Thursday, October 17, 2013
If you are still interested, here is a shorter version of what I wrote for Isthmus:
My Life as a Silent Movie opens with a tragedy: a car accident kills a father and child instantly, leaving Emma, the wife and mother, to grieve alone. Emma has no siblings and her own parents are recently deceased, her mother by suicide. When her only relative, an elderly aunt, reveals the long held family secret that Emma was adopted, it becomes too much for her to bear. Emma’s shock and sorrow lead her to a breakdown of sorts and she sets off on an ill-conceived quest to find her roots. That quest takes her to Paris, where, using the scant evidence in her possession, she hopes to find her birth mother and perhaps put to rest some of her pain and isolation.
Emma embarks upon her quest with little other than an address scribbled on the back of a 40-year-old photo. Yet unlike in real life, where people search for years to find their birth families, Emma finds her brother within a day! And he recognizes her, even though he hasn’t seen her since he was three. Really? From there, coincidences pile atop one another, each less believable than the one preceding it. But then I realized that the book’s title says it all. Remember what it’s like to watch a silent move? The exaggerated acting, the quick transitions, the over-the-top plot machinations? Kercheval has translated the features of a silent film to her novel, incorporating not only the cinematic melodrama and the surprise revelations but the pacing as well. It works perfectly, if you know what you are looking at. My advice is to picture Emma in black and white and listen for the theater organ and it will all make sense.
(Book 28, 2013)