrappers on countertops and coffee tables, strewn over rugs", the sympathetic turned self-indulgent. Too much ambient angst finally overwhelms- for me- the truly stunning prose that comes so naturally to this talented writer. Luan Gaines/20057
An interesting premise.... Feb 16, 2007
Mattie and Jane have been friends since they were little girls, neighbors for part of the year on the Santa Monica beach. Both were escaping from dysfunctional families in those years, Jane summering sans parents with her grandmother Franny. And Franny wound up offering a second home also to Mattie while her parents sailed and mingled and drank cocktails. This pattern--Mattie playing the loved but resented (by Jane) third wheel--would repeat itself in the girls' adulthood. When Lise Haines's Small Acts of Sex and Electricity opens, Jane has been married to Mike for some fifteen years, and Mattie has been watching their relationship since its conception, as if with her nose pressed against the glass, debarred from a relationship that might have been, should have been hers: the "electricity" of the book's title refers in part to Mattie's attraction to Mike.
But Haines soon upsets the balance of this not quite comfortable threesome. After Franny's death, Mattie returns to the beach house to help appraise the property, and Jane takes the opportunity to walk out on her family, in essence surrendering her life to Mattie. Haines tells the story of what happens in the following weeks, how Mike and Mattie respond to Jane's offering, from Mattie's perspective, in the first person. Direct speech is introduced by dashes rather than quotation marks, and the speakers are rarely identified, which makes following conversations difficult at times. Haines's writing has a dreamy, indistinct quality to it, perhaps reflecting Mattie's state of mind after Jane leaves. The characters seem to float through the story, not addressing their problems directly, not communicating with one another effectively. Sometimes the writing is strained:
"I have no affinity for the afterlife. No desire to play with its rolling energy as Jane did. She treated death like a boy inside a tire at the top of a steep road. She stood in his path, unflinching, taunting his friends to let go of the rubber rim."
The premise of Haines's book is an interesting one, but I never came to care about the characters--a bunch of not particularly likable people doing not particularly likable things. They are more than two dimensional yet fail to come to life on the page. Book groups will enjoy dissecting the motives of the author's various principals, but in the end I don't think the book is likely to linger in one's memory. Not a bad read, but not a great one.
Debra Hamel -- author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece (Yale University Press, 2003)
Lise Haines is a stunning writer! Nov 27, 2006
No one writes like Lise Haines. She creates characters of amazing complexity and tells their stories with sheer lyricism. This novel enchants, surprises, and redeems. The characters are real, with all-too-familiar human frailties. Haines is brilliant in her character portrayal of Mattie, whose borrowed life finally becomes authentically her own. Many thanks to a fine author whose transcendent talent teaches many lessons!
A beguiling journey set in California Nov 22, 2006
I loved this book. As a reader I loved the flow of the story and the many precise, surprising details. Vivid images like the descriptions of the little girl Mona spinning in a circle, and Franny's wonderful collection of shoes kept me reading. But as a therapist I loved how this book captured the messy, uneven, disturbing experiences of life. The children's experience of loss when their mother Jane takes off echoes the narrator Mattie's experience of loss when her neglectful parents leave Mattie to fend for herself as a kid. There are lots of details that resonate like this. Also the book is set in California--one of my favorite places. I highly recommend.
Not many reviews Nov 10, 2006
Seems not too many people read this book. Well they did themselves a favor. This book was filled with shallow characters and while seeming to promise an intriguing plot turned out to be a bore. I forced myself to finish it; don't ask me why.