Patty Dann Mermaids

ISBN 13: 9780312333942

Mermaids

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9780312333942: Mermaids

A coming-of-age novel that spawned the cult classic movie of the same name, starring Cher and Winona Ryder.

"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

About the Author:

Patty Dann is the author of THE GOLDFISH WENT ON VACATION: A MEMOIR OF LOSS and THE BABY BOAT: A MEMOIR OF ADOPTION. She has also published two novels, SWEET & CRAZY and MERMAIDS. Her work has been translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, Korean and Japanese. MERMAIDS was made into a movie, starring Cher, Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci.
 
 Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Christian Science Monitor, O Magazine, The Oregon Quarterly, Redbook, More, Forbes Woman, The Writer's Handbook, Poets & Writers Magazine, and " Dirt: An Anthology About Keeping House," and "This I Believe: On Motherhood."
 
  She has served as a judge for the Scholastic Young Writers Awards. She has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and a B.A. from the University of Oregon. Dann has taught at Sarah Lawrence College and the West Side YMCA. She was cited by New York Magazine as one of the "Great Teachers of NYC."

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1

Mrs. Flax was happiest when she was leaving a place, but I wanted to stay put long enough to fall down crazy and hear the Word of God. I always called my mother Mrs. Flax. She had driven my little sister Kate and me in the blue Buick station wagon for three days this time, racing from Oklahoma to New England. Skinny Burt LeForest, who had a bulging Adam's apple and was in my high school, tore behind us in a truck full of our furniture, driving wildly to keep up. I had seen Mrs. Flax kiss Burt by the stove a week before, when he came by to change a light bulb we couldn't reach.

We arrived in Grove on a round moon night, with lilacs blowing sweet against our new house in the breeze. We rented the place; we always rented. I lay in the back seat, holding Kate, with her curly red hair, on top of me as I stared up at the windshield, which was still covered with Oklahoma dust. Mrs. Flax turned off the motor. I shut my eyes and prayed this would be the town where I heard a voice. Joan of Arc heard voices at thirteen; I had just turned fourteen, but I hadn't given up hope.

"But Charlotte," Mrs. Flax said when she found me at age six, kneeling in the middle of the kitchen on a hot Arizona afternoon, "Charlotte, you're Jewish." Mrs. Flax didn't believe in ritual or tradition. "Religion weighs me down," she said. I, however, decided I wanted to repent the first time I saw a girl with ashes on her forehead cross herself and chant Hail Marys before a spelling bee. That was when we lived in Wisconsin; the next day I stole an old piece of charcoal from a neighbor man's barbecue and walked around with a smudge between my eyebrows for a week and a half.

I was eight years old when Mrs. Flax was pregnant with Kate. While she drove with her belly pressed up against the steering wheel, I knelt way in the back of the station wagon. I solemnly clipped two curls of my hair and placed them in the Cracker jacks box where I saved my baby teeth. I prayed these relics would be kissed by miles of crusaders, who would wait piously in line someday.

I always had trouble trying to be holy, though. First of all, I liked to lie a lot; second of all, I kept falling in love.

Mrs. Flax climbed the porch steps in her high heels and polka dot dress. "Girls," she called out into the night, "come give this nice young man a hand."

People said Mrs. Flax and I looked alike green eyes, dark curly hair, medium height; not that we ever were the kind to stand giggling back to back. I listened to Burt drag boxes and furniture inside. New England was only a donkey head shape on the map to me. I hadn't come across a Massachusetts saint so far; I didn't know what the odds would be not that I knew anything about odds, but I prayed this would be the place where I'd find divine inspiration.

"Wake up, Kate," I said finally. "Welcome to home sweet home number eighteen."

Kate woke up yawning, with her hands over her ears. I adored Kate; everybody did. When she was born, I wanted to name her Gobnet, after the virgin beekeeper saint. "I worry, Charlotte, I really do," said Mrs. Flax.

Kate hopped up the steps on one foot and I followed her onto the porch. Burt was trying to lift the couch up onto his shoulders and through the front door. I held my breath, trying not to breathe in Mrs. Flax's perfume, as I clutched a leg of the couch; I didn't believe in perfume or make up or anything artificial. I washed with icy water whenever I could stand it; I was going to lead a pure life, free of sin. After Burt yanked the couch up through the doorway, Mrs. Flax followed him inside.

I held Kate's hand and stared sleepily out at the dark yard, breathing in the pine air. It seemed as if we'd been on the road forever. I had calculated that I'd wasted far too much of my life in a car. No saints, either male or female, had ever heard the Word at seventy miles an hour on the interstate. I needed to stand very still and as quiet as possible, and then inspiration would pour through my soul. I was losing patience, though. I had tried to be charitable, taking care of Kate all the time and trying not to kill my mother, but lately I was worried I'd succumb to a life of sin. Lots of saints had led secular lives before they turned to the monastic path; I just wasn't sure. I'd read everything to find the answer the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New, and every book I could find on martyrdom. In sixth grade, while a circle of girls sat around reading horse books, I sat alone at my desk, reading about Simone Weil, the Jewish girl who starved her head off trying to become a saint.

