Thursday, July 18, 2013
A unique voice
Title: The Woman Who Walked on Water
By: Lily Tuck
At the center of Lily Tuck 's captivating novel is Adele, an affluent housewife from suburban Connecticut. Following a “chance” meeting in Chartres Cathedral while on a family vacation, Adele forms a deep attachment to an Indian man who becomes her guru. From that initial encounter, Adele’s life is changed. Despite appeals by her husband and children, Adele is compelled, time and again, to return to India to be in her guru’s presence. While in India, Adele neglects her appearance and lives meagerly while spending lavishly to please her guru.
We learn what we know of Adele through the eyes of the narrator, an unnamed woman who befriends Adele during holidays at a Caribbean resort. Guests and staff of the resort’s restaurant are riveted as Adele ventures out to sea each day, her three Irish setter companions in tow. On one exceptionally stormy day, witnesses are awestruck to see Adele swim out. They are left to ponder Adele’s resolve, her strength, the distance she will swim, when and whether she will return.
This is an elegantly written book that left me wanting to know more about Lily Tuck, an author with a unique voice. Each chapter of the novel is prefaced with a spiritual poem or excerpt from a sacred text. The novel itself reads as a fable or koan, repeating text and raising questions while delivering no obvious answers. Is Adele truly called to seek enlightenment, or is she perhaps slightly mad, spoiled, or delusional? Is her essential longing for self-knowledge dormant in the rest of us?
Immediately after finishing The Woman who Walked on Water, I dove into Siam, Or, the Woman Who Shot a Man. The story of a young bride of a military advisor who moves with her husband to Bangkok on the brink of the Vietnam War, this book was equally dynamic in its emotional appeal and had the signature of the author, who says little in her prose and yet says a great deal more than is obvious. I look forward to reading Tuck’s other novels, which include Matisse: Or, The Woman Who Died Standing Up and The News from Paraguay, which won the 2004 National Book Award for Fiction.
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