Suddenly Mrs. Flax gave one of her loud laughs, and a few moments later Burt was back outside. He slapped me on the shoulder, then jumped off the porch and into his truck and drove off down the road. As soon as he left, I took Kate inside. The place smelled of tomato sauce and toy trains. Burt had stuck the couch in the middle of the living room, and there was a jumble of boxes piled in front of the fireplace. Our room was down the hall, with bunk beds set up against the waft. Kate climbed onto the top bunk right away; she liked the top because she said it was like floating on water. I always preferred to be close to the ground.

I wandered through the house, avoiding Mrs. Flax, who was sitting on the counter next to the sink, humming "The Star Spangled Banner." I stared at the double bed in her room, trying to figure out if she'd done it with old Burt; she seemed to do it with everyone else. I considered stealing the car right then and running away forever. Within the last year, Mrs. Flax had taught me how to drive. I was underage, but she said being able to drive was the most important skill a woman could have; she taught me one morning in Oklahoma at five A.M., behind the supermarket, as the orange sun came up. I was a slow driver, a very slow driver, driving as if there was something wrong with my mind, according to Mrs. Flax; I put on my signal lights miles before I turned. If there was a church in Grove, I knew I'd be able to drive there if I wanted, but I'd decided long ago that church was not the place for divine inspiration. Saints were called while they were out herding sheep or staggering around the desert or down at the river, getting water in a bucket. Saints were not called while listening to a hot faced man yell at them. I walked down the hall, past .a room with RED SOX carved into the door. The .floor was covered with boxes of Mrs. Flax's personal possessions, which she had decided bored her to tears.

When I got back to our room, Kate was curled up like a snail, sound asleep, with her dress, on; but I could never sleep the first night in a place. I never could sleep until I made the room look like it did in every previous house. I opened one of the boxes Burt had dumped in the corner and carefully took out Kate's rock collection. I dusted the rocks twice, then laid them out on a low shelf against the wall. Kate was crazy about those rocks. She picked them up wherever we lived. Now there were a good number stuck to cardboard. Her method was to wrap adhesive tape around each rock, then label it with a made up name. The large rocks were too heavy to glue to cardboard, though. Those she just labeled and lined up in a shoebox, like fat sailors with their white belts.

I took out Kate's swimming trophies, which I'd wrapped individually in towels at our last house. I dusted them off and lined them in a row on the window ledge. Then I took out my old Cracker Jacks box, which I'd dragged all over America. I hadn't opened it in six years; I held my breath, then ripped the top and emptied the relics into my hand. As the years passed and we'd moved from state to state, the baby teeth had turned yellow and the curls now lay like dry apostrophes, and still God had not spoken to me. I put them back in the Cracker Jacks box and leaned the box next to Kate's Children's Encyclopedia of Fish of the World on the shelf.

Then I took out the tom picture of a pair of grown up brown tie shoes on yellow grass that I was certain belonged to my father. Kate had a different father, but I never told her that, it was one of those lies I just kept telling and telling. I didn't know if it was to protect Kate or because I liked to have secrets, but I always lied. Mrs. Flax never corrected me, either. When I was a kid I liked to refer to my father as Our Father Who Art in Heaven, and when Kate learned to talk baby talk she called him by the same name. I wondered every minute if my father was ever coming back. Saint Barbara became a Christian while her father was away; she became a hermit and lived in a bathhouse. When her father came back he almost killed her for becoming a Christian, but then he was struck by lightning and died with a sizzled smile on his face. My father called Mrs. Flax a few times a year, but he never introduced himself to me. Men called Mrs. Flax every day of her life, and I drove myself nuts trying to figure out which one was Dad. Every few months Mrs. Flax said he'd be visiting soon, but the guy hadn't made an appearance yet.

I found a thumbtack on the floor and stuck the picture of his shoes to the closet door. I kissed the picture, then kissed Kate's curls, which smelled faintly of chlorine. Then I lay down on the lower bunk and tried to sleep, but I kept remembering, a pair of hands, which might have been my father's. When I was younger than Kate, in a town in Idaho, a man slid a pair of cardboard glasses on my face, lightly touching my ears, so I could watch an eclipse of the sun without going blind. I stood backward at the window, holding Mrs. Flax's powdery compact mirror, trying to see the sun, but all I could see was my own mouth. And then those hands lightly took the glasses away.

I liked the new house and I prayed we wouldn't be leaving right away. I prayed I would stop lying all the time. I prayed my father would return. I prayed I wouldn't fall crazy in love so 0much, and then I prayed that I would.

The phone rang early the next morning, and I was the one who stumbled out of bed to the kitche...

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